Great speakers live forever and so do their immortal words. When you speak well, you can motivate others. Aristotle believed that no person could aspire to leadership without rhetoric.
“Every master was once a disaster.”
Pay careful attention to the following tips:
Know Your Audience
Great speakers study their audiences like a chess master studies a chessboard. Most of this study takes place before the audience ever assembles. Plan your speech with your audience members in mind. Who will they be? Will the audience be mostly male or female, wealthy or poor, young or old? What about their occupations? How much will they know about your topic? What are their primary values? Ask yourself such questions. Aim to speak as they speak. The more you know about them, the better you can connect with them.
Preparing The Speech
Get out a blank sheet of paper. Write your speech title at the top. In one sentence, explain your speech’s purpose. Now fill the sheet of paper front and back with all the statistics, facts, thoughts and ideas you have about your topic. You might need many sheets for this purpose. Once everything is on paper, organize your points. Highlight the most important ones.
Get your audience to think and feel. Remember all those times when you loved story time as a child? That still stands true, even for adults. Focus your anecdotes on other people, not yourself, unless they reveal something meaningful and personal about you. Such stories touch your listeners’ hearts. Abraham Lincoln was a master speaker at weaving such stories into his speeches. Moreover, stories and anecdotes help people sense the emotions in your speech and reflect on your message.
Use a strong opening to get off to a fast start in winning over your audience. Plan and practice every word of your speech’s important beginning. As a public speaker, use words that immediately capture the interest of your listeners. If you don’t seize their attention within the first five seconds, you are in trouble. Pique their curiosity. State an outcome so they become eager to learn the cause. Having a great opening that makes audience members sit on the edge of their seats is a terrific way to develop confidence as a speaker. Such confidence can carry you through to the end of your speech.
Try to stimulate your audience: make your first point and follow it with an illustrative anecdote or story. Then enhance your second point with some relevant quotation and so on.
“Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.”
– Dorothy Sarnoff
Make the end of your speech as memorable as the opening. Plan it just as carefully. Write your ending. Practice until it flows naturally. Do not end your speech with a trite thank you. Instead, end it with words and thoughts that the members of your audience will not forget. But at the same time, don’t take too long in wrapping things up!
Stage Fright? I have it too!
“Human beings are talking beings.”
Many people are afraid of public speaking, but you can overcome this fear. First, understand that stage fright is natural. Every public speaker has had to beat the jitters at one time or another. One good tactic is to be totally enthusiastic about your topic. Get excited about communicating it. The crowd is with you. Use internal conversations to decrease your nervousness. Repeat “I like myself” and “I can do it.” As psychologist William James advised, “The very best way to achieve a feeling is to act as if you already had that feeling.” Feel joyful about your upcoming speech. That’s the secret of every successful public speaker.
Practice, Practice, and Practice
The best way to overcome the fear of any activity is to do it, over and over again, until it becomes second nature. This rule applies to every facet of life, including public speaking.
Give yourself credit for your speech preparation. Let all your hard work move you along when you are on stage. While you are speaking, reserve judgment about how you are doing until later. Don’t let anyone distract or discourage you. If your speech bombs, learn from that failure so you will give a better speech next time.
You should not learn your speech by heart. What if you forget? You simply need to remember your speech in points. Such as easy-to-recall six major points. Keep a small piece of paper with you, with your points written on it. This would help you concentrate and stay on track.
Be it a keynote address, or a presentation, little by little, this is the way to be a great speaker. Keep this rule in mind: What you say is never about you. It is always about your audience. Put your focus there and you will do great.