So, you’re giving a speech. You have some thoughts about what specifically you want to say, but beyond that you’re feeling a nagging doubt. What, then, should you consider before preparing for and then delivering your speech?
Whether you are an experience professional speaker or you are just getting your feet (and palms) wet in standing before an audience, the following can assist in making you a more effective speaker:
1. Know Your Audience. To whom will you be speaking? Why are they there? What are they expecting from you? The answers to those questions should influence what a speaker should say. Understanding the audience is paramount in being able to effectively tailor and then deliver a speech that will be meaningful.
2. Know Your Subject. You have been asked to speak because you are an authority on your subject matter. The audience will have confidence in you in direct proportion to the confidence and mastery you display in the delivery of your material. Take the time to distill your subject and arrange it in the most logical, unambiguous progression. Use language that the audience can understand, and simplify to the extent necessary any technical or otherwise complicated content that might be beyond their expertise.
3. Look and Act Like You Belong. Dress for the occasion in appropriate, well-fitting clothing. Be aware of your posture and avoid slouching or leaning on the podium. Speaking in pleasing, conversational tones, being relaxed and confident, and maintaining good eye contact are all important. Public speaking is a performance, and as such rehearsal time is necessary to enhance not only the power of your words, but the body language and overall visual effect which will support and reinforce your message.
4. Pace Yourself. You’re not a sprinter dashing frantically toward the finish line. The audience will never have a chance to catch up if the pace is too frenetic. And if they can’t catch up, they’ll give up. Instead, find natural pauses to allow the important points to be absorbed. Enthusiasm and passion on the part of a speaker are always preferred, and can also serve to channel any nervousness that might otherwise tend to increase the rate of speech. The use of appropriate and well-timed humor can put both audience and speaker at ease.
5. Make the Connection. Effective speakers are convincing. They convince others by the power of their own conviction. They are passionate. They love their subject. They make eye contact and use hand gestures and facial expressions that add additional texture to their message. Their words are authoritative and persuasive. And quite often they utilize mild self-deprecating humor to provide a good balance to their message.
You can become an effective public speaker by paying heed to the foregoing, and by practicing and honing your skill. Public speaking is an acquired skill, and you can improve with effort and application.