Posted by: George E Burney | April 26, 2013

First, Convince Yourself!

My facebook photo

In a sense, giving a speech is not difficult. Instead, it is simple and easy. To prove that point, think of this: If you were in a forest, and there was no other person within ten miles of you, could you give a speech? Yes, and with very little difficulty.

An Easy Speech to Give

You could express your thoughts clearly. If you also had an outline of the points you wanted to cover, and you were very familiar with those ideas, you could speak at length about them without rambling. You’d have a track to run on and you’d use it. You would glance at your outline periodically, just to keep your bearings, and expound on the ideas listed there.

If the subject you were discussing was close to your heart, and you had strong feelings about it, you would speak enthusiastically, with passion. Clarifying thoughts would present themselves to you as you spoke, and you would weave them into your discourse.

Your delivery would be conversational, since you would not feel the need to impress anyone. Gestures would come automatically, without any forethought on your part. Your voice would be pleasant to hear, since you would speak softly at times, and with more volume at others. It would rise and fall in pitch, too – sometimes higher, and sometimes lower.  In short, you could give an excellent presentation! What is the only factor missing?

No Audience Means No Problem

The audience. This means that you could do quite well, if you had no audience. But that would defeat the purpose of public speaking, wouldn’t it? So giving a speech is not the problem, it’s giving a speech to an audience that seems difficult.

What, though, if you heard applause after giving your speech in a forest? If, unknown to you, a group hiking through the forest heard you speaking, followed the sound of your voice, and quietly suspended all movement while listening to you?

They may have been favorably affected by your apparent earnestness, your sincerity and naturalness as you discussed a subject you had strong feelings about. In any event, after you finished, they spontaneously applauded your efforts.

But is this plausible? Could this really happen? Yes. It’s a lot closer to reality than many of the plots we buy into while watching television or when reading fiction. In fact, real life is stranger than fiction. So, yes, this could actually happen.

If it did, what would it show? That the problem is not the audience itself. It has more to do with the way we view the audience, and what we think they would think of us. After all is said and done, that’s the real issue.

The Real Issue

Notice that the issue is not what the audience would think of us, because we have no way of knowing that in advance. Instead, it has to do with what we think. That very often is the crux of the problem.

Well, if that’s the problem, what’s the solution? What was the solution in the illustration presented above? What did you, as the speaker in the forest, do to solve the problem?

Since you thought you had no audience, you focused on the ideas you wanted to express. You were convinced you had something to say, and that you could do an adequate job of expressing it. Those two sentences contain the key elements of a sound program for overcoming fear of our audience. You must be convinced that you have something worth saying, and that you can do a reasonably good job of saying it.

Posted by: George E Burney | April 5, 2013

A Simple, Easy Way to Prepare A Speech

My facebook photo

First, decide on your topic, and in general terms, what you want to cover. This would include, if possible, the angle from which you’ll approach your subject. On the other hand, your research may determine this for you.

Arrange Important Points in Order

After any necessary research, make a list of the important points you’ll cover. Then, arrange them in some logical order. You may be able to simply look at your list of points and do this by numbering them in the order you desire. Some prefer to write each point on a separate index card and then arrange the cards logically. When you have listed them in the order you want to present them in, you have your outline.

Write out your opening words verbatim. They will serve as your introduction. Start with something the audience will readily agree with and will find interesting. Add whatever will help you move quickly toward your first main point.

Write out your conclusion verbatim. It should answer questions like these: So what? What should the audience do with the information you’re shared? What actions should they take? What was the point of your presentation?

Make It Smooth

Go over all you’ve done and smooth out any wrinkles. Make sure you can easily move from one main point to the next. Ask yourself: Will a person listening to this have a clear understanding of this matter when I’ve concluded? If not, insert whatever is needed to bridge any gaps, so the discussion will flow smoothly.

Now, practice. Read or state your introduction. As you cover the main points sequentially, look at each point in your notes, and look up and cover that point thoroughly. Then, glance at the next point and talk about it. Repeat this process until you reach your conclusion, which you’ll present just as you did your introduction – you’ll read or recite it verbatim.

Easy But Effective Preparation

As you review your material, visualize the audience. See their faces as they listen to you. If time will be a factor, time your entire presentation. Cut or add material as necessary to come within a minute or two under the time you’re allowed to speak.

When you’re satisfied with the presentation and your timing, there is no need to continue practicing it in its entirety, over and over again. Simply read over it, from start to finish, many times. This locks the flow of ideas in your mind. Now, you’re ready to give it before your audience!

Posted by: George E Burney | March 21, 2013

Make Listening To You A Pleasant Experience

My facebook photo

Typically, people are bored. They live lives of suffocating sameness and deadening dullness. Is it surprising that they crave the excitement of something new, something fresh and different?

Take a Novel Approach

Regardless of your subject matter, the information you share can be presented in an interesting and lively manner. In your introduction, try to present a novel idea, one that will arrest the attention of your audience and cause them to sit up and take notice.

Even if the idea itself is not entirely new, show it from a different angle. Express it using terms which are startlingly different. That’s not difficult. A few moments spent mulling over most subjects will yield observations that show some depth and delightfully surprise others. They’ll admit they “just never looked at it that way.”

Why didn’t they? Conditioned to believe that experts have all the answers, many people drift through life, using their minds just enough to get by. Few think deeply about anything, so they miss much. When seeking answers, rather than reasoning matters out for themselves, they want to know what others have to say about the matter. They actually let others do their thinking for them.

If the idea you present early on is more interesting than whatever they are thinking at that moment, you’ll get their attention. Now, you simply have to keep it. Use a commonsense approach to lining up your points, with each leading directly to the one which logically follows it. Use uncommon ways of stating those points.

Use Variety to Keep It Fresh

As you speak, vary your rate of speaking, your volume, and the pitch of your voice. Use rhetorical questions. Pause briefly after each, to encourage your audience to think about their response. Answer your own question, and move on.

Use vivid, colorful illustrations and metaphors to stir feelings and further engage their thought processes. Some of your ideas may be stated first and then illustrated. Others may be introduced by an illustration. This keeps your talk fresh and spontaneous.

Since your expressions are vigorous and unpredictable, and your points are reasonable and logical, your lecture will be a pleasure to listen to!


For a comprehensive discussion of public speaking, please see my eBook, How To Master Public Speaking, Quickly and Easily, available at For more information, click here:

Posted by: George E Burney | March 4, 2013

Slow Down and Just Converse

My facebook photo If you glanced at an article and saw right off that the first paragraph filled an entire page, would you want to read it? Why not? Because reading it seems difficult. There are no breaks. Without them, our minds start looking for an exit.

Give Them a Break!

That’s how an audience reacts when we speak too fast. The information seems overwhelming, since they cannot process it without breaks. Much of it is wasted, like water poured into a glass which is already full. In written material, paragraphs are used to provide breaks by separating thoughts. When speaking, pauses are used.

Briefly pausing between thoughts allows the audience to “get it,” to lock a thought into their minds before we ask them to consider another. Without pauses, we’re like the bricklayer in a hurry who doesn’t apply mortar between the bricks. When he’s finished, he doesn’t have a wall. He has a pile of bricks!

Cover Less and Converse More

Taking our time and using appropriate pausing also makes our discourse seem more like an ordinary conversation. That’s good, because it puts our audience at ease, and it does the same for us. Rushing through a speech breathlessly makes everyone tense.

Speaking too fast often springs from trying to cover too much material. It would be better to cover less material, and cover it well, than to speed through more details than the audience can handle in one discussion.  Allow time to explain, provide examples, or illustrate your most important ideas. Eliminate less important points.

Nervousness or tension could make you speak faster than you should. Perhaps you’re anxious to finish quickly. If so, you may defeat your purpose in speaking. Slow down, focus on conversing with the individuals before you, and the crisis will pass.

Divide and Conquer

One helpful practice when rehearsing is to divide your presentation into segments. How much should you have covered after 5 minutes? After 10 minutes? Place timing marks on your outline. After 15 or 20 minutes, where should you be? By marking your outline, you’ll know whether you’re ahead, running behind, or right on schedule.

If you’re running behind, don’t speak faster. Just cut out whatever can be dispensed with without distorting the ideas you want to cover. That way, you can take your time and calmly present your material as if you’re just conversing with friends. That’s what you want, right?

Posted by: George E Burney | February 12, 2013

How To Improve Your Public Reading

My facebook photo

When reading publicly, what should be your goal? It should be to express the thoughts and feelings of the person who wrote the material you are reading. What was he really saying? You have only his words, so use them. Read as he might have expressed the same thoughts in speech.

What’s The Big Idea?

This requires more that simply reading his words accurately. To read an idea correctly, you first have to understand it. Take the time to evaluate the idea; to analyze what it consists of; you won’t do that by just casually glancing over the material in advance.

You might ask yourself, “What is he driving at? Why? What led him to that conclusion? If the point he makes is true, so what? What are the implications? What is the main point, and how does the idea under consideration relate to that central idea?”

Answering those questions to your own satisfaction will likely result in your having a clear understanding of the material. You’ll be able to read it the way the author might have read it or spoken it, without distorting his ideas. In a nutshell, that should be your aim.

Conversational Reading

Practice reading as if you were having a conversation, and you were doing most of the talking. When before your audience, continue to do that. How does that help your audience? It can double or triple their understanding of the thoughts involved. Why?

One reason is that while some learn best by reading, others understand better if they hear an idea expressed. They could read for themselves what you read to them, and have no idea what the author is saying. They might read it over and over, and still not get the sense of it!

However, they can hear it once and get it. Of course, for them to get what the author meant requires that it be read with feeling and proper emphasis. In other words, you must emphasize the important words and phrases. Otherwise, the thoughts are garbled and confusing.

Even those who read with excellent comprehension will suffer when material is being read poorly, because in most cases, they cannot see what is being read! They too are at the mercy of the reader.

To the extent that you read as people talk, in a conversational manner, your public reading will improve.

Posted by: George E Burney | January 9, 2013

The Superiority of An Extemporaneous Presentation

Extemporaneous speaking is simply using brief notes to share well-prepared thoughts with an audience. Instead of reading your speech, or giving it from memory, you speak from an outline or a few notes.

Fewer Notes Make You Converse

When using this method of presentation, you carefully select and analyze ideas in advance, without recording them in detail for your speech. You condense your notes so they contain only enough information to remind you of the ideas you want to cover.

When you speak extemporaneously, you talk with your audience. A few moments after you begin, your speech becomes natural, conversational. It reminds your listeners of a conversation they might have with a friend in which the friend does most of the talking. The benefit? They focus on what you’re saying, and not on you. That’s what you want, isn’t it?

It’s difficult to achieve the same effect if you give a memorized speech, or if you read it to the audience. When doing either, conversational tone is absent, and they rightly feel that you’re merely giving a speech rather than conversing with them. Who wants to listen to a speech?

Words Fresh From Your Mind to Theirs

Since you’re not relying on your notes for the actual words you’ll use to express your ideas, your words flow spontaneously from your mind to theirs, with a freshness all the preparation in the world cannot duplicate.

This holds their attention, even if they previously had only a passing interest in your subject. Your sincere interest, enthusiasm, and conversational delivery stimulate their interest and make listening to you a pleasant experience.

Suddenly, You’re Free!

This type of delivery also promotes spontaneous gestures and visual contact with your audience, since your hands, eyes, and mind are not glued to your notes. You’re free to elaborate on or to illustrate points as the mood strikes you. Of course, this freedom is not free.

A good extemporaneous presentation seems to be impromptu, off the cuff, effortless. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Disciplined thought in organizing and preparing your material accounts for this apparent ease, but the excellent results justify the effort. Why not try it?

For a comprehensive discussion of public speaking, please see my eBook, How To Master Public Speaking, Quickly and Easily, available at For more information, click here:

Posted by: George E Burney | November 2, 2012

Public Speaking – Tell a Good Story!

Abraham Lincoln, upon meeting Harriet Beecher Stowe, is reported to have said, “So this is the little lady who made this big war.” What did he mean? She was the author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which is thought to have been a factor leading to the American Civil War. And what was Uncle Tom’s Cabin?  It was a story. A story which had a powerful effect on the thinking of millions of people.

Who Doesn’t Enjoy a Good Story?

Stories are tremendously appealing to us. We’re drawn to them as to a fire on a cold, rainy night. They make us think effortlessly. Since we’re not personally involved in the narrative, we can get past our issues and draw conclusions free of the blinders we often wear. What is true of us is also true of others. Everybody loves a good story. Work them into your discourses.

When we tell interesting stories in our presentations, ears perk up. A well-told story introduces variety, which every audience welcomes. Even so, they should not be used just because the audience may enjoy them. We should use them to establish or support main points.

Don’t Let the Tail Wag the Dog!

What good is done if we effectively use a story to make a minor point? So what if members of the audience remember the minor point because of the story? Minor points are those which are not critical to our discussion anyway! Doing that would be like letting the tail wag the dog! So use a story only when a vital point needs to be made and remembered.

Make Sure They Get the Point

A strong connection should be made between elements of the story and the rest of your presentation. In other words, the point of the story should be stated clearly, leaving no room for confusion.

We’re all alike, but we’re different, too. We think alike, and we think differently. Someone in your audience may draw the wrong inference from a story, simply because of a recent experience they had. They’ll connect the two, and go off on a tangent to arrive at a conclusion which you may never have dreamed of. So, make the connection and application crystal-clear.

For a more detailed discussion of stories, please see my recently published eBook, entitled Creating and Using  Stories, Examples, and Illustrations in Public Speaking, available at For more information, click here:


Posted by: George E Burney | October 19, 2012

Illustrations, Examples and Stories Go Where You Cannot!

Are you a public speaker? Are you an aspiring public speaker? Either way, you should be interested in becoming skillful in the use of stories, examples and illustrations. Why? Because they can easily go where you can go only with great difficulty. If you employ them well, you also accompany them, and thereby easily reach an objective which might be otherwise out of reach. Let me explain that.

They Overcome Objections, Sidestep Roadblocks

Illustrations, stories and examples are gems which draw an audience to an idea, cause them to examine it as they would a sparkling diamond, and in doing so, to accept that idea, even if they were previously skeptical of it.

They force an audience to see facets of an issue which you may, with good reason, find it best not to state directly. When strongly held opinions or prejudices are barriers to the acceptance of your ideas by an audience, illustrations, stories and examples can be used to sidestep those roadblocks and eliminate them as factors.

Since these brilliant devices cause listeners to think, the conclusions your listeners reach are their own, making it difficult for them to deny or disagree with the point you’ve led them to. Isn’t that better than making a controversial statement and having your audience dismiss it out of hand?

Points Illustrated Are Clear and Unforgettable

They make obscure concepts crystal-clear to any audience. They remove any doubt as to the point you’re driving at, and so eliminate any possibility of your being misunderstood. One alone can serve effectively, or they can be paired to make doubly sure the point is driven home.

They serve as memory aids, causing an audience to be unable to forget your message. Years later, they will remember and talk about something you said, because of an illustration or story you used. This can make a good speech truly unforgettable.

Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a short but vivid illustration paints a mental picture which eliminates the need for hundreds of words of explanation, yet makes the point with more clarity.

They Refresh and Stimulate Audience

Good examples, illustrations and stories quickly effect a change of pace. By doing so, they make a dull, bland, boring factual discussion take on new life. Listeners who are nearly dozing have their interest reawakened and stimulated. You have their attention again.

After all, when you’re speaking to a group of assembled individuals, you have information to share which deserves consideration. Therefore, it is important to make that information clear. You’ll also want the audience to accept and agree with the ideas you present.

Word pictures such as stories, illustrations and examples are very potent verbal devices. They can be used to do all of the above and more. They will certainly help you accomplish your objectives as a speaker. Use them well.

For a more detailed discussion of illustrations, please see my recently published eBook, entitled Creating and Using  Stories, Examples, and Illustrations in Public Speaking, available at For more information, click here:

Posted by: George E Burney | September 28, 2012

Public Speaking – See Yourself Succeeding!

Imagine yourself standing at a lectern and calmly glancing out at an audience of 5000 persons. As you briefly survey the crowd, you take several deep breaths, and begin to speak.

As you do, you sense that this is going to turn out very well! At this moment, you haven’t a care in the world, since you have complete confidence in your presentation and in your ability to deliver it.

As you move from your introduction into your first main point, you begin to see confirmation of your earlier assessment. Members of the audience are smiling and nodding their heads, signaling their complete agreement with the ideas you’re expressing. You’re now certain that this presentation will be a rousing success!

What Does It Take?

A dream? No, this can be your reality, even if at present you cannot bear the thought of speaking up in a group setting. What does it take to get from here to there? A firm determination to do it, skillful direction, and practice.

Skillful direction would include being instructed, in person or in print, by someone who thoroughly understands the principles of public speaking.

Personal assistance is preferable, since your practice presentations, as well as those given to an audience, could be critiqued privately, speeding up your advancement. (It’s foolhardy to attempt to evaluate a speech yourself, while giving it. That’s a good way to ruin what might otherwise have been a good speech.)

Of course, even a friend who is not himself a public speaker can offer helpful advice, after listening to you speak. If he feels free to offer you his honest observations, they can be immensely beneficial to you. His assistance would be most helpful if you’re learning from a written guide.

See It Multiple Times

Using your power of visualization will also speed up your progress. Vividly imagined speaking experiences are the “next best thing to being there.” Here’s what I mean: Since a presentation given only once can be given over and over again in your mind, perhaps using different settings, the effect on you would be similar to your having actually given it multiple times.

These are just a few suggestions which, if employed, can reduce the time needed to get from where you are now to where you want to be.

Copyrighted © 2012 by George Burney and betterpublicspeaking

Posted by: George E Burney | September 14, 2012

Public Speaking – Tailor Your Presentation to Your Audience!

Before preparing material to use in a lecture, you should consider the particular audience you’ll be speaking to. This is not merely important, it’s crucial to the success of your presentation.

Right Speech, Wrong Audience?

To illustrate, suppose you’d researched and developed a phenomenal lecture on “7 Healthy Ways to Quickly Lose Weight,” and when asked to speak on the general subject of good health, jumped at the opportunity.

How would you feel if midway through your speech, it suddenly dawned on you that everyone in the audience was super-thin? What if, after concluding, you learned that the health issue the members of this group faced was an inability to gain weight?

Or, suppose you gave a party and wanted to make sure that your guests all enjoyed themselves. So, you not only provided a variety of alcoholic beverages, but you also hired a bartender to serve those drinks.

How would you feel if, during the party, you learned that nearly everyone you’d invited was a recovering alcoholic?

In both instances, you’d probably feel even worse if you knew you could have ascertained the information you needed by making a few discreet inquiries!

Get the Facts First!

Similarly, when preparing to speak to an audience, it’s imperative to find out what you can about that particular audience. What do they believe about the subject you plan to speak on? Should you select a different topic? If the topic is predetermined and cannot be changed, how should you approach it? What groundwork must be laid before tackling certain issues?

Giving a lecture without first considering the audience is like trying to hit a target while blindfolded! A much better approach is to consider first whatever information you can gather regarding your audience, and to use that information to guide you in both your selection of  material and the manner in which you present that information.

For a more comprehensive discussion of public speaking, please see my eBook, How To Master Public Speaking, Quickly and Easily, available at For more information, click here:

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »