Tips for Public Speaking

This week I was invited to speak about public speaking with a young women’s group from our church. The LDS Church is a lay church, which means that all of our leaders, teachers, and officers are volunteers; no one gets paid. And starting at the age of three, we have opportunities to speak in front of different groups of our congregation. In addition, as these girls grow up, many of them will likely have chances to speak in public outside of church. So the leaders of these girls thought it would be worthwhile for them to learn about public speaking. . .

So while I don’t necessarily think of myself as much of a public speaker, I recognize that I certainly do a lot of it—and I enjoy it most of the time—so I agreed to share my thoughts and experiences.

I began by asking how many of the girls (there were almost 40) had had the chance to speak in public. More than half of them raised their hands. I told them they’d all eventually have the chance, and hopefully my thoughts would prove helpful.

I put together a few public speaking tips and, of course, had to present those tips in a creative way! Here’s the little swatchbook handout I gave each girl, along with the five tips I came up with.

Be yourself. When you speak, be real and genuine; the audience can always tell when you aren’t!

Be your best self. When you’re self-conscious about your hair, make-up, or clothes, you aren’t able to focus on your subject, so always look your best. That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to dress your Sunday best; when you overdress, you’re as uncomfortable as when you underdress! The key is to know your audience and dress for them. For example, I knew the young women I would be speaking to would be dressed casually, so I dressed “one step” up from that. And I also made sure I felt good about the way my hair and make-up looked too!

Speak from your heart. Be passionate and personal about what you’re speaking about. When you are, your natural excitement and enthusiasm will be obvious. Sharing personal stories and anecdotes is always an effective way to connect with your audience.

Love. When you have a love for what you’re doing, what you’re speaking about, and/or the people you’re speaking to (ideally all three, but at least one of the three), that will come through and your presentation will be effective.

Smile. When you smile, it helps both you and your audience relax. (Can’t believe I didn’t mention it, but eye-to-eye contact would be essential here as well.) Smiling and looking at your audience is so important!

Although it wasn’t a tip, I mentioned that both gum and “um” were no-nos. (And then I counted how many times I said “um” the rest of the evening! Four!)

I had mentioned several times throughout my remarks that none of us are perfect, and my tips were simply designed to help us do our best, but we all make mistakes. So my four “um”s just proved my point! And despite those mistakes, I enjoyed the chance to spend some time with these amazing young women!