Public Speaking Secrets for Toastmasters

TALK: 4 Simple Steps to Effective Public Speaking

Speaking in public isn’t as difficult as one might think, providing you go at it with a plan. To make it easier, simply remember that you want to “TALK,” which represents the four things to remember to do a good job in front of an audience.

TALK stands for:

  • Know your TOPIC
  • Know your AUDIENCE
  • LIVE the speech, don’t “tell it.”
  • KEEP the main thing the main thing

CHOOSING A TOPICThe first thing you must do to communicate clearly is understand the TOPIC on which you’ll be speaking. If it’s a topic of your own choosing, accept that you are an “expert” on it. If it’s a topic given to you, make sure you research enough of the information to be able to speak comfortably.

If you don’t believe what you’re saying is of value and you don’t find it interesting, no body else will.

Make sure you’re factual when citing numbers. When quoting, give credit. Statistics require a source. If your listener doesn’t believe you, you have nothing.

Topics are abundant:

  • Things you’ve seen
  • Things you’re heard
  • Things you’ve done
  • Things you feel or believe

Once you get the topic, a great way to start to put together the talk is to look at yourself as a reporter. Make sure you can answer the five W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Why). From there, expand. Fill in the gaps.

Other questions to ask yourself:

  • Why do you like that topic?
  • What did you learn from it?
  • How can you show others its value?

From these questions, come details.


Close in hand with choosing a topic is knowing to whom you’ll be speaking, your AUDIENCE. We speak differently to our friends and families than we do to professional associates. Although the delivery must be real and honest; it must take into consideration the receiver.

Although communication is a two way process, the reality is the reception is more important than the transmission. The person delivering the message already knows the message; that knowledge must be received correctly to have impact.

Some things to find out about your audience:

  • Age & Gender
  • Beliefs
  • Audience size
  • Layout of the room

Obviously, delivery to a small group of teenagers would be done differently than to a large group of conservative business people. However, everyone has in common the desire to enjoy a speech.


“People buy what they want, not what they need.” In other words, your effectiveness will be improved if you speak to the emotions of the audience but back it by logic, not the other way around. If they don’t identify (which is not necessarily the same as “agree”) with you, they won’t listen to you.

Connect with your audience.

For logistical reasons, one needs to be aware of the size of the room and the way the chairs are arranged.

Work with staff to arrange the room. Inspect the room in advance. Ask if you can talk to some people who will be attending to see what they expect. But, most important, remember you are working for the person who hired you, not the audience. It’s great when the two coincide but that’s not always the case.

Understand that no matter what the composition and size of the audience, first and foremost, they are “on your side.” Nobody attends a presentation, workshop, or speech hoping the person speaking will make mistakes. Although you might be uncomfortable in front of a room, you are probably more critical of yourself than anyone in the audience is of you.

There is nothing more boring than listening to somebody drone on with a long series of charts and numbers. No matter how important the information and no matter how much the audience wants to know it, entertainment is vital. Don’t try to become a comedian if you’re not naturally funny, nor try and show how much you’ve invested in your thesaurus. Your voice has variety. Pacing is a spice. Body language communicates more than words. Communication is rich and exciting, use as many aspects of it as you can.

Some tips to keep that energy alive:

  • Enthusiasm – Energy is contagious. Your intent is to transfer information or belief from you to your recipient. It flows better when there’s more energy. Make it appropriate. When excited, be excited. When somber, slow down.
  • Adjectives & Adverbs – Get involved with “AA.” Draw images in your listeners heads. Change a sentence into a painting. Don’t get too wrapped up in making sure the description is 100% accurate (unless that’s part of what the audience needs to know). Add color, sound. Notice the “little things” and add them in.
  • Variety – Vary your tonal quality, stance, volume, choice of words, and even sentence structure. Repetition causes “tune outs.” Variety is the spice of speech also.
  • Emotion – We are more than logic. We possess a wide, wondrous, depth of feelings, as real as any other part of us. Deliverance of fact after fact after tiresome fact is connecting with only half your audience. After expressing strong emotions, give your listener a moment to let it sink in. You’ve flavored the soup, it tastes better after it simmers.
  • Be Natural – Your talk must be delivered in a fashion that “sounds like you’re talking.” Use the whole room. Move your hands. Look at people. Smile. Interject stories whenever possible. Use stories from you own life or others to illustrate a point. They don’t need to be long and involved. Remember, “don’t let a the facts get in the way of a good story.” People will remember the message far greater when it’s coupled with mental pictures.


Your focus needs always to remain on your objective and not veer from that. Figure out what ONE point you want to convey (certainly NEVER more than three). Make sure that is clearly, concisely, (and cleverly) stated enough times to get the message through. Stay on task and remember the sub points are all being used to illustrate the main point. They get less attention.

Remember “Repetition Builds Reputation. Repetition Builds Reputation. Repetition Builds Reputation.”

Use “memory tools” to help reinforce the message (dare I say it, such as the acronym “TALK”).

Stories illustrate a point, so will props. I always try and leave a “take home” card. Make sure that with regards to whatever you use, you can explain how it builds on the main point of the presentation.

Organize What You Want to Say

It needs to have three major components:

1. Beginning

2. Body

3. Conclusion

You don’t want to memorize because that takes the spontaneity out of your talk and you become dull. Nonetheless, you want to know the beginning and conclusion extremely well so you can emphasize the point. As a general rule of thumb, the introduction and conclusion need to each be about 10%, the body 80%.

When I prepare a talk, I write on the top of a piece of paper: “What do I want my audience to remember?” Then, I write down ONE thing I will do that will ensure that happens.

It might seem like you’re overusing your theme if you stay that focused. However, to the audience, it’s “new stuff.” They might not understand it as well as you. (Remember, you’re their “expert.”)

There’s an expression that says “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em. Tell ’em. Then tell ’em what you told ’em.” Vary the manner in which you say it, but repeat it often.

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Scott “Q” Marcus refers to himself as “recovering perfectionist” because after losing 70 pounds in 1994, he realized it’s better to do something well than nothing perfectly. His is the past president of the Northern California chapter of the National Speakers Association and now conducts playful, lively speeches, workshops, and presentations throughout the country on how to achieve goals, improve attitude, and enhance communication. His presentations are described as a “cross between business 101, group therapy, and a southern revival.” You can contact him for speaking, coaching or consulting, or you can sign up for his free ezine, “This Time I Mean It” at To view more information about this topic and for a complimentary on-line manual of the TALK process, you can go to

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