11 Tips for Public Speaking

I belong to the Association of Women in Agriculture (AWA) at UW-Madison. It’s a professional organization and an amazing sisterhood with so many opportunities to network. Another cool perk of the organization is that there are a lot of AWA alumnae who have gone on to become Alice In Dairyland. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Alice, her role is to be an advocate and public relations figure for all things Wisconsin agriculture (industry products like cranberries, canned goods, potatoes, hops and, of course, milk and cheese). It’s a one-year position that requires a lot of driving, county fairs and public speaking — we’re talking television, radio, social media, podcasts, events... you name it, she does it. 

Former Alice In Dairyland, Kristin Olson, recently came back to the AWA house to give us a presentation on public speaking. These are the tips that she gave! This is definitely a tool that not only women in my organization can use, but women everywhere who want their voice to be heard — even if it’s just for a class presentation.

  1. 1. Know Your Audience

    This is a no-brainer, but it’s a commonly made mistake. Make sure your message caters to your audience’s values and interests. This may even mean editing your speech for each audience that you are giving it to.

  2. 2. You're Giving Back

    It helps beat the pre-speech jitters when you understand that your words are for your audience — they are there to learn something from you! Think of your speech as you giving back to them and giving them a tool to use for the future.

  3. 3. Connect

    Connect with people in the front row so that during your talk, you can reference a conversation you had earlier. Your connection to a member of the audience will actually draw the rest of the audience in and make them feel connected to you.

  4. 4. "Tell Them What You’re Going to Tell Them, Tell Them, and Then Tell Them What You Told Them"

    In order to make sure your key messages get across, reiterate your message — listeners will only remember 7% of the content, so make sure it’s what you want them to hear. As Alice in Dairyland said, “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them.”

  5. 5. Body Language + Confidence

    As I just said, listeners only remember 7% of a speaker’s content, and even less if the listener isn’t engaged (i.e. on their phone). Voice and body language — how you made them feel with your tone and posture — is what counts. Stand up straight, walk around (don’t nervous pace) and don’t fidget or play with your hair. Fluctuate your voice tones (louden and soften) to bring in interest.

  6. 6. Practice

    Practice. Practice. Practice. Know your content well. If you want to memorize your speech, record it and listen to it over and over again. Video tape yourself in the mirror so you can see that too.

  7. 7. Power of the Pause

    Pausing for 10 seconds will get the room’s attention before you make your most important point (use sparingly and strategically). People not paying attention will realize that the room went quiet and they’re curiosity will perk. People will be anticipating what you have to say next. A good speaker should be comfortable with silence.

  8. 8. Eye Contact

    STOP SCANNING. Make eye contact for a few sentences with individuals around the room. Try zigzagging from the back left corner to the front right corner and then to the middle.

  9. 9. Storytelling

    A story resonates with your audience. A story has a message and feeling that makes your presentation more memorable. Whether it’s funny or sad, incorporate something personal and meaningful in your next presentation.

  10. 10. Q&A

    Make time for your audience to ask you questions. Make sure to repeat the question before you answer it, so others know what was asked.

  11. 11. Call to Action

    Leave your audience with a call to action. Challenge your audience to do something. This gives everyone a little boost of inspiration and can leave a lasting impression on your audience as they walk out the door.

Hopefully these tips will be a resource for you in your next class presentation or speaking event. Not only will your voice be heard, your message will also resonate!