Public Speaking Tips for PR Pros

| Written by: Agata Wlodarczyk

PR has made the top 10 list of most stressful jobs for several years, surely due in part to one of the most terrifying occupational hazards PR Pros face every day… public speaking. At October’s Monthly Luncheon Meeting, speaker Mark Zeigler gave some helpful pointers about how to survive this experience, give public speeches like a pro and leave your audience with valuable information.

Mr. Zeigler, a research associate and instructor at the Florida State University School of Communication, is himself a well known and respected speaker and he often works with audiences on identifying and using best practices for delivering public addresses.

His aptly titled session “Dang It: Wouldn’t it be great if all speakers did these five things?!” pointed out some great ways for PR Pros to stay on top of their speaking skills.

Below are some of the key topics covered in the session.

1. Be prepared.

Make sure you have a good intro! Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them the message and then tell them what you told them. Use lots of examples to support your message and leave the audience with something.

2. Don’t rely too much on visual aids.

Don’t talk to the visual aid and always be prepared to speak in case it doesn’t work. If you have issues and your visual aid isn’t working, you have 30-45 seconds before you lose the audience. Go on without it and send it as a follow up if necessary.

3. Don’t just read your speech.

There are four characteristics of a good speech:

  • Be conversational
  • Be attentive
  • Immediacy – a good speaker will make you feel like he/she “gets” you
  • Be direct – natural and straightforward

4. Don’t use humor as an end.

Be natural, don’t telegraph humor. Let’s be honest, most jokes are better when they don’t begin with “I’ve got a great joke to tell you.”

5. Don’t make the speech about you.

Use lots of examples throughout your speech. Whether you’re speaking to a group of 5 or 500, don’t look for more important people to talk to; focus on the audience. Build relationships to show people you care.

Mr. Zeigler also stressed that PR pros should always be ready for speaking opportunities that may fall into your lap and take every single opportunity to practice speaking in public. Practice makes perfect, or at least a little less terrifying!