Most public speakers think we’re great. Most people think most public speakers are really boring. If you’re a public speaker like me, I think it’s time we think about how we can make our talks better.
These are 20 ways to become a better public speaker.

  1. Tell stories. You don’t need to tell them from beginning to end. If you start a story and tell your audience you’ll tell them the ending later, you’ll have their attention. If you can find a way to connect all your stories, this is extremely powerful. This is a great book on storytelling.
  2. Be yourself. Don’t pretend to be “you, the public speaker”. Your audience will appreciate it.
  3. Humor can be very powerful. Don’t put others on the spot. Laugh at yourself and all the stupid things you do every day.
  4. If you screw up, laugh it off and move on. It’s only awkward if you make it awkward.
  5. Use demonstrations. I saw a speaker pour three tablespoons of sugar into a transparent bottle to show parents how much sugar a soda has. It was shocking and very powerful.
  6. Tell them what you’re going to tell them (set expectations), tell them (fulfill the expectations you set before) and finally tell them what you told them (wrap it up).
  7. The only way to get better at it is to do it a lot. Speak at every event you have the opportunity to. Ask for feedback and use it to improve.
  8. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “death by PowerPoint”. Avoid text in slides as much as possible. Use photos and infographics as much as you can. These are two awesome books every public speaker should read: Slide:ology and Resonate.
  9. Watch Ted videos a few times a week. Some of the best presenters in the world speak at Ted events.
  10. Engage your audience. Ask them questions, make them vote and ask them to share their experiences.
  11. Customize your talk to your audience. If you speak to a group of insurance salespeople you should find examples that they can relate to.
  12. Don’t tell them everything you think they need to know. It’s probably too much. Limit the scope of your content so they don’t get lost or feel overwhelmed. Your goal is not to teach them everything, but to make sure they understand what you teach.
  13. Rehearse, rehearse and then rehearse some more. This makes all the difference.
  14. Start strong and end strong. Rehearse your opening and closing more than anything else.
  15. Make sure your audience gets one takeaway from your session. Notice that I didn’t say ten or even five. Just one. What’s the one thing they can do that will make the biggest impact in their lives?
  16. Don’t give the handouts before you speak, or people will read them and stop paying attention to you.
  17. Test everything before the talk. Sometimes technology fails.
  18. Avoid reading off a paper or the screen.
  19. Unless you’re presenting to a very small group, ask people to wait until the Q&A to ask their questions.
  20. Have fun! Not many people have the opportunity to influence, teach and inspire others.

What are other things that public speakers should do better?