It is common for people to be scared of public speaking. Imagine the scenario; you are staring at an expectant audience of people, under hot, bright lights, tasked with presenting a specific idea or topic - it is enough to turn the most confident presenter into a sweaty, shaking mess.
As specialists in public speaking, we have the knowledge and experience to give effective, compelling and interesting speeches that captivate audiences. Applying the tactics below, we use audiovisual materials, organised notes and personal anecdotes to our advantage, keeping our audience hooked until the very last second.
In this article, you will learn the most effective, tried and tested public speaking tips to guarantee a successful speech. By expanding on the advice in this post, you can also achieve effective communication in the workplace and in your personal life.
So, how do you give a good speech? Take a look at the tips below to overcome a fear of public speaking, and watch our examples of the best speeches in recent history in relation to our advice.
1. Make sure you are prepared:
An unorganised speaker can be spotted from a mile away. Messy notes, awkward pauses and erratic movements are sure-fire signs of a nervous public speaker. As such, it is important that you fully understand the topic that is to be discussed in as much depth as possible, in order to appear knowledgeable and competent.
Familiarising yourself with your notes is the ideal way to avoid awkward pauses and speak naturally, maintaining the audience's attention. Additionally, being prepared gives you the chance to alter your speech in accordance with difficult language, ensuring that you don’t trip over your words on the night.
2. Improve on feedback:
Feedback is your most important ally, as it gives you the opportunity to improve on unbiased critique. By performing your speech to friends, family and professional peers, you can use their honest opinions to produce a better quality speech on the night.
Whilst completing your speech, it is also beneficial to take note of how the audience is reacting to your performance. If, while you’re giving your speech, you notice your audience losing interest then switch up the speech by introducing a shocking statistic, encouraging audience participation or playing a video clip.
3. Stay organised:
On a similar thread to being prepared, maintaining organisation whilst on stage will ensure that your performance is confident and professional. This includes using minimal notes on postcard-sized pieces of card that you can easily flick through, as opposed to A4 sized pieces of paper that can be noisy and difficult to navigate. Better yet, use nothing at all and talk from memory.
In terms of the material, aim to grab the audience's attention within the first 30 seconds. From there, organise your speech by topics or themes, to avoid losing the audience's interest with an erratic structure. Create a simple framework, highlighting the purpose of your speech and relating every point you make back to the main topic of discussion.
4. Open and close with a bang:
As aforementioned, you need to captivate your audience as soon as you step onto the stage. Though this isn’t always easy, it is important in order to put your point across. We advise that you start your speech with a reliable statistic, personal anecdote or a quote from a recognisable source, all of which immediately referencing the purpose of your discussion.
For example, if I were to perform a speech about climate change my first line may be;
“There were 60% more animals per species walking our planet in 1970,” or, “in 5 days, on July 29th, all of the earth's 2019 resources will be consumed.”
To conclude, summarise your discussion in a concise, hard-hitting statement that your audience will remember. In order to make a real difference to the people in that room, you need to make sure that you leave a residing effect.
5. Work from a simple outline:
Your notes should be the backbone of your speech, not a word for word script for you to follow. Your audience needs to engage with you, but that is difficult to do when your gaze is locked on your notes. By ensuring that you make eye contact with your audience, they will view you as more honest, personable and professional.
By following a simple structure, you are also free to speak from your heart, which will make you appear more passionate and personally invested in the subject of discussion. Your audience will be able to connect with you, sharing your interest in a chosen topic.
6. Use storytelling to your advantage:
A memorable speech is one that is entertaining and interesting. People are more likely to engage with funny stories and exciting personal anecdotes, which they then may relate back to their friends, family and co-workers. Ideally, your audience will be on the edge of their seat, eager to how your story of personal hardship and triumph ends.
An audience laughing is an audience interested. Though you want to avoid forced comedy, a well-paced speech that is both enlightening and light-hearted will stay with the audience even after they have left their seats.
7. Understand your audience:
Your audience should always be the focus of your discussion, as it is unlikely that you will engage a room of mathematicians with the topic of character development in novels. Research your audience and decide what they will want to hear, then tailor your message, language and presentation to suit them.
You also need to take into account the age and level of education of your audience; a room of primary school educated children won’t understand the same language a University lecturer will. Though you may have your own opinions of what makes the perfect speech, you need to understand what your audience needs from your performance.
8. Interact with your audience:
On the topic of audiences, we advise that you get them involved in your speech. It is common for public speakers to ask their audience a question to open their presentation, getting them to raise their hand in response.
Though you should avoid inviting your audience to be lectured and critiqued, for example, “raise your hand if you don’t recycle and are killing the planet”, gaining a general consensus will help you understand the audience and get them involved too. This will also help to maintain interest and concentration, especially if you use it further on in your speech, by placing the attention back on the audience.
9. Use audio/visual materials:
Every person engages with information, some people are visual learners, some are audio and others need to be hands-on with a specific topic. In order to pique the interest of the entire audience, it is advised that you mix up the mediums you use.
Used wisely, video clips, statistics and quotes projected onto a screen behind you will give your audience a visual representation of the information you are relaying to them. This can keep the speech exciting, stimulating the audience with a variety of informative formats. Though you should always keep in mind that YOU are giving the speech, so shouldn’t be overshadowed by the projected information.
10. Avoid nervous movement:
Body language can be a key feature of any speech, with animated presenters commanding the stage with hand gestures and movement. By standing still and only using robotic movements, you are showing your audience that you are lacking in confidence, which will cause them to doubt your knowledge and credibility.
Convey your ideas to the audience by taking advantage of the full stage, using hand movements to highlight certain points and including well-placed pauses in your speech. Remember, you are the expert, so your audience should be hanging off every word you say.
11. Let your personality shine:
More often than not, a good speaker is not just one that is knowledgable and confident but also has a likeable, engaging personality. There is more to public speaking than simply discussing a topic, the audience wants to engage with you one personal level.
The best public speakers are naturally charismatic, entertaining and likeable, so don’t be afraid to let your unique personality shine through your speech. If the audience wanted to subject themselves to a robotic presentation they would flick through a Powerpoint of statistics, instead, they want to connect with a “real” person through their relatable stories.