Those new to entrepreneurship may find themselves giving more presentations and trying to persuade more people than ever before. What’s your best actionable tip for bettering your speaking skills, and why is it effective?

Public speaker delivering a presentation
photo credit: Mentatdgt / Pexels

These answers are provided by Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most successful young entrepreneurs. YEC members represent nearly every industry, generate billions of dollars in revenue each year, and have created tens of thousands of jobs. Learn more at yec.co.

1. Record Yourself

Record yourself. Check your eyes and how you react whenever you say a word. Make sure you put emphasis on what needs to be heard and empathize when there’s a need to show emotions. Don’t be a big head with dull eyes, no feelings or reactions. Put your heart and character into it, and make sure they see the real you and not the nervousness in you. Just speak your heart out with confidence and passion.

Daisy Jing,Banish

2. Get to Know Your Audience

One actionable way to improve your speaking skills is to get to know your target audience. The more you know about the people you’ll be speaking to, the more opportunities you’ll have to match your presentation with their specific goals and pain points. If you want to be an effective speaker, you have to understand why people are there to listen to you in the first place.

John Brackett,Smash Balloon LLC

3. Use Cue Cards

Never read from a script or a stack of papers. Instead, make up cue cards where you mention the key points that you’re going to talk about in the right order. When you do this, you sound more natural and you’ll look at your audience and engage with them. Using cue cards or notes also lets you change your presentation in minor ways if that’s what’s needed at the moment.

Blair Williams,MemberPress

4. Bring Your Confidence

To better your speaking skills, it’s important to bring your confidence. If you struggle to show confidence during your presentation, it’ll be difficult for your audience to believe in your message. Exuding confidence takes practice, and the first way to start is to fake it til you make it. Speak the way you’d want to be spoken to during a speech — with conviction and expertise.

Jared Atchison,WPForms

Conference speaker

5. Learn to Slow Down

Slow down and know how to pace your speech strategically. When we’re nervous, we naturally tend to speed up and try to “power through” the presentation. This exudes nervous energy. Instead, speak slowly and carefully and give your audience time to digest the material and consider its implications. You’ll appear more confident, and your audience will have more time to formulate questions.

Tyler Gallagher,Regal Assets

6. Leverage Humor

I improved my public speaking skills by including a little humor in my presentation. Obviously, the amount of humor you can use will vary based on the type of speaking event you have coming up. For instance, live webinars are an excellent opportunity to flex your funny muscles and get people engaged with your brand personality.

John Turner,SeedProd LLC

7. Master Storytelling

The best tip to improve speaking skills includes mastering the art of storytelling. Speaking can feel intimidating, but once you leverage stories, speaking becomes more fluid. The stories you tell can be both about yourself and your potential clients. When you weave in emotions and use a simple framework that involves overcoming an obstacle, your words won’t be forgotten.

Libby Rothschild,Dietitian Boss

8. Focus on the Other Person

It’s all about the other person. That’s the secret to sales, persuasion, presentations, decks, whatever. Do you find yourself making presentations to businesses you want to work with? Are you presenting a deck to investors for your startup? It’s all about the benefits of working with you. The more unique, the better. The solution to this problem lies in your products and services.

Samuel Thimothy,OneIMS

9. Practice Body Language Awareness

To enhance your speaking skills, practice awareness around your body language. Your body might not use words to communicate, but the way it’s positioned tells others how you truly feel despite what you say. For example, crossing your arms together might signal that you aren’t open to conversation. However, that’s not the message you want to give listeners, so being aware helps you change that.

Stephanie Wells,Formidable Forms

Businesswoman giving presentation

10. Take on More Speaking Opportunities

As they say, practice makes perfect! The way to get better at speaking is simply to do it. While public speaking is listed as one of the biggest fears that people have, if you can force yourself to take opportunities to speak, you will gradually become confident about it over time. Also, knowing what you’re speaking about is important, so practicing what you’ll say is key too.

Joe Morgan,Joe’s Datacenter, LLC

11. Be Prepared

I would say my best actionable tip to better your speaking skills is to come prepared. I always write down the key elements of my speech on a piece of paper, and then I rehearse it out loud until I know it inside and out. Knowing that I no longer need my notes makes me more confident, and it also helps me be open to questions that may come up during the speech.

Benjamin Rojas,All in One SEO

12. Join a Toastmasters Group

The number one way to boost your public speaking skills is to practice. Join a Toastmasters group where you will work through a series of public speeches within the safety net of the group. Toastmasters teaches you how to organize your thoughts, prepare an effective outline and develop cue cards. Most importantly, you’ll get a lot of practice speaking in front of people.

Matthew Podolsky,Florida Law Advisers, P.A.

13. Pretend You’re Talking to a Friend

When you’re speaking in public, it is OK to be nervous. But don’t let your nervousness show in your face. Take a deep breath and continue speaking. Don’t read from your paper unless it’s absolutely necessary. Also, remember that you don’t have to be so formal. Think like you’re talking to a friend and you’ll start feeling at ease again. Instead of presenting, explain it like you would to a friend.

Josh Kohlbach,Wholesale Suite

14. Practice, Practice, Practice

When you’re first launching a business, the more comfortable you get discussing and pitching it, the better. Family, friends, your professional network, etc. are all great people to practice this with.

Nic DeAngelo,Saint Investment Group