Bob Metcalfe’s advice on public speaking

Amazing advice from Bob Metcalfe advice on public speaking. I shamelessly copy it here:

  • Speak on what you know.
  • Prepare by collecting and organizing your thoughts in writing, say on 3X5 cards for small groups, 5X7 index cards for larger audiences (that’s humor), or Powerpoint.
  • Start preparation by asking who your audience is and why they will be listening to you.
  • Show respect by over-dressing your audience. Smile and say thank you.
  • Summarize what you are going to say, say it, then summarize what you said.
  • Speak slowly and clearly, pausing now and then at carefully chosen places, to let people process what you’ve said.
  • If at all possible, take questions from the start and continuously through your talk.
  • After promising at the start to end on time, end on time. End on time. Early is better.
  • Keep in mind that generally your audience wants you to succeed — they are rooting for you.
  • Bless their hearts, but audiences generally do not realize that you can see them, so for impact make some eye contact and smile.
  • Be funny, especially if the topic isn’t.
  • Look at your audience when speaking to them — pick out friendly faces in the audience here and there, move your eyes from one to the other.
  • If people start to tune out, notice, stop talking and ask if they are still interested or have questions, you do not want to waste their time.
  • When you make lists, three items is best. Start a list with your second strongest item, end with your strongest.
  • When someone seems to want to ask a question, stop talking immediately, invite them, and reward them by listening carefully to their question, asking for clarification if needed.
  • If someone asks a question you cannot answer, say the words “I don’t know” and make a big show of writing it down and promising to get back on that.
  • If an audience member misbehaves, walk toward them and that usually quiets them down.
  • Be sure to have fun speaking; audiences can smell fear.
  • Get good at it by practicing — get gigs regularly.
  • If someone makes a video of your talk, watch it twice and take notes on how to improve.
  • Speaking is the most fun you can have standing up.


One thought on “Bob Metcalfe’s advice on public speaking

  1. “Audiences can smell fear” – they are fear detectors!

    I liked the advises on questions. It’s so kind to accept questions on time. I am always surprised when someone does not stop his speech when a hand is raised.

    “Be funny, especially if the topic isn’t.”

    I can say I do this very often, and pretty elegantly and well :) I’m happy someone else believes so!Thanks for the post!

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