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Steps to Public Speaking Success

Did you know that Americans are more afraid of public speaking than dying? I remember a day in my fourth year at UVa when I was giving a speech at a student competition and my knees were shaking so badly that I had to grip the podium to remain upright. Today, I speak 50-100 times per year and love doing it. Why? Here are some of the things I have learned over the years that might help you:

  • Assess the needs of your audience
  • Know your material
  • Practice
  • Use Humor

Assess the needs of your audiencemic

Who will you be speaking to? What are their needs or interests? Getting the answers to these questions should help form your remarks. If you answer their questions and provide information that they are interested in, you will hold their attention and they are more likely to interact with you.

Know your material

Don’t ever decide to “just wing it” when you are asked to speak on a topic with which you are only marginally familiar. Research every topic thoroughly. Become the expert. Know the information better than almost any one in your audience. Pose questions to yourself that you think you will be asked and develop the answers. This depth of knowledge will give you confidence and keep any fears of public speaking at bay.

Practice

In real estate, the three words that are most important for sales success are: location, location, location. I believe public speaking success depends on these three words: practice, practice, practice. You need to know your material and you need to have practiced delivering it. Part of that practice involves timing. If you are giving a speech that has a time limit, time your materials. Cut your remarks or expand them as appropriate to fill but not go over your time. Now, you know what you are talking about and you have the logistics down as well.

Use Humor

I am not one to tell jokes, however, I do use irony and tell funny stories when I talk. And the audience always laughs. The audience will be on your side when you are personable and provide information and materials to which they can relate. I love it when members of the audience nod their heads, smile at me, and laugh when I speak!

I believe that if you follow these steps to public speaking success:

  • Assess the needs of your audience
  • Know your material
  • Practice
  • Use Humor

that your public speaking will become a welcome event and not an exercise to be avoided.

Jill S. Tietjen, P.E. graduated from the School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1976. After a career in the electric utility industry, the co-author of the bestselling and award winning book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America became the CEO of the National Women’s Hall of Fame (2015).

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