Public Speaking Tips to Improve Your Presentation Skills – Ultimate Guide

improving presentation skills to give a persuasive speech

Chapter 7:

How To End Your Persuasive Speech With Authority

  Want to give a persuasive speech that inspires others and amplifies your reputation? No matter where you’re at in your career or what industry you work in, you will always benefit from developing public speaking and presentation skills. We created this ultimate guide as your pathway to becoming a powerful and confident speaker. It will provide you with valuable resources and public speaking tips curated by our world-class speaker coaches. If you’re a high-performing professional with consistent speaking or presentation engagements, check out our presentation skills courses. Our coaching services and workshops will help you and your teams captivate your audience and speak with Moxie. (This article was updated on 7/6/2021)

How To Improve Your Presentation Skills

Artists practice endless rough sketches and drafts before their actual piece. Athletes practice endless physical drills before their big game. And successful public speakers and presenters prepare their talk and practice it. These two factors are the most obvious way you can improve your presentation skills and yet, we find they are the two things our clients do the least. Often, it’s simply because no one is taught how to properly prepare for and practice a presentation. Throughout these chapters, we will discuss every component and detail that needs to be included in a persuasive speech or presentation. We cover key presentation tips on how to master your public speaking abilities, improve your communication skills, and control your emotions and environment so that they don’t control you! Ready? You got this!

Presentation Skills Are Crucial to Professional Development

Delivering great presentations and speaking with authority is a key business tool for virtually any professional, but especially those who are leaders in their profession. Those opportunities to give presentations may be as significant as volunteering to be the host for your company’s annual conference, or as routine as directing client inquiries and questions to the appropriate personnel. Regardless of your field, public speaking and presentation skills will always be critical to your success. Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s Executive Chairman, and former CEO, highlighted this himself:
“The biggest skills gap in the United States is soft skills. Written communication, oral communication, team building, people leadership, collaboration.” – Jeff Weiner
If you are in a position where you are present in front of clients, colleagues, or customers, this guide is packed with valuable public speaking tips to WOW your audience. From executives and consultants to leading professionals or sales representatives, your role requires you to be able to convey a product, a concept, or an idea. This is why developing your presentation skills is a core asset. By developing these skills, you will be able to excel at your professional responsibilities as well as gain influence and make a difference. Think of the increase in sales, better client relationships, and superior leadership you could achieve by becoming a more dynamic communicator who can give a persuasive speech. Or how about landing those crucial contracts by confidently presenting your proposals and communicating the value of your services with authority? No matter what you do, you don’t have to be a professional speaker to find a reason to learn effective public speaking skills. If you’re ready to dive in and set yourself up for success, we’re ready to help you command the stage. We offer world-class one-on-one speaker coaching services plus live, online Speak with Moxie classes. Either way, you’re in the right place to gain insightful public speaking tips and prepare yourself to give a persuasive speech for your next opportunity.

The Best Public Speakers Had to Practice to Overcome Glossophobia

You may not realize it, but you are more than likely to have something in common with millions of people around the world: glossophobia That’s just the fancy scientific term for the fear of public speaking. In fact, studies show that 73% of the population is afraid of the same thing—each other. We may be biased, but one of the keys to overcoming the anxiety that overwhelms 73% of Americans is to pursue speaker coaching or presentation skills training and consistently practice the techniques and tools you learn.

Practice, practice, PRACTICE – with a coach.

Even public speaking gurus like Winston Churchill weren’t natural-born speakers. To be honest, that’s technically not even a thing.

Even if an individual is comfortable speaking in front of others, it does not negate the need to be equipped with presentation skills best practices and techniques. Becoming a great orator like Churchill takes intentionality and, you got it, practice. In fact, when Churchill was first elected as a representative within the British government, he froze for three entire minutes. That’s right, Churchill had stage fright too! After that failed attempt at public speaking, Churchill vowed to become a refined presenter who could give a persuasive speech at any moment. He spent years deliberately practicing his technique and meticulously outlining his speeches. It wasn’t until hundreds of speeches later when Churchill became prime minister during WWII, that he revisited that same platform in the House of Commons and earned his title as one of the greatest public speakers of all time. If Winston Churchill had to practice for all those years to become the greatest, then remember to be patient with yourself and keep at it! We believe all it takes is passion, perseverance, and preparation. If you don’t know where to start, a great coach or master trainer can be a HUGE plus on your journey to giving masterful presentations. Our purpose-driven team is dedicated to helping empower you to achieve your public speaking goals. Are you feeling ready to make unforgettable presentations in front of audiences? Then read on!

7 Effective Public Speaking Tips That Are Guaranteed To Improve Your Presentation Skills For A Persuasive Speech

Well, quite frankly, there is a LOT that you should know about becoming a great public speaker. We have plenty of resources and talented coaches at Moxie Institute who can guide you through this process but for the purposes of this article, we’ve curated some of our fundamental public speaking tips to get you started!

Chapter 1: How to Prepare for a Presentation

The effort that you put into this preparation phase will make or break your presentation—and your audience will notice. We believe you should prepare for each presentation or public speaking engagement with the same dedication and fervor, irrespective of whether they’re Hollywood-sized or just a part of your 9-5. In summary, here are our top tips for taking over the stage:
  1. Know Your Audience

    The key to a powerful presentation is delivering on the promise you made to them. You have to put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “what should they walk away with from this presentation?”
  2. Objective

    Define the objective for your persuasive speech and do everything within your power to stay on topic. Each sentence in your speech should be seamlessly woven together to point back to the objective of the presentation. Relevancy is key.
  3. Less Is More

    …especially when it comes to covering targeted material. As you are preparing your presentation, you’ll want to outline enough detail that your audience will find the information useful, insightful, and actionable. A practical technique is to start by turning off your spell checker and writing your entire speech without holding anything back or editing it. Just go for it! Once you’ve fleshed it out, only then should you start the rigorous editing process and condensing your speech to remove anything that’s not required.
  4. Create An Outline That Includes:

    a. A catchy, compelling introduction b. A body that effectively expounds on your introduction c. A conclusion that circles back to your objective
  5. Understand Your Audience

    Who’s going to be listening to you? Targeting your speech with your audience in mind will help you curate appropriate content and save you from making irrelevant statements. Everything you say should add value to your audience’s understanding of your message, idea, or product/service.
  6. Early Is On Time And On Time Is Late

    We can’t control certain factors so don’t be afraid to schedule a significant amount of time to cushion your arrival in case Mother Nature or your GPS decides to act up. Make sure you arrive at the location early enough to get settled and get comfortable with the space. Alternatively, test your technology ahead of time to avoid any connection issues.
  7. A Persuasive Speech = PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE.

    This can’t be emphasized enough! By practicing your speech, you will alleviate a lot of the speaking anxiety and pressure you may normally feel when you’re standing on the stage or in front of others. You may not like the idea of it, but practicing is essential. Practice in front of trusted friends or colleagues. Practice at home, in the car, anywhere you feel comfortable. By doing this in different settings, you will train your mind to become more comfortable with your speech. When the time comes, you will know your content so well that you won’t have to worry about it and will speak more comfortably. Thanks to practice, you may even ad-lib new ideas or thoughts seamlessly during the talk. This mimics how we talk in normal conversations (which we never pre-plan) making you seem more confident.

    Disclaimer: ad-libbing does not work if you haven’t practiced. You’ll just be seen as rambling as you try to connect random thoughts together.

    A relaxed speaker who knows their material always appears more professional and credible.
  8. Imagine Your Success

    Visualization is a critical piece to successfully preparing for a presentation, yet many people don’t take advantage of this tool. All it takes is a quiet space and a commitment to visualize yourself giving the presentation of a lifetime. We often take the downward spiral route with visualization—picturing yourself getting on the stage, forgetting your introductions, having a panic attack, and never being able to face the audience again. Instead, take a positive spin and imagine yourself effortlessly giving a persuasive speech to boost your confidence. We recommend practicing positive visualization in the weeks leading up to your presentation to help turn those nerves into excitement.
  9. Body language

    It probably doesn’t come naturally. You have to practice particular power stances, hand gestures, smiles, pauses, and more. But all these non-verbal communication techniques are just as important as the verbal component of your speech. Studies show that practicing power poses help improve your confidence! While your physical body is engaging in the confident poses, your mind follows suit. Power poses are especially helpful in giving you a boost of confidence and eliminating those jitters before your presentation!
  1. Join A Public Speaking Group

    Whether it’s in your community or an internal group within your company, being around other individuals who are dedicated to improving their presentation skills is a great opportunity to receive consistent feedback and practice in front of other like-minded professionals As the saying goes, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” Most public speaking groups will afford you the opportunity to present a short speech on a routine basis, giving you consistent feedback and practice in front of other like-minded professionals.
  2. Physical Location

    If you’re able to, try and visit the physical location where you will be delivering your presentation so that you can get a feel for your environment and practice in the room, examine the space, etc. If this is not possible, visualize the space and how you will effortlessly move around to engage the audience.

Chapter 2: How To Start A Persuasive Speech With A Great Introduction

A great introduction gives you a chance to capture your audience’s attention. It is the essential hook that will keep your audience wanting to hear the next great thing you have to say about your topic. If your audience loses interest at the beginning of the presentation, you will most likely lose them throughout the body and rarely gain them back in your conclusion. We refer to our TED Talk-proven ideas as the P.U.N.C.H. method. These public speaking tips and strategies will help open your presentation with a bang!

We also offer results-oriented presentation skills training: our speaker coaching services and speech writing experts will help you craft the perfect introduction or entire speech plus develop the techniques to present them with confidence. Taking into consideration your audience and your content, here are some ideas to get your next speech started:
  • Storytelling:

    One of the most effective introduction methods is storytelling. Humans are naturally wired to respond to compelling stories. Stories are memorable and help keep your audience on their toes. It’s why they are used in presentations and for branding/marketing. Studies showed that while people remember only 5% of the statistics they hear, over 60% remember stories. Just make sure your story is relevant to the objective and that you are able to smoothly transition into the body of your presentation afterward. Speaking to your audience’s passions, interests and expertise will get their attention–and keep it. This video about storytelling structure will have the crowd wanting more!

  • Historical or Current Event:

    You can also start off with an update on a current event or talk about a historical occasion. Either way, make sure the event is relevant and carries value for the audience. Look for characteristics of the event that could turn into a transition point into your content. For example, if your presentation is about human rights, you could use the bravery of the men and women that fought for civil rights during the 1960s and use that as an example of the characteristics needed to fight oppression in today’s day and age before transitioning into the solutions you have to offer.
  • Questions:

    Start off with a question—the more unconventional the better. You can even ask the audience to raise their hands to get them engaged. For example, let’s say you wanted to talk about exercise and fitness. Which question do you think an audience would you find more interesting? A) “Hands up, who here likes to exercise?” B) “Hands up, who here would like to guarantee they will live 2 years longer?” You could also reiterate the question at the end of the presentation to drive your point home. Based on the example above you would say: “I hope today I’ve shown you that exercise doesn’t just make your life easier. It makes it longer. So again, I ask you, would you like to live 2 years longer? Thank you.”
  • Quotes:

    Quotes by historical figures, quotes based on research, or quotes by celebrities and influencers may be good choices depending on your presentation content. Starting off a speech with a significant quote and then expanding on it is a great alternative for shorter presentations. Whichever method you choose, the goal is the same: captivate your audience and lead them to think deeper.

Chapter 3: How To Create Meaningful Content In Your Presentation

You can have all the passion in the world but if you’re not delivering the content in your presentation with accuracy, knowledge, and expertise, you might not convince your audience to trust you and think more about the topic. Nailing the technique is one thing, but you’ve got to master the content in order to make your persuasive speech fully come alive.
  1. Research:

    Conduct thorough research on the topic of your presentation. We suggest even thinking of some questions the audience may have concerning your presentation so that you can prepare for them in advance.
  2. Internalizing for Confidence:

    By internalizing the core of your message, you exude more confidence because you are speaking with confidence, authority, and understanding. This also helps to manage your anxiety since you are presenting within the scope of your knowledge base. To give a persuasive speech, you have to show passion about the content, it’s a HUGE bonus because you will speak from a place of authenticity.
  3. Include Interaction:

    Ask questions, get the audience to move around, have them share thoughts or ideas—there are many options you can choose. The point is to ensure they go from passively listening to actively engaging with you. You don’t have to do this constantly, just in relevant/appropriate moments. It’s a great way to get the energy going at the start of your talk and boost it at key moments throughout. It’s the reason many comedians start their shows with questions like “How are we feeling tonight, you all having a good time?” It gets the audience cheering and clapping. Whatever you choose, we highly recommend you make your presentation interactive and talk TO the audience, not AT them.
  4. Leverage The Q&A:

    Humans love having their opinions heard. If your presentation is in a smaller setting where you are able to ask inviting questions, take advantage of it! It will help keep the audience engaged. If the presentation room is not conducive for Q&A’s, you can have the crowd talk to each other in pairs or small groups by having them share their answers to your questions with each other. Thanks to technology, you can even set up a virtual, live poll where participants can answer the question with their mobile device. Everyone feels heard and the introverts will thank you.
  5. Use Humor:

    When appropriate, adding a little humor here and there is always a great way to keep the presentation light-hearted. Make sure you understand your audience, though, so you’ll know your jokes will land and you can avoid the awkward silences.
Check out this video on how to easily build credibility with an audience and ensure they listen to—and trust—your advice, ideas, and opinions.

Chapter 4: Visual Aids: Utilizing Visuals to Engage Your Audience

Preparation. Check. Powerful Introduction. Check. Relevant and Compelling Content. Check and check! Congrats—you’re getting the building blocks to a persuasive speech nailed down! The greatest supplement to a powerful presentation is a powerful visual presentation. You don’t have to be an amazing designer, but at the least, you should stick to these three important rules.
  • 1 Idea Per Slide:

    Keep your slides simple and concise so that people can focus on what’s really important: you! Slides are meant to be a supplement to the presentation, not the presentation itself. They should essentially be useless without the partnership of your speech. Each slide should summarize what you’re saying or draw attention to one clear point. This means you can use as many slides as you like since you will be spending so little time with each one. A 10 slide deck stuffed with words, bullet points, and images can be expanded into 30+ slides each with one clear message. The best part? It will take you the same amount of time to present. The difference is that now your audience won’t get bored looking at the same visual or read ahead and lose interest as they wait for you to catch up. This is key to making your message clear and holding their attention.
  • No longer than 20 minutes:

    Unless you have clear instructions from the organization or conference committee, shoot for presentations that are no longer than 20 minutes. TED Talks are some of the most powerful, emotional, and inspiring presentations in the world and they usually average just 18 minutes. This is a great practice because when you condense your talk like this, you will always cut the unnecessary details and facts first. What’s left is the critical information you audience needs to know. It makes your persuasive speech clearer, smoother, and easier for your audience to remember. Trust us, they will appreciate your brevity! Audiences almost never leave a presentation thinking “I wish it could have gone on longer.”
  • No less than 30 point font:

    Can the audience in the back of the room see your slide? This is the question to ask every time you create a new slide. Even if you’re presenting in a small room, you want to use large fonts so that your message, idea, or data can be read easily. By setting this font size limit, the people in the back row will thank you. This also limits the number of words you can fit in one slide which will help you create simple, clear designs.
Watch our video below for more advice and examples from Fia!

If you follow these rules you should make visuals that are simple and brief. You don’t want to overwhelm the audience with visual information that distracts them from the purpose of the presentation. Complicated charts and graphs are often unnecessary and can be simplified to only show the most relevant information. Your visual aids should simply assist with the overall message. And although Powerpoint is a great place to start for most presentations, there are plenty of options out there to let you get creative. If you are short on time or lack the creative juices to create a memorable slide deck, check out Moxie’s slide design services so you can focus on your delivery.

Chapter 5: How To Speak Like A Pro

These are public speaking tips for the very act of moving your mouth and forming words—because surprisingly, we’re never taught how to do this properly! This is where most people fall short. They never actually practice giving the presentation. Or if they do, it’s simply to memorize it rather than perform it. Give it a once-through with no breaks, as you would at the actual event. It’s a pretty physical thing now, isn’t it? It’s like the switch from reading sheet music to playing it. Your energy is now being put into a number of things: Breathing, moving your mouth, gesturing, and coordinating it all. You can write a killer persuasive speech, but it needs the benefit of a killer delivery. This calls for mastering the physical act of speaking.

The 3 P’s:

The human voice was the original musical instrument. The instruments that we think of as full of personality share traits with the human voice:
  1. Power
  2. Pace
  3. Pitch
Let’s pick these crucial skills apart…
  • Power

    The power, or volume of your voice in speaking, will dramatically affect how your presentation is received.

    Controlling your power means controlling your breathing.

    Nerves make many green speakers breathe shallow and fast. This results in a voice that doesn’t reach very far. It has also resulted in more than one speaker passing out. So by all means get in the habit of breathing with your diaphragm. You’ll not only be able to call upon your voice for increased volume, but you’ll also be able to take some of the red out of your nerves. Even slowing down your heartbeat a notch.

    How will you know when to speak loudly or quietly? An increase in volume can communicate urgency. It can also be used to motivate. But it’s like a bright yellow highlighter. If you underline everything in a book, nothing stands out. By emphasizing everything, you emphasize nothing. Loudness can be used by a discerning speaker to drown out a nearby distraction so the audience isn’t so easily redirected. But excessive and prolonged volume will eventually leave you with an audience that hears how loud you are and nothing else. The nuances of mid-to-lower volume should be used more often. Are you trying to get your listeners to adopt a different way of thinking? Moderate levels will gently introduce your ideas into their space. Same thing if you’re trying to be persuasive. How many times have you been persuaded with shouting? Exactly.
  • Pace

    Dig into your childhood for the stereotype of the boring/annoying salesman. We’ve all seen it in cartoons. What made them boring/annoying? They spoke at the same speed every time they opened their mouths. They were too fast or too slow with no variation. Nerves might make you speak at a breathless speed onstage. If that’s your entire presentation, then the information will be lost. If you’re droning like Eeyore during the whole affair, everyone will check their email, fall asleep, or both. So combine the two. Slow down for critical points that really need to survive the end of the program. Speed up at tasteful intervals to summarize less important details. And for real impact, employ pausing. One of the urban legends out there concerns a certain professor that would keep a coffee cup on his desk when he spoke. At planned intervals, he would take a sip from his cup. One of his students found out that the cup never had anything in it. The student confronted the professor about it, wondering why on earth he would pretend to drink coffee while speaking. The professor explained that it was his way of letting vital information sink in. The time that it took for him to mime a sip was long enough for his last few words to make an impression as they hung in the air. That’s the power of the pause. Make it part of how you pace your presentation and key thoughts will be embedded in your audience’s memory like nails hanging vital exhibitions.
  • Pitch

    Have you ever heard a song that was only one note? A presentation with no change in pitch… Or rather, with no modulation… …is a presentation given by someone auditioning for the role of a robot. Modulation is a subtle art that can change the meaning of sentences. A rise in pitch can transform a statement into a question. It can convey excitement and alarm. A drop in pitch can make words portentous, or can transition from one emotion to another. It can do things that power and pace alone can’t. Don’t be a robot.

Fundamental Mechanics

Let’s suppose you became a pro at power, pace, and pitch. What could still need attention? Those jitters might give you issues with the very physical act of speaking: moving your mouth and your lower jaw. Tension in the jaw muscles and keeping your head down will restrict the movement of both your jaw and your mouth. This leads to slurred and indistinct words, amounting to speaking in a language your audience doesn’t understand. Practice relaxing your lips, jaw muscles, and even muscles around your throat. Look in a mirror if you have to. Watch yourself for moments that you’re clenching your teeth. When you practice your presentation, enunciate each syllable as solidly as possible. This is going to feel artificial and overly precise. You aren’t going to talk that way onstage. This is just to train your mouth how to move. When you pull it all together, power, pace, pitch, and clear enunciation, you’ll find that your persuasive speech is indeed like music, and you are a remarkable instrument.

Chapter 6: Mastering Body Language

Your audience isn’t just listening to you, they’re also watching you. Your visuals are a great addition but ultimately, you are the visual focal point of the presentation. Mastering your body language is not something that happens overnight—it takes practice. But with these public speaking tips, you can develop the non-verbal communication skills that complete the presentation package. Body language is the combination of non-verbal messages that are communicated by your body. Public speaking greats are aware of these movements and are able to effectively maneuver their body language to support their message. When you utilize body language the right way, it is reflected in your presentation as confidence and authority. Body language also helps with audience engagement by subconsciously showing your own interest in the topic. Developing body awareness throughout your presentation will be a competitive advantage to delivering your next speech with authority. You may even have bad habits which undermine your authority. Fia highlights the most common body language issues below and provides guidance on how to overcome them.

  • Hand Gestures:

    During a presentation, your hands are very noticeable which means your gestures are a key component of mastering your body language. Avoiding awkward, jittery hand movements is key. Instead, allow them to rest peacefully at your side and incorporate them to make a purposeful point in your speech, emphasize a section, or to indicate a transition. Remember, you never think about your hand gestures when talking with friends, so don’t overthink it! Often your natural movements are what works best.
  • Movements:

    By injecting meaningful, supportive, energetic movement, you capture your audience’s visual attention, while your content captures their auditory attention.
  • Eye Contact:

    Intentional eye contact helps to build connections with the audience. Spend about 2-3 seconds looking at a particular person in the crowd, then move on. It’s important to know that you should never stare at your PowerPoint to avoid eye contact. This breaks any chance of connecting with your audience, makes you appear nervous, and unprepared. If locking eyes with others is a surefire way to ignite your nerves, you can look over the audience’s heads or right in between their eyebrows instead of directly into their eyes. Ideally, you should practice your presentation enough so you barely look at it.  
  • Command the Space:

    Make meaningful movements around the stage to emphasize a point or to transition into the next section of your presentation. If you are able to, do a practice run on the stage that you will be speaking on beforehand, to mark certain positions on the stage that you can leverage throughout your speech. Take advantage of the space in front of you. This is also a great way to reduce anxiety because you will feel more familiar with the space when it comes to the real thing. If it’s happening at an event venue, reach out and see if you can drop by during the day to practice, staff members are often more than happy to help you out.
Before your talk begins, try this awesome warm-up series that Fia has taught to TEDx speakers to do before they step out on stage.

Chapter 7: How To End Your Persuasive Speech With Authority

The conclusion is the last thing your audience will remember about you—make it count!
  1. Examples:

    Consider ending with examples that demonstrate the topic of your presentation. For example, if you are in a sales presentation for a new product, give some testimonials from customers who were able to conduct a trial run. If you asked a question at the beginning, see if the audience answers the same way after gaining new information.
  2. Summarize Your Persuasive Speech with A Call to Action (CTA):

    Ideally, your conclusion will summarize the key points of your presentations and empower your audience into action with your message. However, you have to be clear with what that call to action is. What do you want them to do? What are they supposed to do with the information you have just given them? It’s your job to provide the context and call to action. Speakers who just provide information and walk away leave their audiences feeling motivated to change or help but confused about what to do next.
  3. Tie In The Story or Introduction from the Beginning:

    If you began your speech with a story, now would be a great time to call back and incorporate the content of your presentation into it.
  4. Call to (Rhetorical) Question:

    This concluding method is similar to a direct call to action, except it poses the CTA in the form of a rhetorical question. The focus is to ask a question that targets the audience’s ability to take what you have delivered in the presentation and make it practical. A good persuasive speech should leave the audience wanting more. Consider asking questions that will capture the essence of the message and phrase it in a way that the audience can internalize and think about afterward.

We Know You Can Give A Persuasive SpeechYou Got This!

Giving a persuasive speech is an art form and there will be a lot of trial and error along the way. But what matters is that you commit to practicing the skills we mentioned in this ultimate guide and refining them every time. We have all taken part in uncomfortable public speaking moments: whether it’s you or someone else on the stage, the awkwardness and the distractions take away from how memorable the presentation could have potentially been. Maybe you’ve learned from your own mistakes or the mistakes of someone else (we won’t tell them). But we hope these public speaking tips will help ensure your next presentation is an enjoyable experience–for you and your audience.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, we have been in your shoes before, and we can help. Our team of professionals has years of experience with everything from presentation skills, storytelling, and overcoming speech anxiety to virtual communication and media training. Give us a call before your next speaking opportunity and we’ll help you deliver an unforgettable presentation with confidence!  

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