What about those sweaty armpits, wobbly knees, shaking hands and a mouth so dry it feels like you slept in the desert? Whether you’re best man at a wedding, or you’re giving a speech at school, or you’re pitching a sale, or presenting at a workshop, conference or seminar, these tips will help you deliver a great speech every time!
1. Smile before you start your talk – it helps you relax. Remember that most of the audience is on your side and they’re there because they want to listen to what you have to say. If you need to visualize your audience naked or wearing gorilla suits to make your presentation easier, then do so.
2. Grab the audience’s attention immediately. Do this by starting off with a “hook”. You need to make an impact and be dynamic – surprise the audience, use props or music, play a video clip, tell a funny joke, show a humorous picture or pose a question to the audience.
3. Everyone loves a story! Adopt a personal approach and tell the audience a story or relate a personal experience. Interact with and involve others in your talk – refer to them by name – this also keeps the audience alert, especially if you ask questions during your presentation. If you have time before a formal presentation, get to know your audience by mingling with them, learning and remembering their names and mention your conversations with them to make your talk more interesting.
4. Make eye contact with your audience (about 3 – 5 seconds per person).
5. Project your voice so even the people in the back of the room can hear you. Lose the boring monotone; vary the pitch, tone, volume and pace of your presentation. Speak slowly and pronounce your words clearly. Keep your sentences short and pause between points. Remember to breathe so that your talk doesn’t speed up until eventually you’re talking so fast that you’re completely out of breath.
6. Get excited about your presentation; show your passion and enthusiasm for your topic the audience will be able to pick this up immediately. Be confident and professional in your approach.
7. Be completely familiar with your topic and content, especially if it’s a situation (i.e. work-related) where people may ask questions during or after your talk.
8. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings and the technology by getting to the venue early and checking how everything works. You might want to include visual aids such as an overhead projector, a flip chart, or a PowerPoint slide show. Aim to spend between 1 – 2 minutes on each slide or chart and always check for spelling mistakes. You can use a laser pointer or other device to alert the audience to something you wish to highlight. Watch for shaking hands though – tuck your elbow in tightly to the side of your body to minimize movement.
9. Know your target audience. You’re not going to give the same speech to preschoolers as you would to university professors and vice versa. Adapt your vocabulary and material to be appropriate. If you have a mixed audience, try and structure your presentation to appeal to everyone, otherwise concentrate on the people that make up most of the audience.
10. Practice makes perfect. Practice in the mirror, record yourself on a Dictaphone and play it back, say your speech to your peers, your family, your friends, your dog, whoever will listen. Ask for constructive feedback on both the delivery and the content of your presentation.
Ideally, you should have practiced your presentation out loud about 3 – 6 times before you deliver it. This will help to develop the flow of your talk and identify key words or phrases where you may get stuck. Always learn the first two lines of your speech off by heart. If you have visual aids, you need to practice with them too.
11. Enroll at your local Toastmasters to develop your public speaking skills.
12. Don’t do anything irritating, especially with your hands – don’t fiddle or play with coins or keys in your pocket.
13. Stick to the time limit. If you’re at a workshop or seminar, remember to leave about 5 – 10 minutes for questions and discussion. If you’re not sure of the time allocation, find out from the host or emcee what would be appropriate (say for weddings, birthdays or anniversaries).
14. The more talks you give, the easier you’ll find it to speak in public, and you’ll build your confidence levels as you go along. Be sure to always follow the three rules of public speaking – practice practice practice! Who knows? Before long you’ll learn to enjoy talking and the next presentation you give won’t just be good, it will be fantastic! Good luck!
When you start off constructing your speech, you might find it easier to write the entire presentation down. Once you’ve practiced a couple of times and you can memorize most of the content, cut your speech down to a detailed outline or keywords and write these onto cards. Use only one side of the card and remember to number them. Highlight cue words or key phrases. Do not read your presentation!
For presentations given at workshops or seminars, conclude with three take-home messages for the audience. These messages are the most important findings or conclusions of the study, and if the audience remembers nothing else from your talk, make sure that they remember these three take-home messages.