Almost everyone is required to address an audience at some time or other. Whether it be a lecture, a work presentation or a wedding speech, success depends on developing a good public speaking technique. For the very nervous, the good news is that successful public speaking is attainable by anyone who is prepared to give it a go, and to master a few simple strategies.
The Art of The Keynote Speech
Anyone who has never done it before will naturally fear speaking in public: the speaker, whether the audience numbers five or five hundred, is in a very exposed position. But it is well worth embracing the opportunity to address an audience whenever it comes: a successful public speaking technique is a useful string to anyone’s bow.
Whether nervous beginner or a seasoned professional, the speaker should always concentrate on the audience. The beginner who concentrates on self is likely to give a nervous, stumbling performance, while some experienced speakers, by contrast, enjoy the sound of their own voices too much – which never makes for effective public speaking.
One useful tip on public speaking is to ask who, what and why: who are the audience, what is the occasion, and why do they require a speaker? The annual golf club dinner will be a very different occasion from a sales conference, and will require a completely different performance.
Keynote Speaking Techniques
Some speeches are accompanied by visual aids, some are given through a microphone, but the ears and eyes of the audience will always be on the man or woman in front of them. Effective public speaking depends on the speaker.
First, then, he or she must look right, which entails dressing appropriately. If there is no dress code, the golden rule is to dress up rather than down. Collar and tie will not offend a jeans and T-shirt audience, but jeans and T-shirt may well upset a collar and tie audience.
Then there is the speaker’s voice. No tips on public speaking technique will help those who fear speaking in public so much that they mumble or gabble. Successful public speaking requires measured delivery and a clear voice, but these must be modulated to suit what is being said. A joke in an after-dinner speech will demand a quite different delivery from a eulogy at a funeral. No one can learn public speaking properly without tact and sensitivity.
Effective Speaking Strategies
Strange as it might sound, intense word-by-word preparation, though it is often recommended, is really only for those whose experience ensures that they no longer fear speaking in public. Politicians at party conferences read prepared speeches from auto-cues because they dare not get anything wrong. But reading convincingly from an autocue is a skill in itself, and not one which most speakers will ever require.
Far better than reading a speech – or, just as bad, memorizing it word for word – is simply to have in mind a clear aim and to make a very few notes which can be referred to in order to stay on track.
One of the best tips on public speaking is to visualize the occasion in advance. It helps if the venue is familiar, but it should be sufficient simply to imagine giving the speech in front of the sort of audience that can be expected – and effortlessly making them laugh, or making them cry as required.
How To Prepare Your Speech
Preparation must be thorough in the sense that the speaker must always know where the speech is going, and how it will get there. But micro-preparation usually leads to a surfeit of detail, and panic if anything goes wrong. Spontaneous delivery – which does not rule out, for example, a few set-piece jokes – makes for much more successful public speaking.
It really isn’t that hard. Anyone can succeed who has the nerve just to try. Remember above all that the speech may be by the speaker, but it is for the audience. That one thought should guide the speaker towards appropriate dress, a well-modulated voice, and the sort of preparation which results in a really effective speech.