How to Give a Speech
You’ve already prepared and rehearsed your presentation. Now the big day has arrived.
Here’s what you can do to give a speech you can be proud of.
Check out the room. Make adjustments to the seating and lighting, if necessary. Test the microphone, if you’re going to be using one. Set up and test your audiovisual equipment. Speak to the person who’s going to introduce you. Greet people as they arrive and begin establishing a connection with them. (Leaders take responsibility not just for their speeches, but for the event.)
Adjust your attitude.
Remember that the audience wants you to succeed. (What audience really wants to sit through a boring or incoherent talk?) And remind yourself that you want your audience to succeed. (Your proposal or idea is going to help them solve a problem, achieve a goal, or satisfy a need, right?)
Even before you begin your speech, people will be looking you over, checking you out. Look confident – even if you don’t feel it – and excited – as opposed to fearful – and you’ll start on the right foot.
Walk to the podium with confidence.
When you’re introduced, walk confidently to the podium and shake the hand of the person who introduced you.
Establish your space.
If you’re speaking from the podium, set your notes down. Adjust the microphone so it points to your mouth. Plant your feet. Take a breath. Look up. Take another breath. (This sounds like a lot to do, but it only takes 5 or 10 seconds.) If you’re speaking without a podium, walk to where you want to stand. Plant your feet. Take a breath. Look at your audience. Take another breath.
Connect with your audience.
Look at your audience one person at a time. Don’t address the audience as a whole. Speak to individuals. Look at one person. Establish eye contact. And speak to that person for 5 to 7 seconds. Then find someone else to look at and repeat the process.
Speak from notes or memory.
Don’t read your text. And, if you’re using PowerPoint, don’t read your slides. You will bore everyone – including yourself – to death. Use the PowerPoint slides, an outline, handouts, or 3 by 5 cards to jog your memory. Remember, your aim is to communicate a message, not say each and every word you planned on speaking.
Speak as if you are holding an animated conversation.
Say “I” and “you.” Anything else – “this speaker” or “yours truly” – sounds pompous. Avoid saying “you,” however, in a judgmental or blaming context. (Almost any statement that begins with “you people” is bound to end badly.) Speak in language, images, and terms that the audience readily understands. If you need to use jargon, define it immediately unless you are absolutely convinced that every person in your audience understands it.
If you have a good sense of humor, use it. If you’re a wonderful storyteller, by all means tell a story. Never imitate another speaker, even a good one. You’ll sound – and feel – phony. Don’t try to be unique or interesting. Be as fully and completely yourself, unrestrained by your fears and desire to please others, and you will be both unique and interesting.
If you make a mistake, apologize and go on. Laugh at yourself and your audience will love you for it,
Convey yourself – your feelings and commitment – not just your content
Dale Carnegie wrote, “There are three cardinal rules of public speaking:
1) Speak about something you have earned the right to talk about through experience or study.
2) Be excited about your subject.
3) Be eager to share your talk with your listeners.”
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See also How to Handle Questions.
For information about how you might become a more powerful speaker, contact us.