If you think about it, it’s not really surprising that when you see lists of people’s greatest fears, public speaking often comes in first while death places second. Standing in front of a crowd can be a daunting situation, but one good way to help alleviate fears is to be prepared with a really good speech.
As a professional an important part of your development as a brand should include delivering speeches (or presentations or lectures or sermons). Even if you don’t have a public speaking phobia, the thought of writing a speech can be very intimidating. Not only do you have to convey your message, but you want to capture the attention of your audience. The last thing you want is bored listeners just waiting for you to finally finish. We’ve all experienced it. No one wants to be the speaker that everyone applauds enthusiastically because she has finally, finally stopped talking.
So what should you do? Consider these techniques which should help you produce a speech which evokes interest instead of boredom.
1. Don’t Try To Make Too Many Points
Think of the last speech you listened to. When it finished did you say to yourself, “Wow. I wish that speech was longer”? Have you ever, ever felt like saying that? Even when an audience is listening to a really good speech, there is only so much attention spans can hold. Keep your speech at a reasonable length. One sure way to do this is to plan the message you want to give, focus on strongly presenting some key points and trim off anything that is not absolutely necessary.
2. Think of Your Audience
- Are you going to be presenting to 18 year old boys about to graduate from secondary school in the assembly hall or to female entrepreneurs at an International Women’s Day brunch? If you would deliver the exact same speech to each of these groups, you are approaching your task from the wrong angle. Your words, your examples, your focus and more should be chosen with your audience in mind.
3. Talk Conversationally
- A speech is not the time to speak as formally as possible. Try to incorporate a tone that simulates a conversation. There’s no need to talk down to your audience, but try not to use words you would not normally use in everyday conversations. Avoid too many long sentences. As you are standing at the podium trying to speak easily and fluently, you’ll thank yourself for keeping the speech patterns simple
4. Start Strong
- You don’t have a lot of time to capture your audience’s attention. Part of beginning speeches in Trinidad and Tobago often involves a long list of salutations which might wear on people’s concentration. If it is necessary give the salutations, make a pause for effect then launch into your attention grabbing opening. In addition to keeping all other tips in this article in mind begin with a good hook. Consider a story that is relevant to your topic, a startling statistic, a what if scenario or some thought provoking rhetorical questions.
5. Finish Stronger
What should be clear throughout your speech is your message, and as you close be sure your audience is left with a strong impression of it. Some of the techniques you use to open can be incorporated in your closing as well.
You can also consider a call to action. If you’ve been speaking about the importance of caring for the environment why not challenge your audience to start a recycling programme in their office? Providing a compelling look into the future is also a good technique. Perhaps you could paint a picture of what our world would look like if we don’t stop polluting our oceans.
Keep in mind that this is the part of the speech which will leave the longest impression on your audience. Put the effort into it that it deserves.
6. Make it Personal
- Using strong, concrete examples in your speech will help you hold the interest of those listening. For instance, if you’re talking about how to build the morale in your office describe how everyone in your department volunteered together to help feed the homeless and how well it worked. It’s alright to use good stories that you haven’t experienced yourself if they’re relevant. Examples can touch your listeners. It helps them to see real consequences, and it makes it easy for them to relate.
7. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
- Remember that people listening to your speech are trying to process what you say, retain important information, deal with distractions and more – all at the same time. If someone is reading an article, it is easy for them to go back to something they may have forgotten or to get clarification. They don’t have that option while listening to your speech. Any techniques you use to help would be ideal. Using a phrase, a word, a mantra or an idea more than once can help keep it at the forefront of the mind of your listener.
8. Use Transitions
- Most of us listening to a boring speech perk up when we hear the transitional phrase “in conclusion”. Hopefully that won’t happen with you, but transitions do act as signals to your audience. If you want to emphasize a point, call attention to it. For example if a speaker says, “If there’s one thing I want you to remember…” your listener will very likely pay attention. Just be sure that the point you are making is worth it.
9. Hire a Speechwriter
- One thing I like to emphasize is that we are all writers. You can take the time to write a speech and incorporating the methods I’ve outlined here can help you. However there is also no harm in hiring a speechwriter if you feel the need.
- Perhaps this is your first speech, and you don’t yet feel comfortable airing your early efforts in front of an audience. Perhaps you don’t have the time to craft a speech, or the calibre of your audience requires you to have something to deliver written by a professional. Perhaps you have a first draft written, and you’d like to hire someone to help you refine it until you are satisfied.
- If you have the time and the budget, do some research and hire a good speech writer. Work with them so they understand your audience, your message and your theme. A speech writing professional can help you ensure that you have a final product that you will be confident in and proud to deliver.
I’ve written speeches for ministers, permanent secretaries and other executives. Let me know if you want help crafting the perfect speech or presentation the next time someone wants you “to say a few words”. Contact Me!