Imagine you have to address a crowd. After preparing long and hard for this speech, you’re ready with everything you wish to share with the audience — knowledge that you’ve been curating and practicing talking about for a while now. But as soon as you near the speaking session, you end up in a sweat, and fear delivering a boring and ineffectual speech.
You’re not alone.
Whether you’re meeting with a group of investors, leading a discussion with your team, or presenting at a conference, speaking your mind clearly and confidently can be challenging for anyone.
But how exactly can you build your speaking skills and make it second nature to you?
Speaking well essentially comes from listening well. Listening to other speeches and lessons from great speakers across different fields can help you transition into a naturally effective speaker.
By looking at their body language, the words they use, how they weave words into a story, and their impact on the audience, you can understand a lot about what it takes to be an impactful and memorable Speaker.
Deepak Pareek, the CEO of Career Keeda and a 5-time TedX speaker says:
“Being a public speaker is difficult. Every speaker who steps up on stage is scared, nervous, excited and all other emotions combined. But what matters is you take the first step, walk up on stage and embarrass yourself because that’s the only way you learn. You learn from making mistakes on stage, some irreversible ones, but all that’s a part of the journey.
One tip from my side: go ahead and expose yourself, face your fear and you’ll thank me later when you see yourself overcome stage fright and come out as a confident public speaker.”
And with this stellar advice, we have compiled ten lessons you can learn about speaking confidently from some of the best speeches out there.
Lesson 1: Explore and cultivate a confident mindset
Speaking in public can trigger anxiety for many. It’s natural to fear the prospect of speaking to a crowd when you suffer from stage paralysis.
But the best antidote to this is to find confidence within.
A University of Wolverhampton study concluded that confident speakers are considered more knowledgeable, accurate, and credible.
So, your journey to becoming a good speaker begins with confronting your fear of public speaking. Break down the nervousness that holds you back, and nurture inner confidence in your ability to communicate.
Watch and learn: Caroline Goyder’s Ted Talk
An accomplished voice coach, Caroline Goyder, presents the perfect path to transition from an under-confident, fearful speaker to an expressive one in her TED talk. She shows how you can use your voice as a prop to deliver better speeches and speak with greater confidence.
Lesson 2: Learn active listening
Active listening hones your thought process. It helps you better understand and interpret what is being asked of you, making it easier to provide an answer. When you listen with concentration, your mind is able to process every piece of information more comprehensively, thereby allowing you to speak with more clarity and precision.
Watch and learn: Brian Chesky’s interview
Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s interview with Fortune magazine demonstrates the practice of active listening and responding thoughtfully to questions.
Lesson 3: Hook your audience through storytelling
If there’s one practice you can always rely on for speaking effectively, it’s storytelling.
Creating a narrative about your experiences is a great way to gain your audience’s attention. Whether you’re talking numbers at a stakeholder meet or delivering a valedictorian speech, weaving storytelling into your speech will create an impact.
Great speakers excel at storytelling because through stories, you can show your message instead of just telling it.
Watch and learn: Arnold Schwarzenegger speech
In this speech, Arnold Schwarzenegger talks about his life and shares the lessons he’s found on the journey. He weaves multiple life stories into his speech to make it more hard-hitting. There’s a clear narrative flow, starting from his life in Austria to that of an actor.
Lesson 4: Speak candidly about your personal experiences
Delivering a speech or addressing a crowd becomes a lot simpler when you’re sharing your story. The best speakers always hit a chord with their audience by sharing their personal experiences. Instead of complicating your talk with industry jargon, just share what you have learned, and your experience in doing so.
This will be more relatable for the audience you’re addressing. Talk like you’re one of them, offering the knowledge and ideas you’ve learned so far.
Watch and learn: Barack Obama’s convention speech
Barack Obama’s speech at the DNC Convention 2004 exemplifies how you can share personal experiences. His story is inspirational for many and shows him as a human being rather than a presidential candidate.
Lesson 5: Learn the art of making presentations
Fact: 91% of speakers feel more confident speaking with a slide deck.
Presentations can be the best resource to help you deliver a great speech. However, a bad presentation can also break your flow.
Designing good presentations is a skill in itself:
- Create an outline for your speech and divide it into multiple slides.
- Include a mix of textual and visual content in each slide to add more context to your speech.
- Practice with the slide deck multiple times to become familiar and comfortable with the presentation.
Watch and learn: Steve Jobs introducing the iPhone
The iPhone launch event perfectly shows how you can use presentations to your advantage. Jobs uses his presentation to add a visual dimension to his speech, which significantly helps the audience understand and follow along with what he is saying.
Lesson 6: Maintain a calm and composed body posture
What you speak is equally important as how you say it.
The way you present yourself to the audience can make a huge difference. Your body posture and gestures convey your conviction and confidence. Even if you are not instinctively confident while speaking, your poses and body movement can make your audience believe otherwise.
Watch and learn: Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk
Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard, talks about the pivotal role of the body in speaking confidently in this TED talk. She sheds light on how power posing can help speakers grow while showcasing postures of a confident speaker—a great attribute to include in your speaking skills.
Lesson 7: Vocal delivery matters
Perhaps the most significant lesson to speak effectively is the delivery.
To become a good speaker, you have to hone your ability for vocal delivery. The process involves a few crucial aspects like:
- Articulation: How precisely you enunciate the words, like "going to" vs. "gonna."
- Pronunciation: How correctly you pronounce every word.
- Pitch: Your ability to speak about different ideas in different tones.
- Rate of speech: Your ability to find the right balance for speaking to the audience.
Watch and learn: Donovan Livingston’s convocation speech
In his graduation speech at the Harvard Business School, a poet and spoken word artist, Donovan Livingston presents an excellent example for this lesson. He delivers a speech with precision on all fronts—right from the tone and speed of his speech to diction and expression.
Lesson 8: Structure your speech for the layman
Good speakers know how to capture and keep their audience's attention. The best way to accomplish this is by speaking their language.
You can speak effectively and actually be heard when you are talking to and for the audience.
Here's what you can do to practice this:
- Identify your target audience, their pain points, and their needs.
- Shape your speech around these ideas and talk from their perspective.
- Serve your thoughts in a digestible platter and simplify the process of connecting the dots.
- Add humor and relatable context for your listeners.
Watch and learn: Tim Urban’s Ted Talk
Tim Urban, a blogger and illustrator, talks about procrastination in the most relatable manner in this speech. Peppering it with examples and scenarios, he creates very realistic and relatable scenarios for his audience.
Lesson 9: Speak with emotion and empathy
An essential yet often overlooked aspect of speaking well is an emotional appeal.
Build a level of understanding and empathy with your audience. Connect with them on a deeper level and convey a moving story to influence their senses.
Here are few ways in which you can become more empathetic as a speaker:
- Identify what your listeners want to hear from you.
- Listen to your audience to gain more clarity about their concerns.
- Speak from their perspective.
Watch and learn: Simon Sinek’s speech
Simon Sinek, an author and motivational speaker, displays the perfect blend of emotion and information in his speech on understanding empathy.
Lesson 10: Share actionable ideas
The show, don't tell writing technique works well for speaking effectively.
Don’t just share ideas without giving your listeners a basis to implement them. It’s always better to share examples and ways to help the audience use your information.
If you aim to make your communication more actionable, identify the problem you're addressing and make it crystal clear from the beginning. Offer potential solutions for the same and explain with examples.
Watch and learn: Mark Cuban’s speech
Mark Cuban's interview video shows how entrepreneurs can make the best of their businesses through actionable insights and examples. He uses the example of Dirk Nowitzki early on to explain how discipline and dedication can outweigh talent — among other examples that support and add more clarity to his statements.
Effective communication is one of the most sought-after skills today, so use the lessons detailed in this article to upskill and enhance your ability to communicate.
If you are a complete rookie, start by building confidence and a fast thought process. Then you can work towards the content and delivery of your speeches. As a more experienced speaker, pay attention to how you're talking to your audience.