How the Ten Commandments of Public Speaking Apply to Any Situation

When we hear, “public speaking,” we often think of speeches and/or presentations given to a larger group of people. While this is public speaking, so are the one-on-one interactions you have in weekly team meetings, with your boss, or at networking events. The same ten commandments that are applicable to larger speeches are applicable in each of these more-common situations.

Treat your one-on-one and intimate group conversations with as much preparation as you would a speaking scenario with a larger audience. Anytime you find yourself speaking with someone, consider what it is they are interested in knowing, identify what it is you are hoping to accomplish, and apply the ten commandments accordingly:

•     Primacy/Recency Effect: Just as in a speech to a large group of people, having engaging points to start the conversation as well as thought-provoking call-to-actions (CTAs) as you close is important in achieving your objective. Regardless of who the individual is, you can guide the conversation through interesting talking points and specific CTAs that require the individual to engage with you.

•     Emotion/Conviction: Speak with an appropriate level of emotion and conviction to match the subject matter. Doing so will show your grasp and investment in the content you’re discussing. This emotion can be communicated as excitement, concern, confidence, or passion followed with a conviction in specific ideas, solutions, or requests.

•     Body Language/Minimizing Distance: How you hold yourself in front of an audience of five hundred will hold true with an audience of one. Do what you need to feel confident in your meetings with individuals and small groups. Be well-dressed—appropriate for the occasion—and prepare in advance what you want to cover. Doing so will keep your anxiety levels in check, help you hold good eye contact, and make it easier to use gestures to help guide your message. Essentially, be engaging and confident—not nervous and timid.

•     Rule of Three: Where possible, use this principle to organize your thoughts. Try compiling your content into three benefits, three areas of concern, three ways you seek to improve something, three reasons you should be promoted, etc. Each of these three points will likely expand into additional points of explanation, but finding a way to organize them into clear “buckets,” utilizing the Rule of Three, will likely help your audience member remember what you discussed.

•     Always Punctuate: Be prepared for the topics that will likely be covered. Doing so will help you be more articulate and confident, and, as a result, you’ll be able to punctuate your thoughts and avoid stumbling over filler words which detract from your message.

•     Incorporate the Power of Pause: Mark Twain once said, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Pausing allows you to monitor the reaction of who you’re speaking to. It also helps you control the overall pace of your delivery, which, based on how nervous or anxious you are, will be a good tactic to slow you down.

•     Leverage Visuals: Where appropriate, have visuals in the form of performance indicators, status reports, or lists that can help support your message. Having these kinds of visuals will help your talking points appear more thought-out and justified.

•     Vary Pitch and Tone: How you deliver any message you communicate, in regard to pitch, will dictate the tone, mood, intention, and perceived command of the topic. Recognizing, understanding, and utilizing different pitches and tones will make your message more compelling and easier to listen to.

No matter how large or small your audience, the same rules apply. When it comes to one-on-one interactions—whether meeting new people, pitching your product/service, or interacting with your boss—you are faced with an incredibly intimate situation and opportunity to persuade, educate, and motivate. Learn more about how to communicate no matter your situation in my book, A Climb to the Top.