When you speak, people listen. Now WHAT they listen to while you speak is key to determining what kind of a speaker you are. I have listened to people snoring or listened to my imagination during some speeches. You might have as well. But there are some speeches that can change your life. Your style of speaking is also often used to determine how charismatic you are as a leader. Therefore, in a lot of ways career or life progress is dependent on how well you can speak to an audience.
The best part: The more you do it, the easier it gets.
Be aware of how you react when you are nervous while speaking. This is important because we can be our own worst enemies under the spotlight. Do you tend to speak faster? Does your accent change? Do you forget your lines? Do you say too much? Do you start shaking? Do you get really cold or hot? Knowing the signs can help you take control of your reactions. Just as you begin feeling that nervous energy rising, shift your focus on the strategy that helps you remain calm.
Preparation really helps. Its easier to speak to an audience when you have had some time to prepare. However, the more confident you get as a speaker, the lesser the need for preparation will be. Preparation is always helpful so use it well. Just remembering that you prepared for the speech can help you stay composed when you begin feeling nervous.
Prepare the content to fit the context. You can have a great talk prepared but if you forget to apply it to the right audience and context, it’s the same as being unprepared.
Presentation matters. When all eyes are on you, the way you present yourself and the speech will make a huge impact on how interested your audience will be. If you have your speech printed out in multiple sheets of paper, use a folder to keep them organized. It’s hard for people to take you seriously when you are disorganized. Prompting cards are helpful when there is no podium. You can hold the cards in your hand easily and they can have the outline on them or quotes that cannot be paraphrased.
Your body language speaks as loud as your voice. Standing at ease is usually the most comfortable posture during a speech. Don’t slouch unless you are using it as an illustration in your speech. Use your hands to gesture but don’t overdo it. You must have heard this ‘helpful’ tip – fix your eye on a corner of a room if you are nervous and it will make public speaking easy. You don’t have to do that to make speaking easier. Maintain eye contact with your audience. If you have the stage to walk around, feel free to – again, don’t overdo it. Your movements should serve two purposes: to keep the audience engaged and to accessorize your speech.
Use pauses instead of thinking sounds: Pauses during speeches can be used for various reasons. For example when you make a point that needs to sink in, you can pause for maybe two or more seconds. Pauses can also help you when you need to use your notes because you forgot the next point. Just remember not to flip frantically through those pages in the middle of a sentence. Pauses are also so much better than a long errrr or ummm.
If you want your speech to be remembered for a long time, use your opening and closing portions smartly – those are usually what your audience will remember.
Use opening lines that get people interested. I am usually more interested in listening to a speech if it starts with humor. Humor might be the easiest way to begin a speech because it lightens the mood and gets the audience more interested. Using a reflective question or story can also have a similar impact.
Connect your concluding lines to the introduction. Finish the story that you started as the introduction to your speech or reuse the sentence that captures the message. Short stories, visual illustrations, a word or sentence that summarizes the essence of the speech also make speeches memorable. There’s one speech that I remember especially well mostly because of this line that captured the full talk: You cannot care for others if you don’t take care of yourself.
Speaking to an audience can be an energizing experience. No matter what kind of a speaker you are today, you can keep improving with practice. Keep that speech short and powerful and if the audience is allowed to applaud, enjoy that sound when you are done.