« Pay whatever your AIIM membership is worth to you | Main | Presentation 201: Why public speaking is like billiards »

March 16, 2009


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Top ten tips for incredibly successful public speaking:


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

L. Howell

The good news for you is people pay attention in Turkey, nobody as far as i could tell was banging on laptop or mobile device. A lot of times here in the US, you tend to get an audience who feels that the conference is a venue for them to "work". Great stuff David.

Matt Nelson

David, Great article, personally very timely and helpful for me. I am going to be making my first official jump into presenting in three weeks when I talk about Database Integration and Relationship Marketing at the upcoming April 2nd VT/NH Direct Marketing Association meeting.

All of your points are great, especially the ones about not using powerpoint as a crutch and body language. I was curious though, as an experienced speaker, when you were first starting out how many times would you practice your presentation before your speaking engagement?

Geno Prussakov

Excellent advice, David. The point about PowerPoint :) is interesting. I guess, you're talking more inspirational, keynote-type speeches. Sometimes a bulleted list in a PPT presentation can help people enormously (like the very 10-point list you have above), but again: it depends on the kind/type of speech/presentation.

Also, after one of my last presentations, people expressed that they wished they had some kind of handouts (to follow the topic easier). The crowd wasn't large (some 50 people). I did contemplate having handouts, but wasn't sure if they are really appropriate in non-classroom contexts. Have you used handouts at conference presentations much?

Russ Boles

I'd change #6) Don't use Powerpoint at all. Nothing tells me quicker that a speaker is unprepared or worse, boring, than when they bust out the Powerpoint. The speaker first assumes that I can actually see the screen, which I usually can't. Second, they assume that their cute graphic translates well from their monitor to the screen. Third, often the info in the Powerpoint presentation is "ligh wieght" and just disctracting to what they are saying. If it's that important, have it has a handout at the end of the speech.

I like speakers that speak without notes and draw on whiteboards. Look me in the eyes, not at your computer. They always are winners.

Geno Prussakov

Having read L. Howell's comment, another thought came to mind. The following point is worth emphasizing too: 11) When speaking in foreign countries, be sensitive to the culture. Take your time to study the basic gestures, make sure your stories communicate well cross-culturally (run them by a couple of people from the culture you'll be speaking in *prior* to make them on stage), etc.

Also, a point about cursing on stage should be made. Yes, sometimes it may seem appropriate, but it is never recommended. Someone said that cursing stunts the speaker’s mental growth. I couldn't agree more.

David Meerman Scott

Thanks for the comments!

L. Howell - It is not about location, it is about content. If you deliver a powerful presentation, people ALWAYS pay attention.

Matt - At least ten times if not twenty.

Geno - I prefer not to have handouts unless the organizer insists. But my image slides are meaningless out of context, so the best handout is one of my ebooks or hard cover books.

Kate Nasser

Excellent article David. Clear, concise, and on target. Read my article outlining 7 questions to select the right speaker for your conference. It helps meeting planners and speakers.

Kate Nasser
The People-Skills Coach

Emily Sheetz

11. Be funny. I love to laugh and would be wowed if a speaker got me to laugh during a presentation on writing SEO web copy. Laughing also loosens a person up, making them more receptive to you and the points you have to make. Also, a boring speech is not listened to. The body is in the metal folding chair, but the mind is thinking about how my butt hurts in these chairs and that I have to do laundry later.


I'm following you on twitter and this topic just popped up in the nick of time. I want to do more public speaking, by more I mean that I want to try it for the first time by organizing a referral club. Doyou have any tips for noob that pertain to how to generate content? DO you write it out? Save a spoken version of it on an audio recorder? Practice in front of a webcam? Mirror?


I guess if someone really want to use PowerPoint they should at least follow Kawasaki's "The 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint" if possible.


Re the "don't use Powerpoint at all", whiterboard guy, the conference folks usually want a presentation that they can give away on a CD to recap the convention (or perhaps to sell to help underwrite costs). This is why they usually provide the PPT template to use. So #2 (Know the conference organizer's goals) usually forces the issue!

David Bressler


Awesome post. To summarize all ten points, basically, it's not about the speaker, it's about the audience. Be respectful, be professional, and add value through sharing stories/experience.

To Emily - about being funny... I started using humor when speaking internationally, because I found that if people smiled, they were following, if they didn't, they might not be able to keep up with my pace, or my language, and I should, probably make sure they understood what I was saying before moving on. Of course, if I weren't funny, that could be a problem, but it's not like I'm up there doing stand-up!

Foreign speaking can be tricky, because you need to make sure you don't use colloquialisms...

David Bressler


#3 is so true. Story-telling engages your audience, and teaches a lesson without being preachy. Done the right way, it'll also make you (and your point) incredibly memorable.

Jennifer Louden

Also get your people to move - I try to use movement in small ways (because body stuff totally freaks most people out) because it keeps people awake, engaged, and they might actually remember what I spoke about. The best time: 3000 people dancing!


Thanks David for the Insights here. I used to do a lot of public speaking years ago and went to Toastmasters during some of that period.

They used to do a practice called table topics where you would learn to speak on the fly about any object, subject or situation that was presented to you. This was great for learning to ad-lib when you need it but I also agree with your statements of be organized, focused, back up files and don't use PowerPoint as a crutch.

I'm looking forward to the opportunity to getting into public speaking again because it was something I enjoyed.


YEs!, Someone beat me to it but I was going to recommend toastmansters and the USB key is right on. Well done.

justin locke

well if i may, coming at this as a past musical performer, this is of course all fabulous, but i would paraphrase it this way: performing, including speaking, is not a product, it's a service. it's easy to get focused on the content/product and think that's all you need, but the --experience of the user-- is dominant. all the info you read on this blog about user personas applies to audiences as well. so to paraphrase, what does your user want? for starters, not to be bored or inconvenienced. it's amazing how many musical performers think of their job as providing a precise error-free product rather than the providing service of interacting with their customers . . . this is why many orchestras struggle while andre rieu can't schedule enough shows to meet demand.

David Esrati

Unfortunately- the "Deck" has taken over speaking. I remember watching Tom Peters work a crowd 20 years ago- no slides- just him, a mike and a lot of room for him to pace, jump-up and down and keep his audience engaged.
Now, so many conferences require a deck.
I never give handouts until AFTER the show- why pay attention, when you can be reading... right?
I think I read this just in time- I'm about to do my first keynote- http://www.doctrain.com/west/2009/program_detail/the_content_providers_crystal_ball/ and I'm going to put it on the thumbdrive NOW.
Thanks! Great following you on Twitter

David Meerman Scott

Great comments. Thanks.

Wanted to just summarize some thoughts as I was reading through these.

Yes, speaking is absolutely a performance. It is much more than just the content.

Never forget that your "buyer" is the conference organizer who invited you, not the audience. However the way to be a success in the eyes of an organizer is to do a great speech (and wow the audience), but that's not all. If you are late to the event and demanding about requirements and don;t answer email prior to the gig, no matter how great the speech, you will not be seen as professional in the eyes of the organizer.


Jerry Smith

Hallelujah. Great advice as always, particularly regarding Powerpoint. Apart from all the other great points about using it inappropriately I have seen countless presentations ruined by technology failure. Few things kill credibility more than a flustered presenter with no fall back plan, desperately fiddling with wires while the audience gets restless. I have seen it time and again.
As a presenter you have great stuff to say and you don't need whizzy graphics to do so.

Steve Beerman Kayser

“The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public” --- sums it up. Least for me.

But you're good at public speaking - I've attended your presentations before. Thanks for the tips.

Me -- being a prolific non-public speaker, yet subject to many tortuous public speaking business presentations, suggest in the best interests of humanity, that PPT presentations should adhere to the Kayserized version of the Kawasaki PPT 10-20-30 rule. " 10 ideas-20 slides - no smaller than 30 font." I SUGGEST NO SMALLER THAN 60 FONT - limits you to 3-6 words.

Brief. Briefer. Briefest. Is bestest.

Best David!

Pawel Brodzinski

I can add several more things you should avoid during prestentation. Several are the same as yours. Screwing a presentation is even worse than not showing at all.

Tony Darrick Baker

Great Article David.

Everything you said was spot on. You're quite the inspiration.

I came up with a few of my own.


Michael Benidt

Astonishing that so many comments and yet not one refers to Seth Godin's (also known as God) take on PowerPoint - http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2007/01/really_bad_powe.html

Here's the 10 page PDF - he said if he'd had more time, he would have made it shorter - http://www.sethgodin.com/freeprize/reallybad-1.pdf

Sorry, but it's the first and last word on PowerPoint - albeit much ignored throughout the kingdom. Ignore it yourself to you sorrow.

Chris Ryan

Two quick points to add to this fascinating discussion. David's first tip, to take it seriously, is perhaps the most important. I'll never forget the keynote speaker at a large technology conference who confessed that he had no time to prepare and hoped the audience didn't hold it against him (we did). And the best and most consistent speaker on technology that I have heard is Larry DeBoever. Back in the dinosaur days (1990's), when everyone else was using slides, Larry actually used transparencies, which he marked-up with a highlighter. Each presentation was slightly different but each looked like it had been totally customized for the audience.

Kh Jamaluddin

I am student in One Universty in Indnsia. I need some contibution in order to accomplish my thesis on entitle an anlysis the key successful Public speaking. i need your help very musch and thank very much for ur kindness.


Excellent article! Here's an unconventional tip ...

If you have young kids (in my case, my son) join the BSA (Boy Scouts) and participate in their leadership programs. I will tell you from personal experience that there is no better learning platform for quickly learning how to be a great speaker and people's person than when you are a Cub Master, Troop Master or BSA Trainer. :D Before I joined BSA I would be a wreck if I had to address more than 5 or 6 people at a time ... now 200 or more people is a breeze!

I willl say that I agree with all points mentioned in this post, especially #1 "Be Prepared". ;)

Andy Bishop

Coming from a theatre perspective here - if you can take an acting class (seriously!). I've seen way too many technical speakers weaving and looking down into their notes and stuttering. Yikes. Stand still, look up, and speak clearly and thoughtfully. ("Um, and then, well, um..."

David Meerman Scott

Anne and Andy - both good ideas! A long time ago when I was younger and thiner, I acted in Japanese television commercials. Great non-traditional training for public speaking. Anything that gets you in front of an audience is helpful.

But as good as these things are, a speech to a professional audience is different than a speech to young people (BSA) and different than acting. So the ideas I gave in the post are still valid.


Jacqueline Wales

Wonderful tips, David. As a newcomer to the speaking business, I take your words of wisdom seriously and do my best to make it as educational and motivational as possible. I'm still working on how to be the entertainer, but I do love telling stories. PowerPoint is not one of my strengths, but as I learn from people like you, I won't be producing boring ones.

David Meerman Scott

@Jacqueline - Nothing wrong with doing a speech without using Powerpoint. The business audiences I speak to expect it. But it is possible to defy the expectation in some cases. Powerpoint is not an absolute...

vince stevenson

Some excellent tips and advice in this post. Many thanks indeed. Rgds Vince

David Meerman Scott

One more addition. Check your zipper before going on stage. (Don't ask.)

Emmanuel de Saint-Bon

Excellent! Great! Thank you for that.
I would add one more point that is important to me: use the available space! Don't be static! Don't remain on your chair!
Talking while standing on your feet makes you much much convincing.
For that, use a remote control mouse to drive your powerpoint from anywhere in the room.
By cliking on my name, people interested in that point could ses how I manage space in my conferences (in French).

Marketing Sheffield

Great article, I have to do a presentation on Monday and I'll definitely keep this advice in mind.

Susan Trivers

This just came to my attention through David Newman's Tweet (a good reason to broaden your reading and sharing your finds through Twitter?)

About PowerPont: use the on-off switch or insert blank, black slides at frequent intervals. This communicates that you are the source of all meaningful content and that the few slides you do show are aids to your ideas.

About Handouts: my audiences love short, simple handouts that encourage them to participate. Include fill-in-the blanks, mini-quizzes, short lists and space to take notes. The experience for the audience is significantly improved from either printed copies of the slides and or no handout.

Vince Stevenson

As always, a well balanced and thought-provoking blog post. Rgds Vince

Mark Kyte

You're right, especially the point about finishing on time. I attended a conference where a "professional speaker" was recognised for his contribution to improving the communitys communication skills. He was asked to keep his acceptance speech to five minutes, instead his acceptance speech went for 45 minutes!! Eventually (after half the room walked out) he was hauled of stage. The mark of a professional????

Tim Peter

Great tips, David. I like to put one word - such as "Natural" or "Fluid" - on a 3x5 index card and keep it on the podium during my talk to remind me of the image I want to present. That's a big help on the body language point, without overwhelming me with too many inputs. Excellent article overall.

Phillip (phillymac on twitter)

Well said! As a trainer and speaker since the early 90s I certainly wish more people would implement this sage advice.

Jeff Ramos

Thanks for personally sending me this link David, I took some notes. You're always helpful as usual!


Hi David. I am printing this article and post it in our bulletin. I will share it to my co-workers for their learning. This will help them to have the best idea in public speaking. I can really say that you are a great speaker. I learn great things just reading your article. Thanks.


I like #4 the Best. Two words, Content and Sharing. Give others something useful and perhaps you get something in return.

-Glenn :)



great article, I am just looking at info on those subjects and also found that interesting website www.powerpoint-presentation-power.com.

Inside the Webb

Great tips here! I usually don't have any problem talking in public, but it's always a good set of skills to have and use.

David Walsh

Excellent article...!

I have to say that there are some things that were in the back of my head, but no one every brought them to the front like this before.

Definitely a set up tips to follow when doing presentations.

I especially dislike it when presenters use PowerPoint to tell them exactly what to say. It just shows they don't know their material.

Thanks again,



Love your post. check out www.HCDESK.com


Second time ive found your site today while looking for Public Speaking Topics. Thanks heaps

Simon J. Maselli

Simon J. Maselli - Public Speaker Australia

Hey, I'm a public speaker and I came to this site looking for http://powerpersuasion.com.au/public-speaking/public-speaking-topics/ and I have to say - Thanks!

Simon J. Maselli

simbat gokkasten

I agree alot with the first tip, if your not interested yourself, or atleast don't seem to be interested about the subject, others will also think your wasting there time, thanks for all these tips.

Amanda J. Barke

Good information. I will be sharing.
Amanda J. Barke
author, editor, freelance journalist

Alan Wade

Excellent tips - especially number 5. Nothing is more important than thorough preparation. I find that 70% of my anxiety about the presentation goes once I know that I'm fully prepared and have left no stone unturned.

קופיטק מכונות צילום

I would like to say about advertising. People do proper value are themselves and tips on how to remedy their issues. A conversation is about technology. You must fight the craving to boasting your items.


Just wanted to point out that a podium is something that raises you up, while a lectern is what is mostly used when giving speeches. I see a lot of people use the two terms interchangeably. If it has stairs, then it's a podium. If it is a raised stand that you hold your notes on, it's a lectern!


Points 3 & 6 are super important. I have gone to so many presentations that were boring in the sense that the slides were not designed by powerpoint designers and therefore they lacked any style at all. But also they were simply a bunch of text the presenter was reading from, which is boring. You should check out some of our work. We are a Powerpoint company that specializes in storytelling. www.thepowerpointagency.com

Lydia Ramsey

This is one of the best articles I have seen on how to deliver a great presentation. I will be referring to it as I revise my presentations for 2013. Thank you.

Linda White

Excellent tips, thank you, thank you!
I have trouble with two things in front of audiences: speaking while sitting down, as on a panel (esp when the table is not raised), and speaking when on a stage on which spotlights are trained. I am short, which might explain the sitting down thing - I cannot see past the first row and it's discomfitting to have a row of people staring at you at the same level. Two: the bright lights make me uncomfortable and I can't see the audience's reaction. I feel like I should wear sunglasses. So it's either too much eye contact or not enough! Any tips for either of these?

David Meerman Scott

Linda, I actually think it is fine to stand on a panel. You can say "I'm short and I prefer to stand if that's okay." People will respect you. Regarding lights - you just need to get used to it. Try to go to the venue early so you can practice in the lights.

Funny Motivational Speaker

Great post. I have been speaking professionally for nearly 30 years and I can't tell you how many times I have seen not only other speakers break these rules, but also executives. When they tell me that an exec is going to speak before me, most of the time I know that I will have to recharge the group when he/she is done. They always wait until the last minute to prepare and wing it thinking that the audience will be impressed. They never are. I'd like you to foward this post to every exec in the world; however that may prove challenging. Again, great post. P.S. If you're a fellow speaker and we work together and you go on before me... please reread this post.

The comments to this entry are closed.


Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

follow me

David Meerman Scott books

I want to speak at your next event!


David Meerman Scott e-books

David's iPhone and iPad apps

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 12/2004