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5 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills



5 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

I remember my freshman year of college like it was yesterday (narrator: it was not). I very quickly learned journalism was not the right major, I wasn’t built for 8 a.m. classes, and paying to wash my own laundry was a ridiculous concept.

However, while I was learning all of the things I didn’t like, I was also learning about the things I did. Case in point: public speaking.

All freshman were required to take a public speaking seminar. Even though I was pumped to get up there and regale everyone with tales of my life, my friends were freaking out.

What was the big deal? What was so hard about standing in front of the class and telling a story?

It turns out, a lot.

There are a number of statistics out there around the fear of public speaking but a study done in 2017 put the number around 65 percent. Think about that – for every 10 people you know, at least 6 of them are afraid to speak in public.

The problem is, that fear can lead to issues in our careers. Fear of public speaking can lead to 10 percent lower wages and decrease your chance of being promoted to management.

For anyone in marketing, and particularly search, the ability to communicate is a big deal. From internal presentations to calls with clients or prospects, the ability to communicate is imperative to our success.

So how do we overcome this fear?

How do we improve our public speaking skills?

There is no one answer but there are certainly proven tactics out there we can use. Let’s jump in.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Fail

5 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

In Scott Berkun’s book, “Confessions of a Public Speaker“, he talks about letting go of perfection:

“If a disaster happens, something explodes or I trip and fall, I’ll have more attention from the audience than I probably had 30 seconds before. And if I don’t care that much about my disaster, I can use the attention I’ve earned to do something good with it – whatever I say next, they are sure to remember… If you’d like to be good at something, the first thing to go out the window is the notion of perfection.”

You are probably going to mess up. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said the wrong thing, misspelled something on a report, or in one case, set incorrect timings on my SearchLove presentation. Whoops!

Don’t expect perfection. Know that those around you don’t expect perfection either.

One of the things we teach our team when it comes to communication is it’s OK to say you don’t know.

If we are on a client call and someone doesn’t know the answer to a question, that’s OK. Perhaps someone else can help – but if not, we simply say we’ll get back to them ASAP.

The fear of public speaking is often tied to the fear of failure. As Berkun noted, the key is to keep going and don’t let that fear of failure get in the way of being good.

2. Practice. Practice. Practice.

I was walking the hallways of MozCon this past July and I came across Wil Reynolds, headphones in, pacing the hallway, as animated as ever. His session was coming up and he was rehearsing his presentation.

Now, if you’ve ever seen him speak, you know he is one of the best out there. What does that tell us? If Reynolds has to practice, then so do we.

Whether you are giving a presentation in a conference room or a conference center, take the time to get it right. Outline what it is you want to say, read your slides out loud, and go over it.

Now, there are people out there who will tell you there’s such a thing as too much practice, and I don’t disagree (this is actually a pretty good article). That being said, knowing your material is never a bad thing.

Want to take practice to the next level?

Here are a few other ways to make the most of your practice sessions:

Record Yourself on Video

Yes, I realize that none of us like the sound of our voice or the way we look on camera but too bad. That’s what you sound like and that’s what you look like.

Instead, focus on the presentation itself.

Is what’s being said clear? Were there any stumbles? What should you change?

Practice with a Friend or Colleague

Before a recent presentation, I sat down with a fellow speaker and we each went through our decks.

He caught a few things I hadn’t and I was able to adjust my messaging ahead of my talk.

Know Your Environment

If you are going to be giving a presentation in a large conference room with 25 people and an echoing phone, then practice as if you are in a large conference room with 25 people and an echoing phone.

Heck, run a practice session in the room if possible. The same thing applies to speaking on a stage.

While you may not be able to practice on an actual stage, you should practice standing up. It’ll give you a better feel for your body language and any hand motions you may use.

3. Ask for Feedback 

5 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

I’ll be the first to admit that feedback can hurt. After all, no one wants to be told what they aren’t good at.

The thing is, we aren’t going to get better living in a world where everyone tells us how amazing we are. I love when conferences send feedback after shows. It tells me where I can improve and what I should change for the next time.

But how do we get feedback in our daily lives, when we aren’t on a stage or at an event?

One of the things we do in our organization is to take notes during presentations. For example, when an account manager is reviewing a presentation, I note what they are doing well and what they can improve. When the meeting is over, we then go through the specific points.

Improving communication in real-time is difficult but the opportunity is there if you ask for it.

4. Turn to the Pros

A few days ago, my colleagues alerted me to the At&T “Just OK is Not OK” campaign. First off, the commercials are pretty funny and second, the broader point being, we don’t want just OK – we want the best.

If you want to be a great public speaker, spend time learning from the best.

Here are a few places to check out:

TED Talks

Everyone looks at TED Talks as the example for public speaking. While the speakers truly are some of the best out there, what makes it so valuable to me is the way they communicate a story in such a short amount of time.

Getting your point across and keeping an audience engaged is key to being a successful public speaker. Spend a lunch hour or two seeing how it’s done.


Toastmasters is an international organization focused on building communication and public speaking skills. They have been around a really long time and have local chapters in most cities.

I have several friends who swear by the meetings and we are actually using it to help grow our team’s skillset. Costs are minimal and it’s a great way to throw yourself into the fire.


Improv might be the scariest thing on this list but the great thing about it is you can take one or two classes and get a feel for the skills you need to be a good speaker.

Most require no commitment and it can be a fun way to learn. Hey, if it’s good enough for Michael Scott, it’s good enough for me.

5. Do it Again. And Again. 

5 Ways to Improve Your Public Speaking Skills

At this point, I think we are all familiar with Gladwell’s 10,000 hours concept. Whether you believe it’s right or wrong, the idea that we can only become better at something by doing it over and over isn’t exactly shocking.

The same thing applies to public speaking. I have watched team members go from sounding like nervous nellies on phone calls to leading presentations with CEOs. I have watched in awe as fellow search colleagues grew from panelists to international keynote speakers. All of this was achieved by repetition.

If you have a bad presentation, focus on being better the next time. If you received less than stellar feedback, focus on taking that feedback and integrating it into your next presentation.

Perfection Is Impossible & That’s OK!

Despite what I may have thought my freshman year of college, I’ve come to realize that public speaking isn’t easy and certainly isn’t something most of us are born being good at. It takes practice and even the pros are likely backstage rehearsing.

Public speaking requires us to overcome our fears and be confident in what we know. Something that’s certainly easier said than done.

If you are looking to get into public speaking or improve your communication, I highly recommend relying on those around you.

Ask your boss or colleague to give you notes. Ask a friend or roommate to watch you practice. Remember, their feedback is only going to help you get better.

Most importantly, remember that perfection is impossible and if you mess up, it might just make you more interesting.

More Resources:

Image Credits

In-Post Image #1: Unsplash
In-Post Image #2: Unsplash
In-Post Image #3: Unsplash

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Yoast 12.1 adds custom favicons to the mobile snippet preview



Yoast 12.1 adds custom favicons to the mobile snippet preview

Yoast has released version 12.1 of its WordPress plugin; the update adds your custom favicon to the mobile snippet preview, matches Google’s font sizes on desktop search results and introduces new schema filters.

Yoast’s mobile snippet preview with custom favicon. Source: Yoast.

Why we should care

An accurate preview of your mobile and desktop listings enables you to get a better idea of what your customers see before they click through, which may help you optimize your snippets and encourage them to click on your results.

The new filters introduced in this update can also be used to control your schema output and provide searchers with pertinent information about your brand.

More on the announcement

Yoast 12.1 also adds the following filters for more granular control over schema output:

  • wpseo_schema_organization_social_profiles filters an entity’s social profiles. You can use it to customize social profiles within the Organization schema object.
  • wpseo_schema_company_name and wpseo_schema_company_logo_id filter your company’s name and logo from the theme options if it hasn’t been designated in Yoast SEO’s settings.
  • wpseo_enable_structured_data_blocks disables Yoast’s structured data block editor blocks.

For more on Yoast’s structured data implementation updates, check out our coverage on Yoast SEO 11.0 (general schema implementation), 11.1 (images and video structured data), 11.2 (custom schema), 11.3 (personal image and avatar structured data), 11.4 (FAQ structured data), 11.5 (mobile snippet preview) and 11.6 (updated How-to structured data block).

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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Google Updates Reviews Rich Results – Check Your Structured Data



Google Updates Reviews Rich Results - Check Your Structured Data

Google announced an update to Reviews Rich Results. The goal is to improve the Reviews Rich Results for users and to
“address” abusive implementation and impose limits to where rich results trigger. Additionally,the “name” property
becomes required.

Reviews Rich Results

The reviews rich results are explained in Google’s Review Snippet developer page. Google takes your schema structured data related to reviews and show stars in the search results.

Screenshot of a Reviews Rich Result

The rich snippets developer page states:

“Review snippets may appear in rich results or Google Knowledge Panels.”

It’s the guidelines on their appearance in the rich results that is affected.

Limits Imposed on When Rich Results Reviews are Shown

Google announced that the display of rich results reviews will be limited. This means that any reviews outside of those limits will no longer show review snippets.

These are the allowed schema types:

Self-serving Reviews Not Allowed

Self-serving reviews are reviews of oneself. Google will no longer display self-serving reviews in the featured snippets.

This is how Google explained it:

“We call reviews “self-serving” when a review about entity A is placed on the website of entity A – either directly in their markup or via an embedded 3rd party widget. “

“name” Property is Now Required

In perhaps the biggest change to Reviews Rich Results is the mandatory requirement of the name property in the featured snippets.

Publishers who rely on schema structured data plugins, including Reviews WordPress Plugins, should check if their plugin is currently including the “name” property.

If the name property is not included with your plugin then look for an update to your plugin and update it. If there is no “name” update then it may be something your plugin maker has in a future update.

You may wish to contact your plugin maker to find out when this is coming because the “name” property is now important.

Will Rich Results Disappear if “name” Property Missing?

Google did not say if failure to have the “name” property in the structured data will result in a loss of the Reviews Rich Result. They only said it’s required.

“With this update, the name property is now required, so you’ll want to make sure that you specify the name of the item that’s being reviewed.”

This is an important update for publishers who use reviews structured data. Make sure your structured data is properly updated in order to continue to show rich results for your structured data.

Read Google’s announcement here

Making Review Rich Results more Helpful

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What really matters in Google’s nofollow changes? SEOs ask



What really matters in Google's nofollow changes? SEOs ask

Google’s news Tuesday that it is treating the nofollow attribute as a “hint” for ranking rather than a directive to ignore a link, and the introduction of rel="sponsored"andrel="ugc" raised reactions and questions from SEOs about next steps and the impact of the change to a nearly 15-year-old link attribute.

Choices for choice sake?

As Google Search Liaison Danny Sullivan stated in a tweet Tuesday, the announcement expands the options for site owners and SEOs to specify the nature of a link beyond the singular nofollow attribute. The additional sponsored and ugc attributes are aimed at giving Google more granular signals about the nature of link content.

As a point of clarification, Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that nofollow in meta robots will also be treated as a “hint,” but there are no ugc or sponsored robot meta tags. He also stated that he’ll be updating the official documentation to explicitly reflect this.

There is no real benefit for the sites that implement these new attributes instead of nofollow, other than organizational classification if it’s helpful. That has some viewing it through a lens of skepticism.

“Massive impact” whether you adopt or not

Drawing the focus back to that the key change that nofollow is now a ranking “hint,” not a directive, Sullivan tweeted, “As Gary says, that’s very helpful to our systems that impact *lots* of people. The new attributes are a minor aspect.”

That was in reference to Illyes earlier tweet that the treatment of nofollow could have a “massive impact on the end user.”

It can be hard to reconcile hearing that the change could mean significant improvements in search results for users while also being told that most sites won’t see any ranking affect from the new nofollow treatment.

According to the announcement, these changes have already taken effect (save for nofollow being used as a crawling and indexing “hint,” which goes into effect in March 2020). “In most cases, the move to a hint model won’t change the nature of how we treat such links,” Sullivan and Illyes wrote in the announcement. “We’ll generally treat them as we did with nofollow before and not consider them for ranking purposes.”

Who benefits from the new attributes?

Implementing the more granular sponsored andugc attributes is optional, and Google clearly stated there is no need for SEOs to go back and update any existing nofollows. So will site owners adopt the new attributes if they don’t have to?

As Sullivan has stated, the purpose of them is to provide options to help it classify these kinds of links more clearly. The nuances Google looks at between nofollow,sponsored and ugc attributes won’t have an impact on your own site and the new attributes are voluntary to implement. “If you do want to help us understand the web better, implement them. If you don’t want to, don’t,” tweeted Illyes.

More work?

Making the new attributes voluntary means you don’t have to bang down IT’s door, but it could also mean the change request may fall to the bottom of the priority list for a lot of companies and never get implemented. As consultant Kristine Schachinger expressed in the tweet below, even the slightest SEO change can be hard to get implemented.

Google seems very clearly fine with that. At this stage, the actual work involved should be minimal. If your dev teams can’t implement a code change to incorporate ugc or sponsored attributes for several more sprints, or quarters (and you’ve been implementing nofollow when appropriate), you don’t have to fret.

For WordPress sites, Yoast SEO plugin founder and Chief Product Officer Joost de Valk said Tuesday that support will be coming in the next release.

“It’s quite easy,” said de Valk. If other vendors follow suit, it could speed up adoption of the new attributes.

An opportunity for manipulation?

Now that nofollow is a “hint,” some are also concerned about spammers that might want to test out whether their tactics have a new lease on life.

Google says this shouldn’t spur spammers because most links will still be ignored just as before, whether they use the nofollow, ugc or sponsored attributes. Further, given that one of the stated reasons Google made the change to consider nofollow a “hint” is to be able to better understand link schemes, this spam tactic could be more risky than before.

What now?

This change should not have you overhauling your nofollow strategy. If you publish sponsored content or host forums or comments on your site, consider implementing the new attributes when you are able to make a code change. If you can’t or just don’t want to, there’s no harm in that either.

“On the surface, this only benefits Google,” Chris Silver Smith, president of Argent Media, commented via Facebook. “But, if you read between the lines, ‘hints’ mean a passing of PageRank or equivalent values. They’re already using Nofollowed links in some cases. They just want it easier to choose between links to use now in more cases.”

About The Author

George Nguyen is an Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is in content marketing, journalism, and storytelling.

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