How To Give A Great Speech
You can apply this to giving messages and preaching.
Anybody can learn to give a great speech. The best speakers include a clear, relevant message and a few great stories to illustrate it. Forget fancy PowerPoint presentations and loads of data. Instead, keep your speech simple, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Focus on one theme, and eliminate everything else. “People struggle so mightily writing speeches when all they have to do is find a message and three great stories to prove it,” says Jane Praeger, a Columbia University professor and the president of the speech presentation and coaching firm Ovid Inc.
“Speeches are an inefficient form of communication,” adds Nick Morgan, the president of Public Words, Inc., and author of Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma. “People don’t remember much of what they hear, so focus and keep it simple.” Here are tips from the experts.
“You would do better practicing in the shower, and running through the speech in your head, than practicing in front of a mirror, which is distracting,” says Jane Praeger. “You do have to practice out loud, hopefully with a small audience.” Practice replacing deadening filler words like “um,” “so,” and “like” with silence. If you can rehearse in the space where you’ll be speaking, that’s a real plus. Go to the back of the room, imagine that you’re deaf or distracted, and you’ll know how to reach those people.
Work the room
Try to speak to audience members before your speech, so that you can focus on a few friendly faces, particularly if you get nervous. “If you’re making eye contact with a friendly person in quadrant one, everyone to their left will think that you’re talking to them,” says Praeger. “Then do the same thing in quadrant two. You want to see your talk as a series of conversations with different people throughout the room.”
Prepare with relaxation techniques
If you’re nervous before approaching the stage, take a few deep breaths. Picture yourself delivering a successful speech. “Most people will be nervous for the first few minutes,” says Praeger. “You want to channel that adrenaline into positive energy.”
Don’t read your speech
Tell your speech from heart, or use a note card with bullet points as a cheat sheet. Bring the card with you and place it on the lectern. If you freeze up mid-speech, you can take a deep breath, look at your card, and know exactly what story you’re going to tell next.
Stand up straight
Whether you walk across the stage or stand behind a lectern, try to maintain good posture. “Imagine that your head is being held up by a string,” says Praeger.
Lead with an anecdote
Ditch the thank yous and jump right in. [Unless “Thanks Name” is appropriate] People often make the mistake of starting speeches by thanking the introducer, or expressing their happiness at being there. “Instead, jump right in with a framing story that suggests what the topic is without giving it all away, a statistic, a question or some kind of interaction with the audience,” says Nick Morgan. If you know what your speech is about–and it should be about one thing–you should have an easy time deciding on an opening. Get right into the story and let the audience know what the speech will be about.
Keep it simple
Forget fancy PowerPoint presentations and loads of data. Focus on one theme and eliminate everything else. “Speeches are an inefficient form of communication,” says Morgan. “People don’t remember much of what they hear, so focus and keep it simple.” The best speeches include one clear, relevant message and a few great stories to illustrate that message.
Keep it short
“I think a speech should not be more than ten minutes long,” says Praeger. “Five to seven minutes is ideal.” If you’re aiming for seven minutes, your prepared speech should run shorter than that so that you can factor in extra time for pauses and audience responses.
Use body language that makes you appear comfortable
If you show signs of nervousness, like crossing your arms, or clutching your hands in front of your stomach, your audience will sense your nerves and be less open to your message. “You have to pretend that you’re having a good time and are open to the audience so that they can have a good time and be open back to you,” says Morgan. “Successful public speaking is all about passion and emotion. If you’re excited, then we will be, too.”
Articulate your words, regardless of your natural speaking style. “Authenticity is key,” says Praeger. “You can’t be someone you’re not. On the other hand, you can be your best self. Softness doesn’t detract from a speech if you’re committed to what you’re saying. Passion, commitment and conviction are critical for delivery, and you can do that whether you’re soft-spoken or not. Any number of delivery styles will work.”
How To Give A Great Speech, Nick Morgan
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