NEWS FLASH: Not everyone was born a public speaker.
Yes, there are those people who can just walk into a room and own it with little effort. However, in reality, majority of us do not fit into that category. Good news: you don’t have to be a pro to give a good speech! Here are 10 tips for making a great speech every time.
If you are visiting this page at midnight to find a magical way to prepare a speech for your class tomorrow, stop reading and get some sleep. Because no good speech came from someone just “winging it.” Speeches given without any planning can be either a mess or a half success. Why not experience a whole success?
First of all, pick a topic if it is not already given to you. Pick a topic you are interested in. The worse thing to do is pick an unfamiliar topic that you are not even 1% interested in.
Second, make an outline and stick to it. Once you have brainstormed and organized your thoughts on paper, you have your work cut out for you. You really do. Treat this outline like your safety blanket. It is your foundation to success.
You’ve heard it again and again: “Practice makes perfect!” Now that you have a good outline, you HAVE TO practice. No matter how comfortable you feel about the topic, you must practice. Take it from someone who knows. I have given a speech once where I did not practice. I read my outline a couple times thinking that I was ready, but when the time came, I stumbled through the whole thing. Ever since then, I always practice my speech beforehand. One good tip is to practice the ACTUAL speech. Some speeches are timed, so it’s best to practice alone with a timer as if you are giving the real presentation.
3. Get some rest
Nothing is worse than giving a speech when you are half asleep. Granted, life happens. Perhaps your infant was crying till 5 am. Perhaps you just came from a 12 hour shift and still need to complete a load of assignments before 12:00 am. Either way, make sure you can do anything in your power to get a decent amount of sleep before your speech. You will feel more alert which will leave less room for careless rambling in your speech.
4. Make eye contact
The worst thing to do is keep your eyes on your note cards during your whole presentation. That is a sure way to lose points on your speech. You do not want that. It may seem scary at first to look at everyone while you speak, but stay calm. Take a deep breath and make eye contact with as many people as you can. Shift your focus. Do not go overboard and scan the rows one by one. You will scare people, and they will not learn anything from your speech!
5. Use “good” visual aids
I say “good” because I have seen some visual aids that were poorly constructed. Always make a power point if it is allowed. Power points are large enough for everyone to see and clearer than pictures under an overhead machine. An attractive, well organized power point presentation makes an excellent “attention-getter” for your audience. If it is neat and well planned, you will also gain some respect from your audience. You may even want to bring some tangible visual aids as well. For example, bring some rocks if you are talking about rocks and minerals. If passing it around becomes a distraction,just hold it where everyone can see.
As Annie says “you’re never fully dressed without a smile.” And she’s right! It’s always a good idea to smile, especially during a speech. Before you begin, smile and introduce yourself. Throughout the presentation, remember to smile occasionally. Nothing turns off an audience more than a cold serious face. How can you persuade people that mayonnaise is the best condiment when you look like you hate mayonnaise. A smile shows confidence and passion. That’s what people want to see.
7. Use humor
Anyone can humor to add some flare to a speech. Unless your topic is not serious, a little humor wouldn’t hurt. If you are not naturally a funny person, try using some sarcastic humor. A little oxymorons can trigger laughter which will make your audience and yourself feel more comfortable. Just don’t over do it and keep it appropriate.
8. Make natural movements
It’s best not to stay in one place like a statue. People will get the impression you are either nervous or just plain boring. Try speaking with your hands a little. If you are naming points, try using your fingers naturally to count off each point. Try walking a little away from your main spot just to get a better view of your audience and show them you are approachable. Stay loose. Don’t ever stand in one spot with your hands folded. That will make you look very unapproachable.
9. Avoid fillers
Whatever you do, do not overuse “um” and “like.” I noticed that people get a good laugh from a casual speaker who will use “like” here and there. For example saying “I went to the store and was like” rather than “I went to the store and thought to myself” may be more natural depending on timing and audience. But a general rule is to avoid it as much as possible. NEVER use curse words as a filler. That is not professional at all. Even if you forgot a statistic or a name of something, do not use vulgar language at any time in the presentation. I know, the awkward pauses may be inevitable, but remain appropriate. When in doubt, just skip over it instead of making yourself look like a fool.
10. Believe in yourself
I know this may seem cliche, but once you have all of the top tips in your pocket, you need to make it happen. If you keep telling yourself you can’t do it, you will not be able to do it. Yes, your nightmare will happen if you do not pull up your pants and start believing. Think about it this way, you practiced and planned so why shouldn’t you be confident? If you have prepared your best, do not be ashamed of what you have to deliver. There will always be critics, but don’t take it personally and sort through the right comments. Remember to use your feedback to improve on what you lack.
And there you have it! Now you are equipped with 10 tips of how to give the perfect speech. Stick to these tips, and you may even surprise yourself on how amazing of a public speaker you can be! Good luck!