So here’s the challenge: You have an important speech in the diary. A conference speech perhaps? Or a big pitch? It’s the ultimate test of your public speaking skills.
Where to begin?
Well, as early as possible. The most important ingredient of any speech is preparation. And the first place to prepare is to think about your audience. So many speeches are ruined by experts listing their extensive knowledge on a subject. It’s the public speaking equivalent of bad breath on a first date.
So let’s start by striving to be relevant. Who will be listening? What do you want them to remember? What do you want them to DO as a result? How much information will they be able to absorb? Can you get them into a position where they are desperate to know more?
How to plan
With your goals clearly in place, it’s time to start writing. But not in long sentences. Start with a framework. A plan. A series of sub-headings that link naturally into a shape that takes your audience from where they ARE to where you want them to BE.
Test the structure by reading those headings out loud and linking one to the next naturally and seamlessly. Note down those links and ensure you don’t forget them. You now have a persuasive argument in place rather than an unrelated series of ‘points’.
This process will ensure that you prioritise key messages, and get what really matters to the top. Remember that your audience will often be more excited by ‘benefits’ created by your subject than the subject itself.
Your script now becomes a form of joining the dots. You have a structure that links the speech together. You simply have to pick the most relevant pieces of knowledge and weave them into the story.
Try to begin with some sort of hook. Something that will grab the attention because it is interesting, memorable and possibly funny. Then follow these guidelines:
- Keep your sentences short.
- If a sentence covers more than a line, split it into separate sound-bites …
… using dots to remind you to pause.
- Read passages out loud and underline words that will require particular emphasis to bring them to life
- Keep tabs on the total length. If you speak at 120 words per minute and your time limit is 20 minutes, a brilliant 4,000 word speech will end up rushed and not so brilliant after all.
- Ensure that your words are simple. It’s hard enough to hold an audience’s attention without bamboozling them with jargon.
You don’t need to ‘proof’ a speech. Nobody will know (or care) if your script has a couple of typos. Your job is to sense check it. To ensure that you have ‘translated’ your technical knowledge into something that they will understand and find completely engaging. If it’s not easy to follow, don’t run with it. However good your delivery, it’s impossible to hold an audience’s attention with dry, over-technical content
So you’ve prepared your content. Now is the important part. The delivery. Speaking slowly,. Pausing. Ensuring you make eye contact with your audience for at least 80% of the time. Remaining animated. Ensuring that your body language helps deliver your message.
If you can keep practising until your can finish your own sentences, then you’ll only ever need to glance at your script – and can give the impression of complete mastery of your content.
And if you really believe in what you’ve written, and can deliver it with energy and confidence, you will no longer worry about your public speaking skills.
On the day
Keep your script to hand. However confident you are, it’s better to have the safety net of a well prepared script. Take a couple of deep breaths before you arrive at the podium. Look at the room and smile before you start. And remember that your audience want to be entertained. If you look like you are enjoying yourself, the chances are that they will too.
It’s all very well suggesting what you should do, but we’d much rather do it for you! We write for (and coach) the rich, the famous, the needy, the worthy, the busy and the lazy. Please let us know if you qualify for some help taking your public speaking skills to the next level!
To get in touch…
Please call us any time on +44 (0) 207 118 1600 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be delighted to help!