Dan Waldschmidt

by Dan Waldschmidt

November 20, 2017


As you probably already know, I speak for companies, associations, and other large groups all over the world — in 15 or 16 different countries to be more specific.

It didn’t start overnight. In fact, it took a few years of outrageously hard work, a best-selling book, 3 amazing speaking coaches, a bunch of failures, some epically horrible speeches, and a team of awesome people around me to turn it into a business. And we are still looking for more.

As a team, we are continuing to grow the number of keynote presentations I deliver on an annual basis.

Working to scale from 35-ish events to 70 (or more).


So let’s talk about that.

Whether you are trying to make public speaking your full-time job or whether you just want to get through that next boardroom presentation for your company, being an awesome public speaker will radically improve the quality of your life.

Here are 11 ways to do that:

1. Ditch the Podium

Great speakers use their whole bodies to present their topic. They stand up straight and confident. They don’t hide behind a podium. They move from one side of the stage to the other making sure to take in (and talk to) their whole audience.

There is a science to speaking without a podium. That topic could take up another whole blog, but the skinny of it is that great speakers make themselves big. The more grand your gestures, the more confident you look. They don’t have to be super animated, but they do have to be super confident.

TAKEAWAY: Large gestures make you appear larger than life, gloriously confident, and make people want to take action on what you just said. 

2. Lose the Note Cards

Great speakers are prepared to speak. They know their subject inside and out. They live it.  They have worked on and memorized every single word of their talk all the way down to the last sentence. They are well versed in answering any questions that may arise and don’t need to rely on notes or notecards to help them, which is good, because they don’t have a podium, remember?

And when a person knows their subject they are more likely to convince other people to see things the way they see things. And to take the actions they are speaking about. 

TAKEAWAY: Take the necessary time to practice the material that you are going to delivery. You can’t be over-prepared. Chances are, you’re not ready. So get ready.

3. Stop Winging it

Great speakers practice their delivery every chance they get. They practice in their cars. They practice in the mirror. They practice at home. At work. On the go.

Instead of taking pictures of yourself in the gym, head on over to the aerobics room when nobody is looking and practice your next speech — paying close attention to your body language in those oversized wall mirrors.

There is no room for error or nervousness — because great speakers are prepared to rock the room. No drums (or notecards) required. And when a great speaker talks about changing the world, the audience wants to jump in and change it with them.

TAKEAWAY: Pratice. Practice. And practice some more. And not just the words. The actions and attitudes that you need to have to make the perfect performance.

4. Be An “Early Bird”

Great speakers show up to events early and mingle with the crowd. This is more difficult if it’s a crowd of 10,000. But if it’s less than a few hundred people, it is good for the speaker to get in there and meet a few of the attendees. It makes you more comfortable with the crowd.

Here is a secret. People have a tendency to care more and pay more attention to someone they know personally (or just met).  Showing up allows you to gauge the personality of the crowd, and find out trivial details that could possibly be thrown into a story while speaking.

Relevance is everywhere. And when you are relatable, the audience is more inclined to feel connected and take action. 

TAKEAWAY: Take a moment and get to know the people that you are pitching or persuading. The best way to do that is with a warm smile and hearty handshake. 

5. Invest in Savvy Tech 

Great speakers are never taken back by technical malfunctions. They make sure all equipment and slideshows are working appropriately before giving their speech — or pitch. Of course, sometimes things go wrong — the power goes out or the internet is down — but for the most part, a great speaker is prepared to forge through any and all issues with ease.

They don’t fumble through their presentations looking for slides, because, like their speech, they have their visual presentation memorized as well. The two work hand in hand together. You will never see a great speaker fumbling with music or visual aids. They just know how to make it work. And that is the kind of person who can get people to take action. 

TAKEAWAY: Make sure you spend a few minutes working out all the kinks. Success isn’t just about nouns and verbs. It’s about the experience you create.

6. Make Friends

Great speakers aren’t just talking to a group of people. They are talking with a group of people. They include the audience in the whole experience by asking questions and getting them to respond by calling out answers or raising their hands.

Some speakers even find a catch phrase they use at the beginning and ask the audience to repeat it numerous times throughout the presentations. It keeps the audience alert and engaged and it helps them remember the material.

It also makes the crowd feel that warm and fuzzy feeling they get when they are getting to know someone. So when the speaker invites them to take action, they want to jump on that offer. 

TAKEAWAY: Love your audience. Treat them like friends. Don’t imagine them having it out for you. Speak to the attendees like they are gathered around your fire pit with a glass of wine in hand. 

7. Develop Trust and Rapport

Great speakers make eye contact. They smile and nod. Let’s be honest. Great speakers don’t do that thing where they “imagine the audience naked”.

People like eye contact. As my great grandmother twice removed would say, “If you can’t look someone in the eye, you’re hiding something.” Great speakers want the audience to not only listen to what they are saying but to trust that they know what they are talking about.

After all, the audience probably spent money to hear the speaker. So the speaker should be a reliable source.

TAKEAWAY: Never forget that the audience will only take action if your information sounds accurate. So be trustworthy. And build a relationship with the people in the room.

8. Get to the Point

Great speakers pick a single point of topic and stick to it. Sure, they may tell a story or two — but all roads lead back to the main point. The audience should never leave thinking, “what the heck was he talking about?” The point should be clear, concise, and, well, to the point. And never filled with the word “um.”

Great speakers know what they are talking about, never get sidetracked and go off on tangents,  and they never use word fillers like “um.” That’s how drinking games get started.  They just take natural pauses.  Because they are confident and comfortable. And those are the people audiences want to follow.  

TAKEAWAY: Master the craft of being simple and professional. Anything too fancy comes off as “clever by half”. Say what you mean — and mean it.

9. Pace Yourself Like a Champ 

Nobody listens to a speaker when they have to fine tune their hearing to understand what the speaker is saying. Enunciation is key when speaking to a crowd. So is pacing and use of vocabulary.

Great speakers know who they are speaking to and they don’t go in talking technical jargon to a group of seniors who are just now learning how to use the internet. They also pace their words so their audience can listen, hear, and grasp the concept they are trying to pitch.

TAKEAWAY: Take a topic and speak to it plainly. And clearly. And keep your tone of voice agreeable and energetic. Nothing too over-the-top or contrived. 

10. Have Some Personality

People don’t just go out looking for a cult to join. They hear someone on a stage (or in a pulpit) and they are awed and amazed by their personality. The speaker is charismatic and animated.

They don’t seem to care about anything else other than their topic at the moment. They are in love with the idea they are sharing and they want their audience to be in love with it too. They talk about it with such passion and excitement, the audience can’t help but get excited too. That’s how a speaker inspires an audience to join their cult- and take other non-cult related actions.

TAKEAWAY: The best way to show your personality is to “be you”. That might be nerdy. Or witty. Or charming. Don’t fake it. Just be everything that you are.

11. Don’t Sugar Coat It

Great speakers are also great at making their audience feel uncomfortable — yet safe. They say what the audience needs to hear not what they want to hear. They don’t sugar coat the issues.

Great speakers aren’t patronizing. Nor do they belittle their audience. They just force the audience to go deeper. Think critically. Great speakers bring up subjects that the audience may be dealing with or avoiding; but they do it in such a way that by the end of the speech, the audience wants to face the day, face the problem, fix the issue, take the actions. 

TAKEAWAY: Inspiration isn’t about motivational words. It’s about pushing people to do the hard things that success demands. It’s not easy. But it sure it necessary. 

Being a great speaker isn’t something that you achieve overnight.

In fact, it’s not something you ever actually achieve. 

There is always room for you to improve. But there are a few awesome things you can do to achieve a breakthrough in your speaking game.

It’s not about being glib, outrageously witty, or not making any mistakes. Great speakers love their message and the people that they are speaking to.

So that’s where to get started.

LET’S TALK: If you are seriously looking for ways to improve your speaking game — at work or as a job all by itself — let me know. I would love to help you personally. The world needs to hear the best version of your story. Don’t worry — this isn’t a pitch to sell you a program. I just know how long I struggled to figure it out (hint: We still are… at times) — so we want to help you be your best brand of awesomeness.

About the author

Dan Waldschmidt

Dan Waldschmidt doesn’t just talk about leveling up. He’s obsessed with it. He's set records as an ultra-runner and been the personal strategist for the leading business leaders of our time. He wrote a book, called EDGY Conversations that accidentally became a worldwide bestseller and continues to share his insights from the stage as a keynote speaker and on the blogs and podcasts you will find here. Most days, you'll find Dan heads-down, working on breakthrough strategies for his clients at EDGY Inc, a highly-focused, invite-only, business strategy execution company based out of Silicon Valley.