The Master Communicator Blog

Six ways to demystify public speaking

Public speaking doesn’t have to be difficult. Everyone can do it by adopting proven techniques, best practices, but most importantly, by speaking truthfully about what you know and doing it with heart.
September 6, 2023

Public speaking doesn’t have to be difficult or mysterious. After more than 100 workshops and 250 coaching clients, six valuable bits of wisdom on leadership communication top my list of essentials. The intention here is to demystify public speaking overall. Everyone can do it by adopting some proven techniques, best practices, but most importantly, by speaking truthfully about what you know and doing it with heart.

Teachers and coaches know that our students and clients are our best teachers. Here are my favorite lessons learned from working with many of you.

1. Aristotle had it right.

Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, believed that everything has a beginning, middle and end. He also suggested that any spoken or written communication intended to persuade must contain three rhetorical elements that a speaker can use to influence an audience. Also called the three proofs, they are logos, the logic, facts, and reasoning in the message; ethos, the character, credibility, and trustworthiness of the communicator; and pathos, the feelings and emotional dimension (think about the words empathy and sympathy). Note how the Rule of Three underpins Aristotle’s concepts. He also identified the Three Unities: the dramatic unity of time, place, and action. Simply put in modern terms, people tend to remember three things effortlessly, thus making your messages sticky and engaging.

2. Stories are the path to memory.

“Those who tell stories rule society,” is a quote attributed to Plato, Aristotle’s teacher. From childhood, our brains have evolved not only to absorb facts and data, but to process information through stories. Good stories about real people, with strong narratives, a beginning, middle and end, and a resolution that touches hearts and minds, are priceless. We were raised on stories. We tell stories in daily conversations. When we use them in business communication, we tap into the most powerful tools of persuasion in existence: empathy and human connection.

3. Confidence is everything.

Charisma, carriage, and confidence are part of the same bundle of attributes that inspire people to follow you. They’re at the core of the highly prized quality of executive presence. Behaviorists say that confidence amounts to expressed belief in yourself. The strength of your convictions, that you have something valuable to share with the world, and the trust in yourself to deliver that value are fundamental to your success as a communicator. Studies suggest that confidence matters as much as competence. Combine confidence with preparation and practice and you’ll become a superstar presenter. 

4. Fear is real – learn to deal with it.

Nearly three-quarters of people on the planet identify performance anxiety around public speaking as their top fear. They fear it more than death. It’s real and takes many forms. You can tame it, but you may never overcome it. As I explain in my TEDx talk, Slay the Dragons of Bad Communication, fear can be the biggest dragon you’ll face as a communicator. And your most powerful weapon can be loving your topic and your audience in the spirit of helping them solve a problem or expanding their world view. When you turn fear into service, you improve the likelihood of delivering inspiration and insights that will make your audience better for having listened to you. Trust that you have something to say that your audience wants to hear, and you will be on the road to slaying the dragons that hold you back from sharing your gifts and building a reputation as a thought leader and skilled communicator.

5. Listening is as important as speaking.

Becoming an effective communicator requires equal parts of good listening and good speaking. Although there are several types of listening, the most impactful is empathetic listening which connects you to the concerns, needs and wants of your public. After all, your talk, speech, or presentation is only as good as the effect it has on your audience. The legendary author and leadership expert Stephen R. Covey called empathetic listening “the highest form” of listening. In his global best seller, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he wrote that when you practice empathetic listening, “you listen with your ears, but also, more importantly, you listen with your eyes and with your heart.”

6. Body language speaks louder than words.

Non-verbal communication represents 93 percent of what you transmit when you’re trying to change someone’s feelings or attitudes. By contrast, your words only account for seven percent of your message. Your tone of voice accounts for 38 percent of what you communicate, and your body language makes up 55 percent. This comes from research by psychology professor Albert Mehrabian who came up with his famous 7-38-55 rule in 1971. It’s important to note that Dr. Mehrabian couched his theory on the ability of human beings to convey feelings and emotions. Howe However dramatic the influence of body language on projecting emotions, the lesson here is that good communicators must pay attention to their gestures, facial expressions, and vocal dynamics in combination with the verbal to make meaningful connections with their audiences.

May these tips help you on your journey to public speaking excellence. There are dozens more in my collection of 150 Master Communicator blog posts. Search the topics to find the guidance you seek to advance your ability to inform, persuade and change the world with the power of your voice.

Rosemary Ravinal

Business leaders and entrepreneurs who want to elevate their public speaking impact, executive presence, and media interview skills come to me for personalized attention and measurable results. I am recognized as America’s Premier Bilingual Public Speaking Coach after decades as a corporate spokesperson and media personality in the U.S. mainstream, Hispanic and Latin American markets. My company’s services are available for individuals, teams, in-person and online, and in English and Spanish in South Florida and elsewhere.

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