If your career path includes an evolving leadership role in your organization, you will almost certainly need to speak in public regularly. No need to panic, here are seven useful tips for giving a great speech.
1. Use an icebreaker. Avoid a ho-hum opening such as “Thank you for coming this evening.” Instead, connect with your audience using an effective icebreaker. An icebreaker will relax the initial tension between the speaker and the audience and allow you establish a flow of positive energy. Successful icebreakers should relate to your topic and can be rhetorical questions, compelling statistics, humorous quotations, a picture, personal anecdote, or analogy.
2. Focus your material. People expect short speeches today, so good speakers will write a focused message with a limited number of key points. Clarify your take-home message and organize your speech with three to four key points. Structure it with an opening, body, and closing. In the opening, tell them what you are going to tell them; in the body tell them; in the closing, tell them what you told them.
3. Use transitions. Transitions are words and phrases that link and build on your key points. Examples include: Next I’d like to discuss what’s happening with our competition; Now that we’ve talked about the competition, I’d like to explain our strategy. Transitions can also be as simple as: First, second, and finally. Speakers who use strong transition statements will create a flow that makes listening easy.
4. Make every word count. Great speakers are skilled wordsmiths. They prune the deadwood from their speeches and presentations, simplify their phrases, and sharpen their sentences. They use listener-friendly, conversational language and avoid long-winded technical jargon.
5. Become less self-centered. The narcissistic speaker is more concerned with looking good and speaking to impress others than with delivering valuable information that will resonate with listeners. Effective speakers shed their egos and speak from the heart with passion and warmth that energizes and motivates their audiences. This charisma transforms the speaker’s message into a memorable experience for listeners.
6. Create energy through your voice. A memorable message comes from the heart and is delivered with energy and emotion through voice and tone. A voice with a smile creates warmth and goodwill with your audience. However, your voice often mirrors your emotional state and will reveal your anxiety and apprehension about speaking. Smoothing out an unpleasant, wavering voice requires conscious awareness, vocal practice, and rehearsal. Start with good posture, deep breathing, and quality enunciation. Then practice your volume, pace, pausing, and pitch. Listen to your voice on tape.
7. Lighten up. Every speech you deliver is an opportunity to share something insightful with your audience. Using a bit of humor, poking fun at yourself, or telling a personal story helps your audience relate to you as a genuine, compassionate person. Avoid using podiums or other barriers that distance you from the audience. Use open body language to create professional intimacy. If you are having fun, your audience will pick up on your enthusiasm. They will remember your message. And they will remember and respect you.