An important speech can be a worry. The keys for success are good preparation and confident delivery. If you have prepared your talk well and memorised the key points then you are ready to give a great performance. And it is a performance. Giving a talk should be much more than simply conveying information – it involves an element of drama and of theatre. Here are some tips:
1. Be confident.
You will be nervous and that is natural. The best antidote is to rehearse a clear and confident opening to your talk. The audience can read your demeanour instantly. They will be sad to see a quiet, diffident start so please them with a bright, confident opening. You could ask a question, throw down a challenge, quote a famous person, tell a joke or state an interesting fact. Your start sets the tone and a good start will lift you and the audience.
2. Look them in the eye.
Do not hide behind a lectern or read from your notes. Walk about the stage, look directly at people and talk to them from your heart. Eye contact is important. It engages the audience and raises the level of the talk.
3. Speak clearly.
Your voice is the tool that does the job so use it well. You should not rush or mumble. Use clear short sentences and speak with conviction. Make sure that you can he heard. For larger audiences always use a microphone. Vary your voice. Practise altering the volume, pitch and speed of your delivery. Variety of delivery adds interest especially if it is done in such a way as to reinforce the message.
4. Use some rhetoric.
Barack Obama is a master of using rhetorical devices such as contrast and the list of three. Simple contrasts work well e.g. ‘We come not in fear, but in hope.’ The list of three items is very powerful e.g. ‘We can do this thing, we should do this thing and we must do this thing.’ These well-established methods of delivery may sound a little contrived when you practise them but the audience will respond.
The most powerful weapon in the speaker’s armoury is the pause. Use it carefully and it will rivet your listeners. For example, use it before an important item, after a question or before delivering the punch line to your story.
6. Don’t worry if you forget something.
If you speak from memory and without notes then you will often forget some item that you had intended to say. Don’t worry. The audience does not know that you missed anything so don’t apologise or scramble around. If your speech is short and with a clear message then it is fine.
7. Finish strongly.
Signal that you are concluding and then give a simple summary. End with the one clear message that you want people to take away and then thank them for their attention.
Speaking in public can be daunting but exhilarating too. Enjoy it.