Did you know a vast majority of people list fear of public speaking as their No. 1 phobia? In fact, some people fear it more than death. How about you? What is your least favorite part about speaking in front of a crowd?
This is a vital skill to be a competent leader, and it’s essential to developing executive presence. Let’s unpack some tips to help you give a great speech with confidence.
When speaking to a group, the audience comes first. Your top question should always be: Who is my potential audience?
A key rule of speaking is giving up the love of knowledge or the love of your material and replacing it with a love for people. And then ask yourself: How does this change my approach?
I promise it’ll increase empathy and your ability to relate. Remember, your audience is on your side.
Regardless of the topic, customize your words to connect with your audience. As soon as you’re asked to speak at an event, do your homework. Don’t begin selecting material until you have reviewed what you know about the situation and your audience.
Do you know 90% of a good presentation revolves around planning?
As author Stephen Covey would say, you must begin with the end in mind. Some key planning questions to consider as you prepare: What does my audience need to know? Why do they need to know it? What do they need to do? How can I help them remember it? That’s the STAR approach, “something they’ll always remember.”
To answer the first three questions, start by writing a one-sentence goal for the speech.
What do you want to happen? Be a train, not a Ferris wheel, and take your audience somewhere. You are trying to make a difference in their lives.
For example, a speech goal might be: “To build confidence in leaders, showing them that through excellent preparation, they can grow to be proficient in public speaking.”
Next, write a one-sentence theme for your speech: the main idea that leads to your goal. Craft an epic talk which engages and informs the audience.
Now, list three to four important points that support your theme.
Finally, help them identify their STAR. Give them a chance to complete this statement with their audience neighbor: “Yesterday, (your name) spoke to us about___.” “We all left never to forget his/her main point, which was ___.”
As you begin your speech, accomplish three things from the start:
You’ve now captured your audience’s attention, and now it’s time to move into the body of your speech. What does that look like?
Keep the main points to a minimum. Three is a good number to shoot for. Rank them by impact. Develop a smooth transition between them with intentionality. Then organize the information based on your goal.
Be sure to select material that focuses on benefits for your audience and is easy for them to apply in their lives.
Enhance your points with slides, numbers, examples, stories or metaphors. Be sure to use only one slide per concept. Remember people can’t listen to you and read the slides at the same time.
Throughout your speech you’ll need to mix it up every 8-10 minutes to regain audience attention. To do this, consider these ideas: make them move, use props, make them laugh (share a funny cartoon), watch a video clip, take an assessment or write on a flipchart.
Be sure to vary your vocal delivery with the rate and pace of speech, including dramatic pauses. Enunciate clearly and pronounce the words. Vary your volume to emphasize key points or to dramatize a story. Consider “what is it like to be the person listening to me? What do I like about other speakers?”
Be sure to make eye contact. Spend 3-5 seconds on a person and move on, and don’t talk to your Power Point.
Use facial expressions when appropriate and hand gestures to emphasize points.
Practice good posture (not rounded shoulders or slouching). Roll your shoulder blades back to relax them.
Use movement. Walk into the audience.
Give some thought to your dress and appearance. It should usually be a step up from a typical audience member.
Show enthusiasm (or not) – you’ll be contagious either way. Your audience mirrors your emotional output.
As you conclude your talk, don’t lose the retention value of this key wrap-up segment. You are trying to leave a lasting impression. Consider these tips:
I always have the audience write down their takeaways or share them with the person next to them. Remind them they must do something with the information within 72 hours or there’s the likelihood of forgetting the important information to apply.
These tips move you through the preparation and execution of great public speaking. They bring you back to the first and most important question: Who is my audience?
Adequately answering that question will add value and make your speech relatable and memorable, and then everyone walks away a hero.
Paul D. Casey lives in the Tri-Cities and is the owner of Growing Forward Services, which aims to equip and coach leaders and teams to spark breakthrough success. He also is the executive director of Leadership Tri-Cities.
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