You’ve probably heard common tips for public speaking, such as preparing your presentation and practicing in front of a mirror. While these tips are valuable, they might not be enough to set you apart as a speaker. That’s why I’m here to share "5 Fresh Approaches to Elevate Your Public Speaking" that you might not have heard before. Knowing these specifics can significantly build your confidence. (This blog post was updated 8/17/23.)
1. Stage Presence
Are you a moving target or a statue on stage? This is the first of our "5 Fresh Approaches to Elevate Your Public Speaking." Watching a real pro, you’ll notice that they master their stage presence. The key? Stay in one place long enough for your audience to focus on you, but move confidently and purposefully when necessary. Own that stage like it's your living room.
True Story: I once had a student who literally paced fast from side to side on the stage while delivering their talk. Their pacing was a result of nervousness. Pacing nervously signifies that you are "in your head" and not connecting with your audience. To own the stage, connect with the people in your audience by being prepared, using eye contact, and making your presentation all about them.
Question for you: How do you own the stage?
2. Be Compelling
The second approach to elevate your public speaking is to be compelling. What makes someone compelling? It’s more than just enthusiasm—it’s a radiant blend of authenticity and connection. Display your humanity through your tone and storytelling. Inspire your audience by sharing real life situations and make a genuine connection with them. Nothing is more compelling than a genuine smile, gesture, and story infused with a little humor.
Question for you: What do you do to make a genuine connection with your audience?
3. Start With a Song
What’s the third fresh approach? Think of starting your speech as you would a song. This doesn’t mean literally singing (unless you want to!), but rather initiating your presentation with engaging tonality in your voice. Make the first 10 seconds memorable and set the rhythm for the rest of your talk.
Best Examples: On my blog post, "6 Ways to Use Your Voice to Convey Emotion and Engage Your Audience," you'll find video examples of Jim Carrey's commencement speech at MIU, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Matthew McConaughey's 2014 Oscars acceptance speech, the amazing voice actor SungWon Cho AKA ProZD's break down of his many voices, Barack Obama's2004 DNC Keynote speech, and The First 48's narrator, Dion Graham.
Question for you: Do you speak fast or slow when you give a presentation or do you purposefully use pausing for effect?
4. Get Comfortable with Silence
Fourth on our list of "5 Fresh Approaches to Elevate Your Public Speaking" is embracing the power of the pause. Replace those "uhs" and "ums" with thoughtful silence. Record your speeches and identify your filler words, then practice holding a comforting silence instead. It commands respect and shows mastery.
Learn more: Visit my blog post on, "Eradicate Filler Words & Captivate Your Audience." One of the best examples of the use of pausing is Dion Graham, the narrator for The First 48 TV show. Pick any of the over 350 shows in the series, and you can learn from Dion.
Question for you: What filler words to you use most?
5. Have Fun as a New Character
The last of our fresh approaches is to transform public speaking into a performance. Think Madonna, Lady Gaga, or Bono—they've created characters for the stage. Imagine what kind of vibrant speaker you can become with a bit of playful reinvention. Don’t change who you are, just amplify the best parts of yourself when you step onto that stage.
True story: When I first started speaking at Toastmasters many years ago, I was a nervous wreck when I was called on to do impromtu speaking ("Table Topics"). Being very competitive, I vowed to improve so I could be voted best "Table Topics" and win whatever the prize was (I think my love language is gifts.) I did become the best Table Topics presenter and won almost all the time. How did I do that? I became this "make stuff up" speaker to get the audience to laugh. I had so much fun doing Table Topics, that I would be thinking, "call on me, call on me, call on me" because I couldn't wait to get up there and have fun with whatever the topic was. A side benefit from this "new character" I had invented, was that I gained confidence in every aspect of my life.
Question for you: Are you a stage character? If so, what is it? If not, why not?
Now that you’ve discovered these "5 Fresh Approaches to Elevate Your Public Speaking," I'm eager to hear from you. Which of these strategies resonates most with you? Have you tried any of these techniques in your own presentations? Or perhaps you have a fresh approach of your own to share. Leave a comment below and let’s keep the conversation going. Together, we can help each other rise to new heights in public speaking!