Make yourself a better public speaker


Speaking skills are fundamental in influencing others. Vast field of communication subtleties make it virtually impossible to learn and master “the speaking skills”, but not every subtleties are born equal… Pareto said that 80% of the land in Italy (of his day) were in hands of 20% of society. Joseph Juran developed famous 80-20 rule after this observation. Today we can apply “the law of vital few” to the speaking skills and name a couple of elements that guarantee most of the positive effect.

Let it be the Charisma Workshop Top Tip #001 – 20% of elements that creates 80% of success.
Good posture is the key. It affect almost every aspect of a good talk. From projected, sub-communicated dominance, your actual hormone levels (how dominant you feel), breathing, voice and your gestures. As you probably already know, sub-communication contains around 93% of information processed by our brains in whole communication process, and mostly by our limbic system, so it isn’t really conscious evaluation either. Until natural selection doesn’t get rid off this antagonistic estimation of dominance from our brains, we have to make most of it.

Amy Cuddy found in her research that standing for two minutes in a power pose (like you just won Olympic gold medal) does change levels of testosterone and cortisol so one is more confident and stress resistant. Before your next big talk go somewhere you won’t be disturbed and stand “like a boss” for couple of minutes. Second tip: as you speak stand up straight. This too is a power pose. Then your message will emerge from an authoritative position of sub-communicated confidence, and your actual hormone levels adapted to such pose.

Straight posture also makes your breathing easier which is extremely important for voice projection. Voice is just air vibration, so when you breathe deeply, with more air to your disposal, you will sound better, deeper and in fact louder. One of the first sub-communicated effects of being stressed out or scared is shallow breath which allows us to run quickly, but at the same time strips down chances of sounding powerfully. It was a neat deal back when we were living in bushes. Now we have to fight it back by consciously breathing deeper, like we would want to pump our bellies with air.

Last but not least of key elements – know your material well and be passionate about subject matter. When you’re enthusiastic it will be pleasure to share your knowledge with audience. This will fire up “happiness advantage”, we talked about earlier, in your brain. You will be smiling in such conditions. Nothing makes sub-communication more positive than a honest smile, and it actually changes your voice (that’s why we can hear if someone is happy or sad by the phone). When you know material well and it’s relevant to you, chances are, you have worked on it well – decided on which points elaborate, which to avoid and you are aware what story emerges from your material. At the end of the day this is what interest people the most – story, experience, passion and joy. It is matter of practice, but trust me on this one: when you are passionate about subject, smiling, standing up straight and in control of your breathing and voice, then you can deliver one of the most amazing talks ever delivered.

Please, poke me with questions and share your opinions in comments.
Take good care
– Przemek Kucia

Underneaths I post talk from Amy Cuddy on how your body language affect you besides the others, and one of the best talks I’ve ever seen. Enjoy.

2 thoughts on “Make yourself a better public speaker

  1. tracycembor says:

    I was in a women’s leadership lab a year ago when this research from Harvard was just coming out. It is amazing how often I have used the power pose since them, and how often I feel like it has worked. I usually dash into a bathroom stall for my power-up time. If the stall walls are short, I put my hands on my hips and throw back my shoulders a-la-Wonder Woman instead of the V-for-victory pose. (Also, I love TED Talks)

    • Przemek Kucia says:

      I did my little experiment with power posing – I gave few talks with and without posing earlier, and I felt less affected by anxiety when I did. It wasn’t big difference, but surely noticeable. Especially in how easy it was to maintain smile.

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