7 Steps to Successful Public Speaking

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Eleanor Roosevelt speaks to a war-time audience while Rose Pesotta and others listen.
Image via Creative Commons

In 2010 Vikki Grodner of the Birmingham-based event planning company The Grodner Group started what she calls New Girls Network. Grodner told The Birmingham News that the New Girls Network is "our version of the good ol' boys network, a way for women to gather and learn from each other."

New Girl Network events are designed to help professional women network with their peers; Grodner also uses the group to offer educational sessions to help women in their careers. 

Yesterday I attended a New Girls Network event for the first time eager to learn from guest speaker Donna Francavilla. Francavilla, a veteran radio broadcast journalist, also owns Frankly Speaking Communications, a company that provides consulting and training in media communications and presentations. 

Having good public speaking skills is important regardless of your profession. Like or not introverted writers, you never know when you'll have to give a presentation at work or maybe even discuss your book or blog on the local news. Francavilla essentially keeps her clients from looking and sounding stupid. 

Here are a few tips I picked up from her talk yesterday. I present 7 steps to successful public speaking: 

1. Do your research. Whatever the topic of your talk or interview may be, your goal, Francavilla said, is to sound like an expert. But don't panic. For a short TV or radio spot knowing just 5 minutes worth of information on your subject will help you sound as if you really know your stuff. 
2. Don't forget fashion. If you're speaking before a group or on television you need to chose the right outfit. Seriously. While crazy shoes, dangly earrings, and eye-catching head wear may be distracting, Francavilla recommends wearing bold, bright colors. These shades help you appear more confident. Also, be sure to wear something you feel good in.  

3. Practice. How you sound is important. Duh! So make sure you enunciate and project your voice. Record and listen to yourself to figure out ways you can improve. 

4. Be hands on. I'm a person who talks with my hands, something I always thought was a problem. Francavilla, however, says it's not. Natural hand gestures make you seem more open and approachable. 

5. Make eye contact. Don't be scared!

6. Think of Mom. OK, so let's say you are scared. One thing Francavilla says can help calm you is to imagine you're speaking to someone you care about. 

7. Ask yourself, what would Jesus do? No, I'm not saying you need to preach to your audience. Francavilla says the best speakers, the best communicators are not only authentic and relatable, but they're also good storytellers. She gave political examples such as President Barack Obama and President Ronald Reagan. And Francavilla reminded us that one of the reasons Jesus' message was so powerful was because he spoke in parables. Yeah, he performed miracles, but the man could tell a good story. So people listened. 

If you live in Birmingham click here to join the New Girls Network mailing list. 


  1. It is sad that yet another Birmingham women's professional group has formed, when so many are already in existence. What's better for the city and its residents: teaming up, or splintering apart?

    1. Women's groups are necessary because we face issues in our professional lives that most men don't. It's unfortunate, but true. And while I understand your concern about Birmingham having too many women's groups, I don't think it's realistic to expect one group to meet the needs of all professional women in the city considering our diversity. Having multiple groups can be healthy for Birmingham as long as these groups are willing to work together instead of view one another as competition. In fact, I've already approached Vikki about partnering with See Jane Write for some programs this summer.

    2. I never said that they weren't necessary, but I believe five would be more effective than 500, which is where we're quickly headed.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.