Public speaking is one of the most powerful tools when it comes to influencing people. Warren Buffett is said to estimate good speakers 50 percent more valuable than other people just because that one skill. But how to become a good speaker? Here are some basic rules that will help you prepare a good speech.

Know your audience and connect with your listeners

Public speaking is personal communication. Standing on stage you meet your listeners and your task is to grasp their attention. This is nowadays more difficult than ever for the risk that they will choose their smartphones rather than your presentation still increases and even without it the way to people’s minds was never easy. What is more problematic, the speaker stands alone in front of a group. Good news is that in this case the scrutiny is less intense than in face to face situation. Nevertheless many people think public speaking is stressful or even scary. So, what to do? First of all you must know your audience. Who are they? What are their interests, problems and hobbies? Do you have something in common? Show them how important they are to you, make them feel that you understand them, be one of them. In return you will get something very special, the sense that your speech is important, that it makes a difference and is worth listening.

Make a surprise

People often anticipate what speakers will say and there is nothing more disappointing than a predictable speech. Use imagination and follow free associations to surprise and impress your audience. Create picture or describe situation which will give you a good framing. It does not have to concern your topic directly. The more surprising it is the better becomes the effect. If you speak to investors, do not hesitate to introduce a beggar. When you speak about funeral industry, do not be afraid to tell a joke. If you speak about friendship, you can start with difficult times. Yes, it is risky but it pays off.

Use metaphors

Public speaking is not about knowledge, it is rather about experience. Make your audience actually feel your message. How to achieve it? By using metaphors. Mention some nice or painful stimuli, evoke things that everyone knows, speak of taste, smell and touch, the more abstract is your topic the more simple and sensual language is required.

Tell a story

There is nothing more powerful in communication than storytelling. It is considered core of humanity and stories drive all human activities. They inspire, they warn, they encourage people to do things and make them understand the world. In rhetoric from Aristotle there are three types of narrations: historical example, fable and argument. They differ according to probability: historical example tells something that actually happened, fable is overtly fictious and improbable, argument tells events which are fictious but could have occurred. You can use freely all three types no matter what you are talking about. There is just one golden rule: make it clear which type you choose. There is nothing more damaging than historical example which appears not true.

Try to sound well

Presentation is a spectacle and one of your goals is to give your audience some pleasure. Speak smoothly, use short phrases and make your language as simple as possible. Make sure your text has a good rhythm. Use alliterations (words which start with the same letter), assonances (possibly many similar vowels in one phrase), anaphors (phrases which have the same beginning), rhetorical questions (which are actually strong statements) and mention three things rather than four (the golden rule says: three charms but four alarms). This will turn your speech into best music.

Deliver your message

Be clear about your message. Think of one phrase you want people to remember. You can repeat it in different parts of your speech. Focus on subject, not on effects. Do not let your audience remember your joke rather than your point.

There are many more tips and rules about public speaking, so the last advise is: learn. Read good speeches and listen to best communicators. Join Toastmasters or other public speakers club. Attend public speaking classes. When needed, hire a speechwriter.

Mariusz Zagórski – doktor nauk humanistycznych, filolog klasyczny, literaturoznawca, wykładowca związany z Wydziałem Polonistyki UW, doradca i trener w zakresie komunikacji i wystąpień publicznych. Gościł z wykładami na wielu renomowanych uniwersytetach, w Oksfordzie, Berlinie i Rzymie, działa w sieci European Speechwriter Network, prowadzi stronę Sztuka Pisania Przemówień: