5 Ways to Speak Like a Pro

5 Ways to Speak Like a Pro

By Puja Disha Bharwani
Public speaking is terrifying for most people, and yet some seem to pull it off so naturally. What’s their secret?

Whether you are confident on stage or full of nerves, public speaking is an art. It requires skills that need constant honing to make you look and sound like a silver-tongued pro.  

So let’s hear from the pros: communications experts Julian Treasure and Carmine Gallo, who reveal their well-researched tips that go into making a great presentation. We also pick out an interesting finding from Chris Anderson, the curator of TED Talks, a global conference for spreading ideas. Stay tuned, because Anderson shares a quirky way to approach nerves. 

1. ‘HAIL’ to be heard 

As Julian Treasure says in his excellent TED Talk, How to Speak So People Will Listen

Be (H)onest in terms of what you are saying and be concise and clear.  

Be (A)uthentic. “A friend of mine described it as standing in your own truth, which I think is a lovely way to put it.”  

Show (I)ntegrity. “Say what you mean and do what you say, so people trust you.” 

Show (L)ove. “I don’t mean romantic love, but I do mean wishing people well.” 

2. Time your talk to the 18 minute rule 

If your talks are too long and rambling, listeners will not engage and will likely forget everything, cognitive research has shown. Carmine Gallo, bestselling author of The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs, has studied more than 500 TED presentations. In this insightful interview, he says the length of your talk is key. 

“TED organisers figured out that 18 minutes is the ideal length of time to share an idea. It’s long enough to be serious and short enough to keep the audience’s attention,” says Gallo.  

3. Show and tell 

Most experts say too much data and words in your presentation takes attention away from the topic at hand. If you are using slides to aid your presentation, ensure they make neat use of images and video. If you are using numbers and words, they should be data driven, to give credibility to your stories. 

4. Hook listeners with a great story 

Personal stories are essential to get your audience to connect with you. As Gallo says, good speakers always start with personal anecdotes to rein in the audience. 

“For example, Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights attorney, told three personal stories in his talk and received the longest standing ovation in TED history,” Gallo explains.  

“I analysed his content and found that stories made up 65 percent of his presentation, while data and statistics made up only 10 percent (most average speakers have it the other way around).”  

5. Locate your voice 

Julian Treasure says that research shows listeners prefer voices that are rich and smooth in tone. If your tone doesn’t match that, get a voice coach to train you in breathing, posture and exercises that will improve the tone of your voice. Find your voice type and take it from there.  

“We vote for politicians with lower voices, it’s true,” says Gallo, “because we associate depth with power and authority.” 

Bonus tip: turn nerves into support.

In his piece titled How to Give a Killer Presentation, Chris Anderson shares how nerves can subtly help a speaker gain support:  

“In general, people worry too much about nervousness,” he says. “Nerves are not a disaster. The audience expects you to be nervous. It’s a natural body response that can actually improve your performance: it gives you energy to perform and keeps your mind sharp. Just keep breathing, and you’ll be fine.”