Speeches, as with presentations and important announcements can be a pretty daunting task. It is something that becomes unavoidable as you climb higher up the corporate ladder.
Being a good speaker is one of the common traits of a thought leader. Confidence, coherence, and finesse may sound like a piece of cake, but are a lot harder to execute in reality. Most of us tend to get caught up with stage fright and forget about the actual preparation.
Like most things, it takes a little time, patience and personality to ace the speech, so here are some tips to help you drop the mic and kill it.
Be aware of your audience
Know who you are speaking to – students at a study hall, media guests at a launch event, or corporate VIPs at a business convention. Who ever it may be, being aware of your audience will help set the tone and delivery of your speech.
Check out this great speech from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg as she discusses why fewer women reach the top of their professions. You can guess her audience is women, and Sheryl addresses her points so well.
Understand your topic
It’s easier to explain something that you are passionate about. Knowing and understanding the topic of your speech will give you the confidence to express yourself better and do a phenomenal job at delivering the message.
Watch as Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson movingly talks of growing up in ‘lower-income-housing’ and about the people she knows who still rely on the state for healthcare. Clearly she knows her topic, and can relate to it, and is using her experience and knowledge to educate others – it’s powerful:
List down as many potential talking points as you can. Take a minute to review that list and pick out the relevant and important points to go into length about.
Focusing on the important points will provide some structure, maximising the delivery of your speech. Your audience will appreciate the pacing and flow, which will engage and prevent them from tuning out and getting bored.
One killer line
Put some thought into that one killer line that encapsulates your speech – it packs in a punch and makes it thoughtful and memorable.
Think about Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”, or John F Kennedy’s “…ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can for your country” – both were delivered with passion and punch:
Build on your intensity and impact by repeating the important points.
Martin Luther King boldly repeated, “I have a dream”, but if you find that repeating your killer line may be too much of an overkill – try instead simple repetition of brands, names or important points that you want your audience to remember.
Grab the audience’s attention from the start – make a joke, share an interesting fact, tell a story or a personal experience. Get the message across in three points or less. This will avoid unnecessary droning.
Keep it short, simple and to the point. The key is to keep things as succinct as possible. This is easier said than done, but using the structure as a guide will help focus on the messaging.
There is no need to stress too much about ending with a bang. Try leaving it up to the audience. Open the floor to questions as this is one of the best ways to discover how effective your speech was. It gives you an opportunity to sense the energy of your audience – do they seem excited and eager to ask more questions? Or are they slumped in their seats, eyes glazed and lifeless?
There is always something to take away from the end of your speech so use this as a lesson for your next one.
Practice makes perfect
Read your speech out loud alone, practice in front your friends and record yourself. Listen to constructive criticism and feedback, and take everything onboard.
Do you need help writing your next speech? Our team is ready to make your words work for you. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.