How to nail your next talk

Whether you're giving the keynote or participating in a meeting, here are five tips to get you ready

Make eye contact. Be funny. Slow. Down. Picture your audience in their underwear.


We're all familiar with these adages about public speaking, but how often do they actually help? To get the scoop on the best way to deliver a speech, a toast, a presentation, or just how to feel comfortable piping up in a work meeting, Hub at Work reached out to Carlotta Chappelle, president and treasurer of the Johns Hopkins at Eastern chapter of Toastmasters International.

Five tips for public speaking:

Prepare and Practice. Do your research and become an authority on the topic. Rehearse until you become comfortable with the speech. Practice the speech on others and ask for feedback. Record yourself and observe your body language, gestures, and facial expressions. If you lack a practice audience, Johns Hopkins at Eastern Toastmasters can help you through 10 guided speeches of topics of your choice, incorporating many of these tips.

Know your audience and location. Gather information about your audience and tailor your speech to their needs and level of knowledge. Find out about the location and size of the room that you'll be speaking in. If you need audio/visual equipment, will it be available? Finalize these details in advance to ensure a smooth delivery.

Never say you are sorry during your speech. If you make a mistake or forget a segment, don't apologize during the speech. Usually, the audience won't notice. If you remember the forgotten information before your speech is over, try to work it back into the flow of the speech. If you can't, don't worry about it. Again, the audience will probably not notice your mistake.

Practice improvising. Have you ever been asked to chime in during a staff meeting or give an impromptu talk? In the Toastmasters club meetings, participants are encouraged to speak to each other for 1 or 2 minutes on random topics. This exercise teaches you how to speak off the cuff by organizing your thoughts quickly in a nonbiased and nonjudgmental atmosphere where everyone is learning.

Relax and deliver. Try to overcome your nerves with steady breaths and find the passion to entertain, motivate, and inspire your audience. Practicing will help you feel more comfortable in delivering your topic, too. This makes your appearance and body language change, engaging your audience more. When you feel your speech, your audience will, too. When you're more relaxed, it shows throughout your presentation.

Want more help? Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. The Johns Hopkins at Eastern chapter is open to all university and health system employees. Meetings are held from noon to 1 p.m. on the first Friday of the month and from 4 to 5 p.m. on the third Wednesday. To learn more about the club or to sign up, visit its website.

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