10 public speaking hacks to do before you hit the stage

In my line of work I do my fair share of keynote speeches. Now, I’ll preface this by saying I’ve never been formally trained, but I’m fortunate enough that I do get paid for it. So, I have a few ideas on how to do it well. I’ve practiced this craft for over 20 years and have developed my own set of things to do before the speech itself. This is not a how to ‘do the speech’, but what to do in the moments leading up as preparation. There’s some good hacks in this list that anyone can use immediately to make their stage time a bit more effective.

  1. Read through your notes the night before. It has to be the night before so your mind has time to digest while you sleep.
  2. Assess the room you’ll be presenting in while no one is there. Imagine yourself walking around and engaging the audience. Get the feel of the space.
  3. Ensure the tech is working. The best way to do this is not to have any tech. You are the technology they came to see – a human giving a human performance.
  4. Do some pushups or other powering posing 5 mins before you go on stage (even hide in a toilet to do it) to create a winning feeling in your mind.
  5. Talk to at least 3 people from the audience to go on stage. Be nice and intro yourself to them. Tell them one cool thing you’ll be mentioning and why it matters. Like you’re letting them in on a secret. These people are now ‘barracking’ for you like a football supporter. Others around them catch their positive vibe.
  6. Tell these 3 people you’ll look for them specifically during the talk – they’ll think you do even when you simply look in their general direction – this takes it to next level personal delivery.
  7. Go through your killer funny bits or poignant moments pausing after each one, imagining the audience reaction you desire. Believe it has already happened, and then it will.
  8. Drink some water immediately before you go on stage to ensure your throat doesn’t dry out, especially if you like coffee.
  9. Brush your teeth, rinse with mouthwash or have something fresh and minty in your mouth. A fresh mouth creates a confident mind.
  10. Finally, remember the audience wants you to do well. They have invested their most scarce asset, ‘their time’, and they’ll be looking for your signals to engage with you. Presenting is always a team effort with the audience.

Oh, how did I learn to do speeches? Simply by paying close attention to others I thought did it well. I take the best of what they do, and incorporate their pieces into my natural ‘Stevie’ style. And let’s be honest, the best way to do anything is to learn from ‘them’ so you can be the best ‘you’.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.