Just 15 words stand between you and your best presentation ever

To deliver a compelling presentation, you need more than confidence, writes public speaking expert Tricia Brouk for Harvard Business Review. Great speakers have more than calm nerves, they've mastered the technique and art of public speaking, she adds. 

Based on two years a TEDx producer and 27 years as a director, Brouk identifies a few ways to sharpen your public speaking skills—other than being more confident.

1: Hone your pitch

Every great presentation begins a with an elevator pitch that lays out the essence of your idea and why you're the right person to talk about it—all in 15 words, argues Brouk.

Any pitch longer than 15 words will lead your audience to tune out, she warns. If you open a presentation with unnecessary details or too much jargon, your audience will lose interest. And if you bury the purpose of your talk, you make it harder for your audience to understand what they should take away.

Keep reading: How to pitch any idea in 45 seconds

2: Understand your audience

If you don't speak the same language as your audience, you risk being ignored or misunderstood, warns Brouk. For example, if you're presenting to your department peers, you can probably use more technical language. But if you're speaking to students, speak simply and define any higher ed jargon your audience may not know.

3: Set an objective

The most believable and captivating speakers have a clear objective, writes Brouk. When you craft your talk, decide what you want your audience to take away. Do you want alumni to donate to a scholarship fund? Do you want senior leaders to support your new teaching initiative?

Once you have an objective, you can figure out how to get there, explains Brouk. You may need to inspire, motivate, or even alarm your audience to reach your goal. 

4: Plan out your day  

Public speaking can be emotionally and physically draining. If you identify as an introvert, take extra time the day of your presentation to sit quietly and refuel, recommends Brouk. If you're an extrovert, conserve your voice and energy for the stage, she adds (Brouk, Harvard Business Review, 11/7).

Related: 4 mistakes that sabotage a presentation your boss


Next in Today's Briefing

108 years of predictions about the future of college

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague