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10 Golden Rules of Public Speaking

Updated on August 10, 2020
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What is Public Speaking

Public speaking is the practice or deed of performing a speech before a live audience. This type of speech is intentionally structured with three universal intentions: to inform, to convince and to entertain the audience. Public speaking is vital when representing and expressing ideas.

Public speaking has evolved from the 19th century recitation of the classic speeches to the elocution of the 20th and 21st centuries.

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Daniel Webster remarked, “If all my possessions and powers were to be taken from me with one exception, and I could choose that exception, I would choose to keep the power of speech, for by it I could soon recover all the rest.”

The task for any speaker is to deliver the message. If speakers are unable to articulate their messages, the intended conveyance of information catastrophically fails.

William Shakespeare said, “Mend your speech a little, lest you mar your fortunes.”

Articulate communication is one of the greatest tribulations afflicting society today. Articulate communication can be defined as the ability to express oneself in a clear and concise manner.

Misunderstanding can occur with both the spoken and the written word. It is possible to correct both, but it is more difficult and more embarrassing to correct the spoken word. Prudence is cardinal when conversing. Misunderstandings crop up when words are used imprecisely or are organized chaotically

The media is often negligent with their words. Journalists, bloggers, authors and speakers – all who are highly trained professionals often appear as amateur communicators. One only needs to scan the headlines of newspapers and blogs or read the titles of some books. These headlines and titles are often lead readers astray.

It is of paramount importance to exercise diligence in our speech, lest we create confusion and misunderstanding.

Writing and making speeches is very personal – no two speakers are alike. Trying to imitate the style of another is an exercise in futility. It is impossible to recreate another person's style of speech, execution and influence. The ancient adage “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” is catastrophic in this case.

Speaking and writing are alike in many respects; both involve creative use of words. Rudyard Kipling when asked about the secret of successful writing said “I keep six honest seeing men; they taught me all I know; their names are What, and Why, and When, and How, and Where, and Who.”

A well written speech should strive to address those “six honest seeing men”

Public Speaking

Public Speaking
Public Speaking

First Rule :

Be Yourself

An ancient Chinese proverb states that “Knowing others is knowledge, knowing yourself is wisdom”

In order to be yourself, you must know yourself. You should analyze your strengths and strive to maximize them. Your weaknesses should be analyzed and then minimized.

Second Rule :

Communicate Clearly

Public speaking is a form of art. It has two primary characteristics: subject matter and presentation. Subject matter is concerned with what we say while presentation is concerned with how we say it.

The functions of a speech are:

  • To influence behavior
  • To impart information and knowledge
  • To direct thought
  • To stimulate the audience
  • To convince
  • To inspire action
  • To console

Third Rule :

Always Prepare

Absolutely nothing can substitute preparation. Only a handful of speakers have the innate natural public speaking aptitude. Many successful orators prepare for months and practice for years to hone their public speaking abilities.

The greatest orators of our time – Churchill, MacArthur, Roosevelt, King and Obama all spent hours upon hours working on the proper wording for the message they wished to convey, and then more hours upon hours practicing the manner of presenting those words. They did it in front of mirrors or friends.

Public Speaking

Public Speaking
Public Speaking

Fourth Rule :

Know Your Audience

Knowledge of the audience imbues the orator with the power to design bespoke messages and the insight to anticipate queries and concerns.

Fifth Rule :

Time is of the Essence

Time is considered precious by many. A wise man once stated that a person who dares to waste even one hour does not know the value of life.

One needs to consider the length of a speech. Ideally the speech should be about 20 to 25 minutes long.

Sixth Rule :

Your Title is Critical

There are four crucial components of a good presentation: title, introduction, body and conclusion.

Two 2 millenniums have passed since the Greek philosopher Plato said, “Every speech ought to be put together like a living creature, with a body of its own, so as to be neither without head nor without feet, but to have both middle and extremities, all composed in such sort that they suit each other and the whole.

The title acts the first point of contact with the audience. The title chosen for the speech can attract or repel listeners before a person commences speaking.

For example, you will probably repel listeners if the title of your speech is ‘Work Place Demographics and their Relationship to Leadership However even if the content of the speech is the same, you will probably attract listeners if your title is ‘Do Women Make Better Bosses?’

The first title is long and ambiguous. It does not evoke much emotion from the listeners. In comparison, the second title is short and sweet. It hits the right spots; it certainly elicits motions from the listeners.

  • The title can put your speech in focus. It can also provide you with a refrain – or a theme – that can appear in the three other components of your speech – in the introduction, the body and the conclusion.

Let us take a look at attention-grabbing’ titles. We will consider the following sources:

i. Take a phrase from your presentation that encapsulate your theme. Some famous speeches (and speakers ) have used this technique:

  1. President Roosevelt, in 1941, after Pearl Harbor- “Day of Infamy.”
  2. Winston Churchill, following the Battle of Britain –“So much owed by so many to so few.”
  3. Douglas MacArthur- announcing his retirement – “Old Soldiers Never Die.”
  4. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. – in pursuit of equal rights – “I have A Dream.”

ii. Alliteration, where the same letter begins successive or key words that relate to your theme, is also a proven method that enraptures enthralls an audience. For example:

  • Good as Gold
  • Pretty as a Picture
  • Hale and Hearty

iii. Rhyme can also be used in designing a title; for example

  • Is there a Spy in the Sky?
  • Quality and Equality
  • Love from above

Use powerful words in your title; for example

  • Power
  • Golden
  • Miracle
  • Magic
  • Secret

iv. The title can pose a question that evokes emotions or sparks interest; for example:

  • Why Aren’t Women Equal to Men?

Extreme care should be taken when evoking emotions. The objective is not to infuriate the audience but to attract their attention. Evincing the wrong emotion could lead to jeers and boos directed at the orator or at worst items thrown at him or her.

The most frequently used technique for choosing a title for a speech is to find a quotation in famous works of literature or writings; for example : Shakespeare has been a pretty popular source for title. The following well-known excerpts from his writings have stimulated ‘attention-grabbing’ speech descriptions: From Shakespeare's As You Like It “The world is a stage and all men and women just players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays numerous parts…”

Title One Man In His Time

Old proverbs are also a great source of titles, for example: “Out of sight, out of mind”. “Feast today, fast tomorrow.” “Cold hands, warm heart.” “Waste not, want not.”

Many speakers alter memorable quotations, clichés or maxims to get a “catchy” title for their remarks. For example “You can’t fool any of the people any of the time anymore.”

Public Speaking

Public Speaking
Public Speaking

Seventh Rule :

Open their minds

Let us now examine the three components of a speech - the introduction, the body and the conclusion.

Each one has a specific purpose, but all should have some common characteristics.

a) Use short words that are vivid and familiar to the listener. For example: begin, instead of initiate; move rather than relocate; use, as a replacement for utilize.

b) Use your own words- specific words; for example: use car, not sedan; use apple pie, not pastry; use pork chop, not meat.

c) Use active words that demand action. For example write, consider and permit.

The first part of the speech that should be written down is the opening. The following five objectives should be borne in mind. The opening statements should be designed to:

  • Establish rapport with the audience;
  • Engender the goodwill of your audience;
  • Spark the interest of the audience in the subject;
  • Set the tone for the body of the speech;
  • Create balance for the presentation;

Eighth Rule :

Present an Information Flow

The body of the speech contains the theme of the message. The body of the speech should provide the audience with a logical flow of information. This will prevent the speaker from leading the audience astray.

Ninth Rule :

The Rule of Threes

It usually takes a minimum of three ‘re-writes’ to obtain a final copy. This phenomenon is called, ‘The Rule of Threes’. It is a unique speech characteristic in cultures around the world.

There is a psychological addiction to number three; in religion, in history and particularly in speech and writing.

Here are some examples where the number three is predominant:

The three dimensions of the physical world: earth, water and air; a person: mind, body and spirit; time: past, present and future.

Speakers and writers use ‘The Rule of Three’ because it has emotion, rhythm, and the power of repetition.

In creating the title, the opening or the body of the presentation or the conclusion; an application of the ‘The Rule of Three’ can make statements more agreeable.

Public Speaking

Public Speaking
Public Speaking


The golden rules distill the essence of perfecting the art of public speaking.Public speaking techniques keep on evolving and people should strive to keep up to date with the evolving methods.Public speaking is critical in many areas of our lives.It makes us better thinkers, problem solvers and leaders.Everyone should practice the art of public speaking.

© 2018 Jeff Zod


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    Post Comment
    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      5 days ago from Nairobi

      Hi Nikita,

      Thank you so much for stopping by.

    • profile image


      11 days ago

      The article is a good read! It is beautifully structured and is pretty insightful!


    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      2 months ago from Nairobi

      Hi Suresh,

      Thanks for reading and catching the oversight. I will add the tenth rule.

    • profile image

      suresh doss 

      2 months ago

      Hi, jef... i read the article. it was good. but, why nineth and tenth rule are same? is that a mistake or the rule of third is very important to mention two times?

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      4 months ago from Nairobi

      Hi Freeman,

      Thank you for taking time to stop by. I really appreciate it.

    • trusouldj profile image

      LaZeric Freeman 

      4 months ago from Hammond

      Very nice article. I especially like that Daniel Webster quote. Powerful.

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      13 months ago from Nairobi

      Hi Khalid,

      Thank you so much.I really appreciate it so much. I am glad that you can help your team using this information. This is why I write.

    • profile image


      13 months ago

      Very useful information and knowledge dissemination initiatives, Highly Appreciated!! It can help me a lot to improve knowledge and skills of my field teams for better performance and future professional growth..

      Well done and keep it up!

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      15 months ago from Nairobi

      Hey Barigye,

      You can read books or attend seminars on public speaking. I can recommend Dale Carnegie’s public speaking courses and his widely acclaimed book ‘How to win friends and influence people ‘

    • profile image


      15 months ago

      hi thanks, really I need a course which can perfect me in public speaking, which course and where!!!

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      16 months ago from Nairobi

      Namaste Telapoet

    • Telapoetdata profile image

      Felicia Cromwell 

      16 months ago from Texas

      Nameste Jeff

    • profile image


      16 months ago

      It's a fantastic opportunity for those who intend to be a good communicator.

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      17 months ago from Nairobi

      Thank you Jerry.You are welcome.

    • profile image

      JerryD Hill 

      17 months ago

      ThanksFood for thought.

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      17 months ago from Nairobi

      You are welcome Tshidirakharebe .Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image


      17 months ago

      Thanks very much for the examples you gave, they are so practical.

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      18 months ago from Nairobi

      Thanks so much Mazhar, I really appreciate it.

    • profile image

      Mazhar Randhawa 

      18 months ago


    • profile image


      18 months ago

      Rule no 9 and 10 are same. Is it a unconcious error .

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      20 months ago from Nairobi

      Hi Victor, thank you so much.

    • profile image

      Victor Luka 

      20 months ago

      Indeed very educative and I like it.

    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      2 years ago from Nairobi

      Hi Audrey,

      Thanks for the feedback. I really appreciate the comment. I am grateful that my article has touched you deeply. Feel free to share the opening quote.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      Informative, well presented and very interesting hub! I like the rule of threes. The opening quote is one I've not heard. I copied it as it touched me deeply.

      Thank you for sharing and take care.


    • Erudite Scholar profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Zod 

      2 years ago from Nairobi

      Cuan, am glad that the list is really useful to you.

    • dredcuan profile image

      Travel Chef 

      2 years ago from Manila

      My father and my brother were members of Toastmaster, a public speaking organition in the country. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to develop same skills as what they possessed. Anyway, this list of rules is really helpful!


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