The Three Building Blocks of Public Speaking

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“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Death is number two. That means that if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” – Jerry Seinfeld

Whether you’re on the air or in management, you will have opportunities to speak in public. The classroom, community clubs, client presentations and big events are just a few examples. Many air personalities are way more comfortable in the studio than they are on stage. So, how do you overcome the fear of speaking in public?


Preparation is the primary antidote to public speaking anxiety. You will connect to your audience by being your authentic self. You can’t be your authentic self and be in the moment when you’re not prepared and thinking about what you’re going to say next or how you’re going to say it.

There are two ways to prepare for a public speaking event:

One: Memorize it

Two: Outline it and improvise from your outline.

Rehearsal is the vitally important next step of preparation. What are the key words to hit? Where do you want to pause to accentuate a point?

I found out the hard way that memorization doesn’t work without rehearsal. A college professor at the University of Memphis assigned our Oral Interpretation class a sonnet to memorize and present to the class. I delivered my fourteen line poem by rote memorization. Then the professor proceeded to torture me by making me repeat it four times until I delivered it with vocal punctuation and meaning!


Statistics are forgettable. Stories stick with people. Brief stories will strengthen your points and help you connect emotionally with your audience. Self-deprecating and humorous stories are excellent techniques to open your presentation and connect with your audience from the start.


  • What is the central idea or theme that you want to get across to the audience? The Randy Lane Company’s central idea in one of our presentations is, “You don’t want to be a generic commodity, you want to be a personality brand to survive and thrive as an air personality.”
  • The Rule of Three is the most effective presentation outline because most people can only retain three points or ideas about any one subject. So identify your three main points and up to three sub-points under each main point to support it.
  • Contrast and conflict. What are the concerns of your audience? Identify the problem, the pain or fear the concern is causing and then offer your resolution. For instance, before/after, problem/solution, decline/growth, commodities/brands, etc.
  • Devise your opening headline and headlines for each of the three main points to immediately engage or re-engage the attention of the audience. At the 2007 iPhone launch Steve Jobs used this headline to capture the main message he wanted to deliver, “Today Apple is going to reinvent the iPhone!”
  • Break the pattern. Examples of “pattern disruptions” include starting a story, interacting with the audience, using a prop, playing a video, making a dramatic statement, etc. These devices serve to maintain and re-engage the audience’s attention and to give dynamics to your speech.
  • Raise questions that you’ll answer: “So how do you tell personal stories and not make it all about you?” Questions get the audience’s attention more than statements (unless they are dramatic).

Building a sticky speech or memorable presentation comes down to preparation and rehearsal.

“It usually takes me two or three days to prepare an impromptu speech.” – Mark Twain

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