50 Professional Public Speaking Tips

by | Jan 13, 2017 | Speaking Engagement

Looking for real world professional public speaking tips gathered from real-world experience?

We’ve complied a list of 50!


These tips will greatly cut down on your learning curve if you’re new to the business and help you bring up your speaking game if you’re not.

Tip 1: Avoid the trap of too many topics.

Become known as an expert in one or two useful specialities. Trying to be all things to all people results in gigs that pay less than you deserve. In addition, these presentations often do not offer significant value for the audience or client, which results in poor results. You might think being a “Jack of all trades” gives you broader appeal, but clients want an expert in a honed area.
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Tip 2: Polish your performance.

The best speakers know their speeches backwards and forwards. This allows them to step away from their notes and expressively engage with the audience. Their speeches stay on time and are free from “uhms”. These are the speakers that can truly be considered professionals.

How do you get there?

Video record your presentations and have knowledgeable, painfully honest people critique them. Work to memorize pieces. Watch other great speakers and story-tellers. And, of course, practice, practice, practice!

Tip 3: Stay Humble.

Prima donnas are not rehired. Nor do they receive spin-off business. Once you become a great speaker, it’s easy to begin to “believe your own press” and expect red carpet treatment. However, speakers are hired to serve, not to be served. Put your ego aside.

Remember the most important person in the room during your speech…is the audience!

When possible, spend time with the audience before your presentation. Stick around after and be friendly. Remember, you may be the only encouragement these folks receive.

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Tip 4: Don’t Be Demanding!

Don’t give your client a headache. Be easy to work with. Remember, there are lots of speakers out there. A client can always find a more agreeable one if they feel the need. Speakers with long lists of requests or unreasonable expenses are usually passed over. Remember that you are your brand. Your attitude will directly impact your brand’s reputation and demand.

Tip 5: Serve Your Client.

Your job is to serve the client, even when things don’t go as planned.

At one event, I was requested to e-mail a copy of worksheets to the client for them to have copied for me. Shortly before speaking time, I found the client’s staff had never made copies. Uh oh.

What did I do?

I didn’t make a fuss. I quickly went out and made copies for myself in the business center. The client never knew what I did or that there had been an issue. In fact, he was pleased how smoothly the event went off.

We need to change our perspective of being a speaker. Usually, we think of ourselves as the “talent”. However, in reality, the speakers are just part of the hired event staff. From the janitor to the Vice President, we’re all there to ensure the success of our client’s event.

With this attitude in mind, I made sure the copies were completed. I ended up getting a few referrals from that client.

Tip 6: Be Original.

Never copy another speakers style or material. While there are many repeating topics, the most successful speakers hone their own voice and unique approach. They find their own uniqueness. Find a new slant for your topic.

Once you have that material, make sure you protect yourself! Be sure to copyright your material and refrain from giving out too much of your materials in writing.

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Tip 7: Get comfortable in your own skin.

I wish I had a silky radio voice and the comedic timing of the Groucho Marx, but I don’t. Instead of trying to copy these styles, I learned to work at improving my skills while retaining my authenticity.

What surprised me is that there are actually many who want to be like me. Which means there are probably many who want to be like you, too! Just getting up and speaking is something that people admire in others. Be your best you, strive to polish your performance, create unique material, and enjoy your success!

Tip 8: Join Toastmasters.

Toastmasters is a speakers club, which gives each of its members a chance to craft a speech, present it in from of a friendly crowd, and receive great feedback. Toastmasters offers the best training at the best price.

However, not all Toastmasters clubs are created equal. Visit several and look at their banner. Whenever a club member wins a contest, the club gets a ribbon to place on its banner, so find one with a lot of ribbons. I’ve found that dinner/evening clubs tend to do a better job of training speakers. There’s more time for appraisals and mentoring than in a 45-minute luncheon club.

Tip 9: Get started without the bells and whistles.

When we started out, we used a $47 template website, five power statements about our results, a business card we designed ourselves, and a “press kit” consisting of a pocket folder with a one sheet flier.

These inexpensive items netted us a six figure income our first year in business.

Don’t waste money on promotional doodads or companies promising you the world. Let your results do the talking for you.

Tip 10: Your face is your logo.

I’ve seen many new speakers spend hundreds of dollars on logo design. However, I want you to think about something.

Can you picture the logos of Zig Ziglar, Les Brown, and Brian Tracey?

Probably not, but I’m sure you remember their faces. Get a great, professional head shot and use it everywhere.

Tip 11: Update your headshots regularly.

Don’t bait and switch your client and audience. It can be embarrassing when a client who’s only seen your promotional material or social media pages doesn’t recognize you in-person.

Have your headshot redone frequently. Get them updated when your hair, weight, or look changes. You will lose the trust of your audience if you show up looking 20 years older and 50 pounds heavier than in your promotional materials.

Tip 12: Don’t get overwhelmed with social media.

The speaking industry requires a presence on social media. However, each site—LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram —functions differently.

Yes, it’s nice to have a presence on each, but there’s a steep learning curve. Find the one that speaks most to your target audience and master it before incorporating more.

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Tip 13: Find the right coach/mentor.

When searching for a coach or mentor, interview people who participated in that individual’s training courses and see how successful they’ve been since due to the training they received. Are they keeping their schedule full with paid engagements?

Unfortunately, we find that many speakers lose time and money listening to the wrong voices.

Tip 14: Don’t spend success $ on marketing materials.

Be frugal. Consider close connections who might help you at little or no cost. Look for professionals focused on small businesses and startups. Inquire at your local college or technical school. Get free help from friends.

Tip 15: Published speakers make more money.


According to Deepak Kanakaraju of RazorPay, having a book published under your name makes you an instant accredited source of knowledge. You may know the same information you did a week ago, but now people perceive you as the expert.

It doesn’t have to be long. In fact, keeping it 100 pages or less will help to attract readers.

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Tip 16: Create a passport-sized booklet.

This is a great promotional material idea. It’s also one of the fastest ways to get your book started that you can do right away. I wrote the rough draft of ours in one day. Proofing and layout took about two weeks, and off to the printer it went. Publishing costs were low.

Inside you can put in your core story materials. It’s a small snapshot of the problem or topic you address and a small look into how you address it. A great way captivate and to keep them wanting to hear more!

Tip 17: Create audio materials.

This is so easy and inexpensive today. Use a free software, like Audacity, to record some of your materials. This gives you something to sell at a book table or a lunch and learn.

Tip 18: Stay On Topic

Don’t get pushed into speaking on a topic outside your repertoire or expertise. You will have to do extra research and create a new piece for this event. If you are not familiar with the general area of study, this could take you a lot of time and may not end up being your best.

Refer them to another speaker who specializes in the desired area.

Tip 19: Avoid hiring staff too soon.

Having a receptionist to answer the phone won’t improve your professional image. Honestly, we prefer to answer our own phone because no one is better at selling than we are. We also have found that our clients appreciate accessibility. And from a cost standpoint, staff salaries will cut into your bottom line.

As you grow, there are tasks you may need to outsource, such as social media and content creation. However, make sure that when you do hire, they know your vision, value propositions, and voice.

Tip 20: Work from a home office.

Although space in an office building may make you feel like you’ve hit the big time, it’s usually extra overhead without much—if any—benefit.

Tip 21: Let your brand develop over time.

Too often, speakers think they need a brand to start. However, Your message, materials, and even color choices will develop as you niche your market and topics tighter and tighter. Your audience will tell you what they want your brand to be.

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Tip 22: Never put speaking fees on your website.

Selling speaker services is like selling a house. Everything’s negotiable.

Tip 23: Find the sweet spot for fees in your industry.

According to NSA, 15 years ago, the average keynote presentation brought in $9,000; today it’s about $1,500. Reputable trainers who deliver results easily earn $2,500 to $4,000 per day, depending on the industry.

Tip 24: Whoever mentions numbers first loses.

Usually, the first question out of a prospect’s mouth is “How much do you charge?” The best answer is, “We’re not there yet. After the presentation is over or after the training is completed, what does your ideal world look like? What results are you looking for?” When they tell you, ask them, “How much are those results worth to you?” Now you have a starting number for negotiations.

Tip 25: Underbidding may lose you the job.

According to Forbes, the price you start negotiating with directly correlates to the perceived quality of your presentation. Underbidding will lead one of two places…getting the job but being underpaid for your expertise or losing the job because your perceived value was destroyed.

Tip 26: Learn how to make quality videos.

According to Hubspot, video content increases inquiries and conversion rates by 80{db95e0fd77ae6d141d4535e2bf7b464d98e4151322120f553d7786be9a7303be}.

You client is making a decision that will cost him a good amount of money and give his stage over to someone he may have never met before. He is putting his reputation on the line. A short video with speaking highlights will give him an insight into the quality he will receive and put his mind at ease.

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Tip 27: Take care of yourself.

You are your business. Take care in your grooming, wardrobe, and hygiene. Your health is also part of your image. Eat healthily, exercise, and have your teeth cleaned regularly.

Tip 28: There are no sick days.

The show must go on! And you are the show.

Your client has rented a room at great expense. You don’t have time to be sick or “off your game.” Plan ahead. Take immune boosters, cold medication, crown adhesive, extra contact lenses, and anything else to prevent disaster.

Tip 29: The goal is to make money.

You are in the business of speaking, not the speaking business. The goal of business is to make money. Cash flow is king.

Develop a five-year business plan. Put your plan in front of your banker. If she wouldn’t lend you money based on it, go back to the drawing board.

Tip 30: Think ROI.

How much are you making after travel and expenses? Avoid spending money before it’s in your hands. Invest what you actually make back into your business—not what think you might make.

Tip 31: Be the same person on stage and off.

Become what you teach. I think Zig Ziglar said it best when he stated, “You must be before you can do and do before you can teach.” Embrace your material on a personal level. Do what you say you do. Audiences can spot a phony and nothing will kill a career faster than inauthenticity.


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Tip 32: Check your accounts.

Focus on how much you’re netting—not grossing—from an event. This means, after expenses and travel, how much money did you make?

When I started, I got a $500 flat fee for a retreat. The materials cost $150 and the event was 200 miles away. I ended up making $252 for a full 8 hour day of training. This doesn’t factor in the many hours I spent preparing my materials and presentation.

Make sure you’re actually making the money you need to be making.

Tip 33: Accurately plan for back-of-room sales.

A good rule of thumb is that 30{db95e0fd77ae6d141d4535e2bf7b464d98e4151322120f553d7786be9a7303be} of the audience will buy from you if you’re the one presenting. Get an accurate count of expected audience members before planning how much product to ship. This will help minimize the expense of sending unsold products back home. Ask the venue directly, since clients don’t always have updated numbers.

Tip 34: Be realistic about potential product sales.

30{db95e0fd77ae6d141d4535e2bf7b464d98e4151322120f553d7786be9a7303be} of the audience may buy from you if you’re speaking. However, if you’re not presenting, vendor tables sell nothing. You also have low sales when presenting on the last day of an event, when many people left or are out of cash.

Tip 35: Maximize exposure.

For a weekend event, speaking Friday evening or on Saturday. This is especially important if you speak for free at a large event for exposure. Avoid speaking on Sunday or one the last day of any event.

Also, if you can adjust the schedule, request to speak right before lunch. You will be in front of the maximum number of people as the late comers and the early leavers will all be there. This will also keep you top-of-mind as people leave the auditorium for lunch (and pass right by your book table).

Tip 36: Don’t quit your day job…yet.

Work your full time job until your speaking career is secure.

“Secure” means multiple streams of income from the business, such as presentations, materials, BOR sales, virtual sales, book sales, etc., along with a large client base providing quality referrals. Once you leave your job, you will have to go it alone for health, retirement, and disability insurance.

Tip 37: Create a short promotional DVD.

As we mentioned in Tip 26, video is vital to a successful speaking career. Keep the length under 3 minutes, because 5{db95e0fd77ae6d141d4535e2bf7b464d98e4151322120f553d7786be9a7303be} of your audience opts out after 1 minute and 60{db95e0fd77ae6d141d4535e2bf7b464d98e4151322120f553d7786be9a7303be} are done by the 2-minute mark. Make sure the video is high resolution and the audio is high-quality.

Tip 38: Do the research others won’t do.

Do what you need to do to separate yourself from the pack.

At the end of the day, speakers and trainers are information brokers and teachers. The quality of our information, the context we give it, and the way we present it is what sets us apart.

Become the expert in your field with the latest information. This requires reading, studying, and developing useful teaching tools to better communicate ideas.

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Tip 39: Research your mentors.

Do a fresh fruit check. Spend time with mentors who have fruit on their tree. If you want to make six figures in speaking, find people who have consistency made six figures in speaking year after year. Beware those who made a great income during the boom years but are struggling today.

Tip 40: Spend time with mentors who have helped others.

There are young speakers who spent $10,000 to $50,000 and years of time “mentoring” with big-name speakers, yet they haven’t made any significant money themselves. Seek out mentors who have helped others develop large incomes. Ask for testimonials and references.

Tip 41: Know the six main income streams for speakers.

The 6 main income streams are:

  • keynoting
  • training
  • products
  • consulting
  • events
  • virtual sales

Any business plan should identify the percentage of income currently coming from each of these. As you plan to develop and grow your business, consider what income streams you would like to add over the next 2 years.

Tip 42: Use your Powerpoint sparingly.

Your audience wants you, not a PowerPoint. We have all been to those presentations where the speaker read word-for-word off of the slides. This is boring. Be present and be dynamic.

In addition, be able to do your presentation without a Powerpoint, if necessary. You never know when there will be a technical problem.

Tip 43: A picture is worth a thousand words.

Use fewer text slides and more images. Images help invoke a feeling and help us store memories. This will help the audience connect and remember you better.

If you must use text, keep it to a maximum of five bullet points per slide in no smaller than 28 font.

Tip 44: Type out your introduction in 16-point font.

The introduction you give to the emcee needs to be legible. Hand-written introductions or one’s written with tiny font will do you no favors when they mispronounce your name or your credentials.

Tip 45: Never blame the tech guys.

The technicians are the most powerful people in the room at an event. They can decide if your mic and Powerpoint work properly, or if no one can hear you for the rest of the event.

If something goes wrong with your mic, don’t tap on it. Don’t blame engineers. Just wait patiently. The AV staff is already working to fix the problem. Thank and praise them in front of the audience when it’s fixed.

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Tip 46: AV engineers are people too.

These guys and gals are under a great deal of pressure and probably haven’t eaten or slept much. Make friends with them by getting to your sound check early, bringing them pizza or doughnuts, and asking them where you may or may not walk during your presentation.

Be easy to work with and give them the respect they deserve. They will respond in kind and often offer inside information that is helpful to know.

Tip 47: Include the correct pronunciation of your name.

In your introduction, spell out the correct pronunciation of your name.

For example, my introduction begins “Dawn Pici (pronounced PEACHY).”

Tip 48: Never speak longer than your allotted time.

Even if it’s just 5 or 10 minutes.

Think about it: If the convention has five speakers and each one runs 10 minutes over, that’s an extra 50 minutes. This cuts into time for your meals, bathroom breaks, networking, and other activities, and adds to parking fees, babysitter pay, etc.

Finishing on time is courteous to your audience, fellow speakers, and client.

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Tip 49: Never speak less than your allotted time.

Never shorten your presentation unless requested by your client.

Once, Joe was speaking at a convention where the speaker was scheduled to speak for 50 minutes, but left the stage after 10 minutes. The client panicked because there was nothing there to fill the time. Joe told him not to worry and spoke for 90 minutes. (And no, he didn’t charge for the extended time.) He was there to serve the client and build rapport. The client was so pleased, he hired Joe for four more events.

Tip 50: Write your own introduction.

Don’t expect anyone to know what to say about you. Select someone expressive, outgoing, and comfortable in front of an audience to read it. Keep it short and make it slightly humorous (if appropriate). Use words and information to connect with your audience, and avoid superlatives about how great you are. The audience will be the judge of that.


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