Top Tips for Public Speaking

By James Piercy

Becky presenting. All rights reserved science made simple.

The best way to become a great public speaker is to do it, and do it a lot! But there are some key skills and things to consider which can get you off to a good start.


science made simple are often asked to provide training for people who wish to develop their public speaking skills. We work widely with researchers and academics who have an extra challenge in public speaking – their topics are incredibly complicated and difficult to understand! Recently I worked with a group of PhD students working in sustainable chemistry. It’s always fascinating to work with people like this and perhaps get a glimpse of technology which could change our lives in the future. Can we find materials which can safely store hydrogen? Are there sustainable alternatives to water which can be used in chemical processes, reducing demand on this valuable resource?

In return for a quick lesson in current research projects like this, the science made simple training team get a chance to share their knowledge and experience of communicating effectively with audiences.

1. Find your key message

Just what is it that you want to say? Can you find a single sentence which sums up the message that you want the audience to take home? When you put together the presentation is this at the core? Often people try to say too much – think about the ‘big picture’ and keep focused.

2. Know your audience

Who is going to listen to you speak? Ask some simple questions. How old are they? What do they know about the subject already? Do they want to be there? How are they likely to behave? Will they support what you are telling them?

3. Set the tone

It is very important that you start any talk by giving the audience an idea of what they are in for. How do you signal that you are starting? Is this a very formal speech a conversation or something in-between? Will you welcome questions during or after the talk? How long will it last? Remember that if the audience does anything during your talk you either made it happen or let it happen. You dictate the audience response.

4. Keep your communication coherent

Any talk is more than just the words you say. How does your pace and tone of voice affect the message? Is your body language in tune with your words? If you look bored the message will be boring, if you look nervous the audience will lack confidence in you. Stand up straight, make eye contact and look confident and your audience will have confidence in you.

5. Practise!

Really practise. Don’t just think about it, speak the words out loud. How does it sound? Where will you need to leave pauses? Does the message come through? How long does your talk last? If you can, it is very helpful to video yourself and watch yourself in action. Look out for any vocal or bodily ticks. Do you say “So” and “O.K” too much? Do you pace back and forth or touch your face? Once you are aware of your ticks it’s much easier to get rid of them and give an even better presentation!

“Glossophobia”, the fear of public speaking is very common. According to some surveys it is more common than fear of snakes or even death! Like all skills it gets easier with experience and good speakers make it look effortless, but anyone can do it. Even over short courses I have led I have seen dramatic improvements in ability as people build in confidence and take on board some simple tricks to help their message get across.

If you would like more information on the presenter training science made simple offer, check out our training page or call us on 02920 876884.


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