How To Be a Successful Public Speaker

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 12394

Unless you're a parrot, you probably don't speak unless you have something to say and want someone to understand what you say. Here are three simple tips that will make you a memorable public speaker!


Verbal Communication

English / Language Arts
learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Have you ever watched someone give a speech?
  • You're not supposed to watch a speech; you're just supposed to listen to it, right?
  • When you watch someone give a speech, what helps you connect to what the speaker is saying?
  • What can distract you from what they are saying?

Barack Obama

Image provided by Pixabay as free to use.

Public speaking is the act of orally presenting information to a group of people.

You have probably witnessed speeches that drew you in, and other speeches that you could not focus on at all. When you are giving a speech, it is important to connect with the audience and to avoid doing anything that could be distracting. If you have spent time preparing information and writing a speech, you want the audience to hear what you have to say and not be distracted by little things.

There are three characteristics that make a good public speaker: eye contact, volume, and pronunciation. In this lesson, you will master these characteristics to become an excellent public speaker!

Eye Contact

close-up of eyes

Imagine you are watching the president give a speech on television. As he speaks to the audience, he keeps staring off to the left of the stage.

  • What would you think?
  • Would you be able to remain focused on what he is saying?

Most likely, you would be trying to figure out what he is looking at rather than remaining focused on his words.

Think about how you have a conversation with a close friend or family member. When you talk, you make eye contact with the person. If you were having a conversation with someone and they kept looking at something else, you would become distracted because you would want to know what they were looking at. Giving a speech is like having a conversation with a large group of people. Therefore, it is important to maintain eye contact with your audience. You may need to glance at notecards to remember what you are about to say, but you should never take your eyes off your audience for more than a few seconds.


volume knob

Imagine you go to the movie theater. As the movie begins to play, you can barely hear what the characters are saying because the theater has the volume turned down so low. Since you are unable to hear what is being said, you don’t know what is going on in the movie. Would you want to keep watching a movie if you didn’t know what is going on?

When giving a speech, the volume, or how loudly you speak, is very important. If the audience cannot hear what you are saying, they will likely become distracted by other things. It is important to project your voice so that people sitting in the back of the room can hear what you are saying. At the same time, it is important not to yell at your audience. You don’t want your audience wishing they were wearing earplugs as you give your presentation!

Go into at least three different rooms in your learning space. Try to find rooms that are different sizes. In each room, practice projecting your voice so it can be heard in all corners of the room. Have your teacher or parent stand on the other side of the room. As you speak, have them tell you if your volume is too soft, too loud, or just right.


Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who talks like Inadequate Chris in Mumbling - Socially Inadequate #11? (This is a brief 37-second clip):

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  • When you hear someone talk like that, what do you think?
  • Are you interested in carrying on a conversation with them?

Most people agree that it’s hard to converse with someone who mumbles or talks in such a way that it sounds like their words are mashed together.

Pronunciation means speaking in such a way that each of your words can be easily understood. Just like you do not want to have a conversation with someone who mumbles, people do not want to listen to a speech given by someone who mumbles. You want your audience thinking about the content of what you are saying, not trying to figure out what it is you are actually saying. A helpful tip to help you speak clearly is take your time. Try not to rush through your speech. Typically, a speech will sound faster to the audience than it does to the speaker, so it is okay if it sounds a little slow to you.

Making eye contact, using the appropriate volume, and pronouncing your words clearly are three of the most important things you can do to engage your audience. Answer the following questions. You can answer the questions on a separate piece of paper or in the space provided:

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After you have answered the questions, move on to the Got It? section to analyze some actual speeches and evaluate their effectiveness.

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