Speaker Tips from The Masters

clip_image002_001 Although, I’ve not been conducting any presentations off-late there was a time during our schooling days when we used to enjoy our regular presentation sessions. Conversation Gurus C.B. Whittemore and Becky Carroll have shared great tips for effective public speaking. Here’s a consolidation of tips from their posts and the follow-up comments, I’ve added my own towards the end.

From C.B. Whittemore’s Blog 

1. Never eat a banana immediately before a speech. For that matter, avoid dairy products, too. Both contribute to a distracting need to clear one’s throat during a presentation.

2. Drink lots of water, ideally with lots of lemon [I avoid ice]. Have water with you at the podium. This helps minimize dry mouth.

3. It’s okay to feel nervous. Even the most experienced speakers get nervous. Anticipate it and be prepared. Yes, you’ll be aware of it, but the audience won’t. No one but you will feel your knees shake. If you’re worried about tripping on stage, then don’t wear high-heels…

4. In the few minutes before the presentation, clench and unclench all of the muscles in your body. Do that again and again. It will help dissipate excess energy. Remember to breathe. If you tend to race at the beginning of a presentation, then consciously make plans to slow yourself down and breathe.

5. Practice, practice, practice. Videotape yourself speaking. Practice some more, especially the parts of the presentation when you feel most vulnerable. If it’s at the beginning, then learn the beginning by heart. Understand the rhythm of your material.

6. Project your voice and your presence. If you’re not sure what that means, then go into an empty church or auditorium and practice projecting both without a microphone. Try singing, too. Fill the entire space with your voice. That will really help things click.

7. Make eye contact, with every part of the room. Hold contact for a few seconds. If you forget, place boldly dressed friends in strategic places and look at them!

8. Do not read your presentation.

9. Do not clutch the podium. If possible, stay as far away from a podium as you can [except for when you need to drink water].

10. Remember that you are the expert. Express that energy and passion and have fun. You will be contagious. Guaranteed!

From Becky’s Blog

11. Find a friendly face in the audience. You should “work the room”, of course, but in so doing you might find a face or two that are frowning. Don’t take it personally! Find a friendly face and keep coming back to that person for encouragement.

12. Always keep a mint or hard candy with you at the podium. Sometimes a sip of water doesn’t clear the “frog” in your throat!

13. Minimize the number of bullets on each slide. No one can read a slide with too many words on it! Three bullets of short phrases are all that is necessary.

14. Include something humorous at strategic points during your speech. A light laugh is always good to keep people focused!

15. If you are comfortable in front of the crowd, get out from behind the podium! A bit of wandering makes your presentation more visually interesting. (I know, C. B. had this one, too, but I think it is worth mentioning again.)

16. Turn off your lavaliere microphone if you go to the bathroom before your speech.‘Nuff said.

Follow-up Comments

17. One small tip is to pause to highlight something.

18. Also — SMILE when you connect with those people scattered throughout the audience..

My own

19. Look into the eyes of your audience. Do not focus towards only section of the crowd.

20. Do not rely heavily on the content of slides.

21. Move with your audience. If you feel your audience is unclear, politely ask them ‘Are you with me?’ or something which stresses on the clarity of point.

Feel free to add more, in comments 🙂


Filed under Presentations

6 responses to “Speaker Tips from The Masters

  1. daksh


    Thanks for sharing your blog-link. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it both the camps.

    Point 21 is really cool. Thank you so much for sharing 🙂

  2. my comments

    Look into the eyes of your audience. Do not focus towards only section of the crowd.
    Yes,you are right. To ensure that you are addressing each and every member of the audience. Speakers nowadays walk sideways , all across the stage. this gives them an ability to connect to each and every individual

    20. Do not rely heavily on the content of slides.
    Well said, read the McKinsey mind and you will realize this right away. Dont create a lot of slides and keep to content crisp

    21. Move with your audience. If you feel your audience is unclear, politely ask them ‘Are you with me?’ or something which stresses on the clarity of point.
    Well, connection is important … To enhance this generally pack your session with lot of examples. For instance, “instead of saying rocket science is fact fact fact”. Say something like ” did you know Da VInci had 1000’s of designs , but only some came true…. one of them was the airplane”. I learnt this at CII Learning camp where I was taught to “make it and break it”. In short to make it sound as simple as it can and to break it to make it understandable to all.

  3. Oops! Its Daksh’s. Hey Daksh!. Awesome to see that you are into blogging. I guess i am into core blogging as well. I am part of chennai bloggers. I am a good friend of Kiruba and am closely associated with Chennai blkogging. Did you attend PROTO or PODCAMP.

    PS: I blog under the following name


    Ex student DAV EOK

  4. sushaantu mathur

    I just wanna add something,if possible don’t have soft drinks(particularly coke & Pepsi)before the presentation.They just make you cause awful sounds.Aaww…….

  5. Hi C.B. – Thanks for dropping by 🙂 and sharing such a great list.

    Privilege to have you.


  6. Daksh, thanks for amplifying this conversation and adding to the list of tips. I like #21.

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