The Three Measures of Public Speaking Success
April 21, 2022 by Bill Rosenthal

The Three Measures of Public Speaking Success

We can all recognize a great speech when we witness one, but if we are asked later what made the speech great, we are likely to simply describe our reaction to it or quote one of its catch phrases. 

Given excellent content, which is a subject for a different posting, there are three measures of a great speech. If you master these three measures, you are well on your way to leadership in your organization or profession.

1. Voice Volume and Projection

Most presenters speak at the mid-point of the volume they are capable of, i.e., on a scale of 1 to 10, they speak at 5. But at volume 7 or 8, audiences recognize the speaker as being authoritative. So, speak at 7 or 8 and get that extra benefit. Project your voice to the person in the back of the room and speak forcefully. Avoid using nonwords like “um.” Analyze your voice from recordings to know what your nonwords are and when you tend to use them, then control them. Vary the tone and pitch of your voice. Match its expression to the things you are saying, of course, but don’t let yourself slip into that seductive monologue that you may think makes you sound “businesslike.” A speech is a performance. 

2. Energy

Don’t act passionate about your argument; be passionate about it. If you feel deeply about the position or point of view you’re trying to persuade the audience to, let that feeling come out. Passion is communicable. And if you don’t feel deeply about your argument, why are you trying to persuade anyone to adopt it?

3. Stance and Gestures

Don’t put your hands in your pockets or clasp them in front of you. Don’t clutch the lectern like it’s a life buoy. Keep your hands at your sides unless you are gesturing, and gesture to emphasize and “illustrate” points. Gestures make you the center of the action and continually refocus the audience’s attention on you. Gestures should be expansive and made with the whole arm, above the waist, and away from your body. Gesture with one arm at a time. Two-arm gestures tend to get your hands working together, and that can be distracting to the audience. Match the gestures to what you are saying. If you want to say the trend on a graph is upward, sweep upward with your arm. If you want to say costs have to be cut, cut the air with your arm. 

At Communispond, of course, we teach the three measures of public speaking success in our Executive Presentation Skills® and our instructor-led online version, EPS Anywhere™. In addition to providing training on how to create and interact with visuals and how to structure presentations, we provide individualized coaching to help participants master the skills that make them effective public speakers. 

If you have already completed one of our Executive Presentation Skills® courses, however, and just want some help in practicing the skills, we’ve got you covered with our smartphone app, ProSpeak®. There are versions for iPhone™ and Android™ devices. The app uses the phone’s camera and screen to provide private coaching for your vocals, energy, and stance. It even includes tips for creating great visuals.

Whether or not you want help from ProSpeak®, make your next presentation a success by taking the time to rehearse, with a view to controlling your voice, energy, and stance for maximum impact.