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Presence, Structure, Performance: 5 Tips to Improve Your Public Speaking

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By: Jenny Luna

Public speaking ranks high on the list of people’s greatest fears. But the ability to present ideas in a clear, confident, and authentic manner affects your professional and personal success.

Here are a few tips from Stanford GSB communication experts on how paying close attention to word choice, using outlines instead of memorized scripts, and managing your anxiety can improve your next presentation.

1. Give Yourself Structure

Great talks have defined paths. Start by asking yourself, “What does my audience need from me?” Keeping your listeners’ needs at the forefront of your mind connects you to them. Focus on what they are there to learn, instead of making sure each of your talking points is said. You can structure presentations by using frameworks such as Cause and Effect or Past-Present-Future.

2. Own the Room

Making an impression isn’t a choice, it’s an inevitability. And it’s rarely just about what you say, but how you make people feel as you’re speaking. Lecturer Allison Kluger shares how you can exude an executive presence, communicate verbally and with your physicality, and own the room.

3. Nail the Q&A

Panel discussions present a unique set of challenges for a speaker: You must navigate a conversation while still getting your message across. You’re more apt for success if you’re well prepared and structure your answers to link back to other panelists.

4. What the Pros Know

How do you start and end your talk? How do you make complex ideas more approachable? In this video, Lecturer Matt Abrahams shares what he knows about crafting meaningful presentations that make lasting impressions.

5. Common Mistakes to Avoid

Sort of, kind of, I think … this hedging language weakens your idea and litters your communication, says Stanford GSB Lecturer Matt Abrahams. Avoid it at all costs. Other habits to toss out include the urge to memorize or rely on predictable openers like “Hi, my name is … ”.

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