Good Public Speaking Makes Good Listeners

Lesson 1 – Getting your Audience to Listen

For Lesson 2 go to Good Speaker, Great Speaker

5 Steps to Getting Over Your Fear of Public Speaking and Improving Your Communication Skills.

Is this thing on, or what?

Bad listeners? No. Bad speaker.  Sorry to tell you this, but if your audience is bored, its your fault. They are giving you their attention and time, you owe them to make it worthwhile.

I dont want to hear about your fear of public speaking. If it is your job to speak in front of your colleagues or students, then there is no excuse. People are counting on you, so do it right. Endless PowerPoint presentations and numbing meetings kill motivation.

Great leaders, for good or evil, have all been great speakers. There are no exceptions. And if they werent born that way they learned how. There is no skill more valuable than the ability to inspire and lead others with words.

Here are some tips on how to be a better speaker.


That’s right, speak to them. They are your audience. They are there to hear what you have to say. Great speakers make their listeners feel like they are speaking to them alone. There may be a lot of people in the room, but to them its all you.

If you are having trouble with a big audience, try practicing with a small one. The way you speak to a group of friends is the same way you speak to a crowd of thousands. Remember to tell the story from your perspective, based on your experience. Its OK if the story is about you. Who better to tell the story? Your audience came to see you. Ultimately the inspiration will come more from you and your enthusiasm than from the content of your presentation.


Your audience does not want to see your fancy pie charts and statistics. They want to see you. The speaker should always be more interesting than the content. If there is a lot of information to cover, then give everyone a handout to read later. If they are reading during your presentation, then they are not listening.

Your slides or props should never draw attention away from you. Remember to always remain the focal point of your presentation. Keep your slides simple, logical and easily digestible. Limit your content to what is essential. If it does not add to your presentation, then skip it.


Start by telling them who you are and why you are speaking. It is important to establish this early in the presentation. As long as the presentation is about you, your connection with the content is crucial. For your audience to care, they need to know why you care. And if you don’t care, then why are you speaking about it? Is this important? Prove it!


Take your time. That means knowing how much time you have. Just because you have an hour, doesn’t mean you need to talk for an hour.

If you only have 5 minutes and a ton of information to cover, make a handout. Your 5 minutes are for convincing your audience to read your handout. No matter how little time you have, speak normally. Take pauses. Breathe. Move around. Making a strong connection with the audience is more important than covering all the material.

For longer presentations, keeping your audience from drifting off can be a challenge. People like things to have a beginning, a middle and an end. Make sure you give them one of each when the time is right.


You are speaking to people. They are in the room with you. If you are just delivering information then send a memo. There is a reason why you called everyone into one place, remember it.

There is no reason to read from a script. You wrote it. You know what it says. Tell them what it says. They want to know what it says. Talk to them. When something is funny, make a joke. When something is serious, make it clear. When something is important, give it a moment to sink in.

Move around. Keep it interesting. Be genuinely enthusiastic about what you are saying. You can only expect your audience to be half as interested as you are, so do the math. This is your time. Dont waste it.

People learn from people. So dont be afraid to make this about you. It is through your implication in the subject matter that audiences will understand it best. Your connection to the material determines your credibility. By describing your experience and relation to it, you cultivate trust and curiosity.

Great speakers have learned that there is no secret. An auditorium of thousands is the same as a single person on a bus. You use body language, you present your information in a logical manner, and you adjust your voice accordingly. So speak. Watch how others speak. And connect with strangers the way you connect with friends. They will follow your example.

In these examples of great speakers, watch for the pace and the pauses, the personal connection, and most importantly the lack of actual content.

CBC’s Jonathan Goldstein as one of the great storytellers of our time:

In this one the presentation is both well-rehearsed and sincere.

‘Ol blood and guts may talk tough, but there is also a sensitive side. Even he puts a bit of himself into his speech.

These hard boiled coaches can get emotional in their pep talks.

In this one, Saul Williams shows how 4 minutes of nonsense can be mesmerizing:

In this Ignite presentation, the first 5th of the presentation is all introduction. This ratio applies to presentation of all lengths.

Here, Elif Shafak demonstrates how to structure information around personal experience.

In this Cassavettes classic, our hero steps up and pulls his team together with a pep talk that manages to inspire without actually saying anything.

Even the alphabet can be made totally fascinating

Evil sounds so good when its done right. Watch how our corporate scumbags begin by establishing their credibility, betraying a little emotion, and thereby convince a hostile audience that greed is good.

For more excellent tips on public speaking check out this link