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If You Want To Be A Better Public Speaker, Don't Focus Too Much On The Speech

New Year's resolutions tend to fall into just a few categories. But after losing weight and eating better, resolving to become a better public speaker tends to make the list. Now, new research suggests how well a speech or presentation is perceived might not have as much do with the presentation itself as you think.

Want to fool people into thinking you just delivered the presentation of a lifetime? It might make sense to focus less on what you’re going to say and more on what happens after.  That’s the result of a study conducted by UT Austin Communications Professor John Daly.  Daly and his team showed people videos of good speeches and bad speeches.

Then participants watched those same speakers respond to questions after the speeches. Some responded well, some poorly.

In some cases you might have a speaker who delivered a great speech, but fumbled in the Q&A. Or, in another case, “you might have that same speech with a great response to questions,” Daly says.

Or you might have a terrible speech followed by stellar audience interaction. Or, a terrible speech and a terrible Q&A.

The researchers asked what participants thought of the speakers­ – whether the speech was good, whether the speaker was competent.

“What we found in almost every case,” Daly says, “was how you respond to those questions, how you respond to those objections, ends up counting a lot more than how the quality of your speech was in the first place.”

So, he says, by all means spend some time preparing your speech. But if you really want to make a good impression, don’t forget to be ready to tackle the tough questions.

Mose Buchele focuses on energy and environmental reporting at KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @mosebuchele.
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