You don’t have to be a famous celebrity, renowned lecturer, lauded scientist or important historical figure to deliver a public speech that captivates your audience and leaves them hanging on your every word. The key to presenting a successful speech is very simple: offer a clear, relevant message and illustrate it with a couple of compelling stories.
You don’t need loads of data or a fancy PowerPoint presentation to get your message across. Instead, focus on keeping your speech simple, and providing a clear beginning, middle and end. Select one specific theme and remove everything else. Because speeches are a one-way form of communication they need to be efficient. Audiences typically don’t recall a lot of what they hear, so keep it simple and focused and provide only the information they need to understand your message.
Here are some tips to help you connect with your audience and deliver an impactful speech.
Speechwriting is a lot easier once you realise that all you need is to find one key idea or message, and provide at least three related stories to give perspective and support the topic. Having lived the story makes it easier to avoid just reading the speech or trying to memorise it. You can speak from memory with a genuine feeling that will connect with people and make your story stick in people’s mind. Telling stories elicits their emotions, which will release dopamine in their brain, making the information more easily retained. When you make people experience and feel your stories, they will engage and not forget them.
Know your audience. Determine what problem your audience faces and address that first. Then go into more detail about your area of expertise and why you are the solution to their problem. Most audiences have two initial questions – “Why am I here?” and “What’s in it for me?” By answering those questions early on, it will naturally lead them to ask how you will solve their issue. Your job is to first answer the question why and then provide the how.
Jump Right In
Many people make the mistake of beginning their speech by thanking the person introducing them or thanking the audience for attending. Ditch the thank yous. Instead, begin immediately framing story that hints at what the topic will be without giving it completely away. Start by providing a question, a statistic, or an audience interaction. Since you’ve already decided what one topic your speech will discuss, it should be easy to figure out an interesting opening. Jump right into your first story, which will subtly inform your audience what your speech will be about.
Stand Up Straight
Posture really is important. Whether you are walking the stage or standing behind a podium, maintain good posture. Pretend that you have a book on your head or your head is being held up by an imaginary string. Good posture projects confidence, which will inspire your audience’s confidence in you.
Use Comfortable Body Language
When you show apparent signs of nervousness, such as shifting your weight or folding your arms defensively, your audience will pick up on your anxiety and be less likely to be open to your message. Pretend you are having a good time and be open with the audience in order to facilitate them having a good time and being open to you. A successful public speech will convey passion and emotion. If you project excitement rather than nervousness, your audience will be excited as well.
No matter what you natural speaking style is, authenticity is crucial. Your message won’t be successfully presented if you are pretending to be someone you are not. Instead, be your best self. Consider taking a public speaking course to work on projecting your authentic voice. Work on ensuring that your passion, conviction and commitment shine through, whether you are soft-spoken or have a strong voice, A variety of delivery styles can work, as long as you are speaking with your true voice.
Practice Your Speech
Don’t practice your speech in front of a mirror. Practicing to your own reflection is too distracting. Instead, either practice in your head, an imaginary audience or round up a small practice audience of family or friends. Work on your actual speech and delivery and try to eliminate filler words such as “so”, “um,” and “like”, and practice silence in their place.
Work the Room
If possible, try to meet some of the audience members prior to your speech. Then, you’ll be able to focus on some friendly faces, which can help alleviate nervousness. When you make contact with that familiar face, the people around them will feel like you are talking to them as well. Try to imagine your speech as individual conversations with different people in the room.
Enjoy the Experience
When you love being in the moment, and really enjoy addressing the audience, they can sense it. When you’re happy and relaxed and feeling connected to the audience, they will feel the same way.