wikiHow to Be a Great Speaker

Three Methods:Articulating Your VoiceMaximizing Your Body LanguageKnowing Your Words

There is a commonly cited statistic that people are generally more fearful of public speaking than they are of death. The idea of performing a speech in front of an attentive audience is a nerve-wracking concept for most people. Fortunately, it doesn't have to be. Being a great speaker is a skill that is learned just as much as any other. When you have a strong command of your voice and self-presentation, confidence with public speaking tends to fall into place.

Method 1
Articulating Your Voice

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    Listen to recorded speeches.[1] If you want to become a great speaker, you should first have an idea on what it means to be great. Famous speeches became that way in part because the speaker knew how to wring the most feeling and meaning out of what he was saying. Pay attention to the pauses they take, the words they emphasize, and the steady pace most famous speakers perform at. Public speaking is ultimately an art. There are countless ways you can perform the same speech.
    • The most famous speeches of the 20th century are easy to access. Their iconic status also goes to show how much power a gifted speaker has to change peoples' minds.[2]
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    Talk slowly.[3] As a public speaker, you should never feel the need to rush through a presentation. Because anxiety tends to make people speak much faster than they normally would, you should be aware of your rate of speech. Make a conscious point of speaking slowly. If your speech is happening at a more manageable rate, it will be easier for you to feel like you're in control.
    • Speaking slowly does not mean speaking in a monotone. Just because you're taking your time doesn't mean you need to be boring. The best public speakers will keep a steady speaking pace and use that extra time to inject more expression into their act.
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    Minimize filler words and stammering. Filler words include things such as "like" and "um". They are words that only exist in a live presentation because the speaker's mind need a second to catch up with the rest of the speech. Mishaps like this and other verbal slip-ups are most often the result of anxiety. While anxiety is totally natural and is to be expected, it's a good sign you need to slow down. A speaker speaking really slowly is better than one who is stuttering through important lines.
    • If you need a moment to recollect yourself in the middle of your speech, you should allow yourself the time to pause.[4] While filler language only serves to detract from your presentation, a pause can be beneficial for the audience to digest what you've said so far as well.
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    Emphasize or repeat particularly important lines.[5] Even if you have gone over every word of your speech with a fine-toothed comb, there are going to be lines that are most important to the central idea you're discussing. In the case of these especially important lines, it's crucial you bring added attention to them somehow. This can be done by saying them more slowly, more loudly, or repeating the same line twice. Your audience will immediately pick up on the tactic you used and will take extra care to remember that point.
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    Express emotion through inflections. Although you may feel very anxious going into a speech, it may actually make things easier if you allow yourself the ability to connect emotionally with the topic and express yourself. Raising and lowering your voice to denote certain feelings can do a ton to engage an audience. As a general rule, people like to feel like they're being spoken to by a red-blooded human being. Acting like a robot may seem like a safe route if you're nervous about speaking, but you'll get a lot farther if you're candid with your audience.
    • Avoid a monotone delivery. This approach is common with people who put too much emphasis into a rote memorization of the speech lines, and didn't leave room for an organic quality.
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    Pause for effect. Much as with an emphasis technique on a given word, a well-placed silence can say a lot. Pauses are a good thing to place after a particularly heavy or important idea has been stated, or in between relatively unrelated points to serve as a sort of paragraph break. A pause also gives the audience a chance to show their appreciation. Even if you don't need the warmth, members of your audience will feel more confident in your abilities if they see other people in the crowd cheering you on.
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    Interact with your audience.[6] Speeches can be memorized with enough time and practice, but a truly gifted orator will use parts of his speech as an opportunity to communicate directly to the audience. If an audience member has a question, it would be a wasted opportunity not to answer it. The audience will be impressed by your willingness to play off the books and interact seemingly spontaneously.
    • An audience won't interact with a speaker unless some stakes have already been raised. You have to get an audience interested in what you're talking about if you want them to respond actively.[7]
    • Trying to engage the audience yourself is always a risk. You can't control what an audience member will say, and you'll need to improvise a response to whatever they say. Worse still, getting no response from an audience will embarrass you as a presenter.[8]

Method 2
Maximizing Your Body Language

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    Keep a firm posture.[9] A strong posture is one of the most telling signs of confidence. Suffice to say, it's a look you'll want to have whenever you're speaking publically. Keep your back straight, and your shoulders jutted outward. If you're someone who struggles with a slouched posture, it may take some time to reprogram yourself. However, after enough time doing it, you'll eventually do it without thinking.
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    Allow yourself to express emotion through your face.[10] If you're nervous, your face will freeze up. Words alone only go so far in communication. The best speeches are emotionally hard-hitting, and it's intensified when the same feelings are being mirrored by the speaker. Whether rehearsed or not, matching facial expressions will lend your speech with a great air of authenticity.
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    Stake a claim on your personal area.[11] Whether you're speaking on stage or something more casual, chances are there's a larger physical space you could be occupying. Even if you're the most riveting speaker, there is going to be a part of your audience that wants to be engaged visually as well. Getting your audience's eyes to follow you as you stride across the stage will make your presentation (and topic) feel all that more dynamic.
    • If you're addressing the audience directly with someone, you should walk towards them on the stage. This creates an effect of urgency.[12]
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    Scan your eyes across everyone you're speaking to.[13] Eye contact is essential if you want to foster a connection with the audience he's speaking to. This doesn't need to be a constant thing, and you don't need to make eye contact with each individual in the crowd. Instead, simply scanning your eyes around the your audience from side to side can instill a sense of interaction between the speaker and his attendees.
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    Use gestures in tandem with what you're saying.[14] Body language is a powerful tool on the stage, but it's only worth as much as it relates to the topic you're speaking about. Think of hand waves and gestures as exclamation marks in your speech. By using your body as an additional form of communication, you can ride home your point on multiple levels.
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    Keep your movements controlled.[15] Above all, you should keep every noticeable movement of your body under control when you are speaking. Many people will fidget and squirm when they're nervous. This isn't the sort of impression you want to get across if you intend on a successful presentation. Your body language should not be left up to whim or chance. If you're not comfortable with public speaking enough yet to balance the vocal presentation with purposeful body language, it is preferable to keep yourself completely still. Rest assured, unconscious movements are going to work against your presentation.

Method 3
Knowing Your Words

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    Structure your speech with a beginning, middle and end.[16] Speeches are like oral essays. They tend to follow a similar format for the most part. If you're writing your speech yourself, you should try breaking it up into sections in order to better organize your points. Even if you haven't written the speech, it's a good idea to know what structural role each part represents. Generally speaking, virtually all speeches will have three parts:
    • An introduction. This is where you will introduce either yourself or the topic that needs to be discussed.
    • The main body and supporting points. This is where the details of your argument or discussion are fleshed out. This is by far the biggest part of a speech, and is analogous to all of the paragraphs in an essay between the first and last.
    • Closing statements and summary. At the end, the audience will be looking for some closure to signal the speech's end. Take this as an opportunity to note the widespread implications of the topic, as well as a to-the-point recap of the ideas you explored in the main body.
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    Include a take-home message. No matter how complex the subject you're talking about is, there should be a line or two from your speech that will be instantly memorable for anyone who is hearing it. This could be the thesis, or central point of what you're trying to say. A take-home message should preferably take the form of an applied request.[17] Telling your audience to do or reflect upon something on their own time will hopefully keep your audience attentive on your subject long after the presentation itself has ended.
    • Any messages of particular importance should be spoken more boldly, more slowly, or repeated.
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    Keep time in mind.[18] While great speakers will keep their speaking pace relaxed and take cares not to speed up, you should respect the time of your audience. There is no need to have a half-hour speech where all of the same points could be covered in 20 minutes. It's much easier to revise the speech itself than to try to speed through sections of your speech. If you think your speech could be shorter, give it a run through and decide for yourself which lines could be done without.
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    Rehearse your speech.[19] Nothing great ever came about without hard work and practice. Rehearsing your speech is necessary if you want your audience to take something away from your presentation and take you seriously. Perform your speech in front of a mirror and pay attention to the way you look while you're speaking. It also helps to record yourself speaking. That way, you'll be able to see what you're doing right and wrong more clearly.
    • It's a good idea to give your speech a run-through in front of a friend or family member before going live. That way, the other person can offer you feedback from a fresh perspective.
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    Thank your audience once the speech is over.[20] Even if you're the one who is performing, your audience members are taking time out of their schedules to hear you speak about your topic. For this, they deserve some gratitude. Telling a crowd how much you appreciate lending their time to you will end your speech on a positive note of warmth.


  • Public speaking doesn't come naturally to many people. It's something you'll probably have to spend some serious time practicing in order to perfect. Don't let yourself feel down if you slip up the first few times you perform. It's a lifelong skill, and once you get the hang of it, it will stick with you for the rest of your days.
  • Include visual aids (such as Powerpoint) in your presentation, but only if it legitimately adds something of value.[21]


  • You can never know for sure how an audience will react to your presentation. Be prepared for a less-than-stellar reception, and should the case arise, make sure you roll with the punches. Getting visibly on stage won't do anything for your credibility.

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Categories: Public Speaking