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Basic Skills For Effective Public Speaking


Fear of public speaking? Are you getting freaked out in front of the audience? I know the feeling. Been there too. Not any more. I adopted Dale Carnegie’s basic skills of effective speaking fundamentals.

In his timeless book The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking Dale Carnegie shares proven practices for that matter. Among other basic fundamental skills I loved these the most:

  • Keep your goal before you.
  • Seize every opportunity to practice.

Keep your goal before you

To frame the goal and the overall course of presentation or public speech use one of the following simple frames:


  • What you want your audience to Know? For example, “WordPress plug-in X is deprecated.
  • What you want your audience to Feel? For example, “Do not panic, relax. It has support grace period.
  • What you want your audience to Do? For example, “Install our new version of the plug-in. The beta is open for subscription.

OMA (this one I adopted from J.D. Meier)

  • What are your Objectives? For example, “Improve SEO of your blog“.
  • What are your Messages? For example, “You can do it yourself right away“.
  • What are your Asks? “Tell your friend about Alik’s blog where he shares similar useful and practical nuggets“.

Other great write-up I always use when preparing to my presentations and public speeches is PickTheBrain’s  Nail Your Next Presentation with these Classic Principles of Public Speaking. It helps me checking the flow of my speech against timeless principles outlined in the article.

BTW, does not it remind you the structure of the post? Don’t you want your reader to know something new? Do not you want your reader to connect emotionally to your messages? Do not you want your reader to take action, like leaving comment, subscribing, or actually doing what you have just written?

Seize every opportunity to practice

This one is impossible to overestimate. Understanding stuff does not mean it can be presented smoothly and flawlessly. Knowing stuff by heart IS the way to relax on the stage. Blogrdoc mentions a quote from Dr. Scott Peck’s book The Road Less Traveled

“Only once we constrain our freedom through discipline can we experience freedom most abundantly”

The other quote to support learning by heart is Anthony Hopkins’ quote mentioned by Pierre Mornell in his book  45 EFFECTIVE WAYS FOR HIRING SMART: How to Predict Winners and Losers in the Incredibly Expensive People-Reading Game:

“I brainwash myself with a scene. I go through each one 200 times”

Is not it perfectly explains The Secret Behind GTD and why it works too?

There is much more to effective public speaking – like storytelling skills and keeping your audience engaged – but these two are absolutely fundamental:

  • Keep your goal before you.
  • Seize every opportunity to practice.


After performing few high visibility speeches I admit that focused and polished speech is most effective for me. How I measure effectiveness? I get business leads, I get invited to more sessions to present, I get nice evaluation forms from the attendees. Here are few comments I’ve got:

  • “…excellent pace.”
  • “perfect blend of presentation and demos.”
  • “…His presenting skills were also good with a healthy dose of humor.”
  • “great session with enough fun in it and a serious message

I get less flattering comments too. These give me more food for thought and desire to learn and improve.

9 May 2008


  • blogrdoc said:

    “Understanding stuff does not mean it can be presented smoothly and flawlessly.”

    This is very very true. It’s a cruel trick of my human nature that makes me think that just because I may be expert that I can communicate it well. I’ve had to re-learn this lesson many, many times.

    Here’s a quote that comes to my mind when it comes to preparation:
    “What’s the first step in pulling a bunny out of a hat? Ans: Putting one in.”

  • Vered - MomGrind said:

    Very timely for me. Thanks. I am quite capable, but I totally suck at public speaking.

  • J.D. Meier said:

    Nicely summed — I think knowing the goals and stepping through your experience are keys to nipping the heart of fears in the bud (I don’t know what to say … I don’t know where I’m going … I won’t be interesting.)

    I know that my best presentations were a result of knowing the goals and practicing with a live audience. Knowing the goals is a good forcing function. It forces you to figure out your audience and what value you’ll deliver.

    I think another value of goals is you can take the focus off of “you” and put it squarely on the audience — which helps take away the anxiety of presenting.

    one of the skills that I think is subtle but key is timing. Selective pauses are powerful. I think you can only do that when you know your stuff. Of course, the antipattern when you know your stuff is to blitz through the information in a stream of conscious.

  • alik levin (author) said:

    i learned this only few times, since the fiasco i had i do what my friend Anthony Hopkins does – brainwash the presentation/speech. BTW, thanks for sharing the “discipline” quote.

    Happy to be of help. Use KFD and/or OMA and practice/brainwash the speech. Carry out and focus on the message, do not just spit out the material on the audience and you will be the next big thing ;)

    I loved your point of taking the focus off of you. I witness way too many folks who show off their knowledge vs transferring it. Timing is another big thing – i agree. I think i mastered mine. When i build my talk i mark exact time on every fifth slide. The result is astonishing – i never rush and i always finish exactly when the stopwatch shows 00:00.

    @All of you guys.
    As i write this comment i got an email from my colleague from Europe inviting me to give a talk during annual European convention. The invitation came after my talk i gave there last year. Seems like the technique just works ;)

  • Vered - MomGrind said:

    The next big thing.. I like that. :)

    Congrats on the talk – it does show that it works, and it must feel really good!

  • Mike King said:

    Alik, great post again. The two keys points to remember are right on the money and your point that with lots of practice, its easy to be comfortable. I definitely find that and in my job, where I know what I’m doing, talking to a large group is easy but talking or sharing about something you don’t know as much about (or less practiced) it is much more difficult!

  • Shilpan | successsoul.com said:

    Alik -

    You are master orator and a great organizer. Your posts are so greatly organized that I’m feeling depressed by comparing your posts to mine. Good thing is that you are my friend and I get to brag about that part. :)

    Great post and great summary.


  • alik levin (author) said:

    Mike and Shilpan, thanks for nice words – *blush* ;)

  • James said:

    Excellent post – a lot of great advice.

    I agree 100% percent about keeping your goals before you and practicing as much as you can – especially the latter. Many people think they can become better speakers by reading books or watching videos but I always tell them that you can’t become a good speaker without actually speaking.


  • alik levin (author) said:


    Tell them to speak in front of mirror when preparing. It is the practice that works best for me so far.

    Thanks for the insightful comment.

  • James said:

    Hi Alik,

    A mirror is good as you can see how you look – a video camera is also exellect. One of my secrets is to use stuffed animals – so you can practice eye contact.

    You’ve got a lot of great info on your site. I’m looking forward to reading more of it.



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