Over the last few weeks we have been consolidating some general “dos” and “don’ts” when engaging in public speaking. These suggestions apply to all speeches.
This post covers the “dos.” We will expand this list as I come across new ideas and we will also be further developing these content areas.
1- Thank the host and the audience. I was once asked to give concluding speech at an event at the last minute and while I thanked the audience for attending the event and participating in the closing ceremonies, I forgot to thank the host. The host was upset and we were not permitted to use the venue in the future. Even if the host played only a small role in the event, it is important to give them thanks and praise. It is also important to thank the audience for listening to the speech. Although the audience is usually the one that benefits from the speech, like the host, they also expect to be thanked.
2- Prepare. My failure to thank the host was due to a lack of preparation. Although I did not have time to prepare in that specific instance, in most instances public speakers have plenty of advanced notice to prepare their speech. Advanced preparation will not only prevent mistakes, but it will also make it more likely that your speech will be delivered smoothly, that it will be well organized, that it will be relevant to your audience, and that you will be proud of it after you finish it.
3- Practice. I’ve found that the more I practice a speech the smoother my delivery is. Although I usually take notes with me when presenting, I find that I rarely ever need those notes if the speech is practiced ahead of time. Practice also makes it easy for me to make adjustments during the speech based on how my audience is reacting, because I don’t need to be constantly thinking about what I already planned to say. What I planned to say subconsciously rolls off my tongue, and the only thing I need to think about during the speech is the adjustments I may want to make based on the reaction of the audience.
4- Practice with video. Although I’ve never rehearsed with video, there are some public speaking teachers who recommend it. One of the benefits is that you will notice any distracting hand or face gestures that you may make and then you can make a conscious effort to minimize those during your speech
5 – Start with your best point. Your best point shouldn’t be the very first thing that you say in your speech. After all, you do need to introduce yourself, boost your credibility, get the audiences’ attention, and put the audience at ease, but it is important that you don’t leave the audience guessing as to the key point you wish to make in your speech.
6 – Understand your audience. You may be a speaker who often talks on the same issue, but different audiences – working men & women, stay at home moms & dads, young people, medical professionals, education professionals, and the working poor are going to filter and understand your message differently. It is absolutely critical that you understand your audience and adapt the message, at least through examples, in a way that is relevant to your audience.
7 – Bring energy. There is a saying, “Never let them see you sweat.” That saying also applies to how tired you may be. You should never let them know you are tired. Signaling tiredness signals that you are not excited to be there and may encourage your audience to feel sleepy themselves. It can also create animosity in your audience. Even if you are tired, always bring energy and exuberance. You can crash later when you are out of sight.
8 – Believe your audience supports you. There is nothing more difficult than believing that you are speaking to an audience that is opposed to you. Doing so will sap your energy and make it difficult to concentrate on the message that you want to deliver. Even if you think your audience is opposed, believe in your mind that they will support you, or at least that you will convince them by the time that you are finished
9 – Dress up. Dressing up indicates to the audience that you are taking your presentation seriously and that you prepared for your speech. If you show up disheveled, your audience is likely to think that you are not especially interested in being there.
10 – Tell a story that resonates with the audience. As previously discussed, it is important that you adapt your speech to your audience. One way to do this is with examples. Another way to do this is to tell a story that relates the content to the likely life experiences of your audience.
11 -Prepare for no Q & A. A lot of speakers leave time for questions from the audience and the end of their presentation, but audiences most often do not ask questions. You should always be prepared to use that time to add an element to their presentation if no questions are asked. Also, you should consider telling audience to write questions down as the presentation goes. This will get them thinking about questions while they are listening.
12 – Have a catchy title. Speakers should always have a catchy-title that people will remember and that captures that essence/key point that the speaker is trying to make
13 – Have a hook, something that captures your audience’s interest. In order to keep an audience’s attention, it is important to get that attention early on. One of the most effective ways is to use as hook early on that peeks their interest. This document has a number of great suggestions for developing a hook.
14 — Structure your speech. It isn’t important that you number and provide sub-structure for every point in the speech; this could be very distracting for an audience. What is important is that the speech has an overall organization that the audience can follow – even something as simple as an introduction, a body, and a conclusion
15 – Understand what type of speech you are giving. There are different types of public speeches – persuasive, informative, demonstrative, special occasion. Although all speeches should include the elements just listed, it is important that the speaker understands the critical components of the different speeches.