What helps you perform effectively when you have to make a speech in public?


Speaking in public is more and more part and parcel of every executive’s job and public speaking is a task that has to be performed by more and more executives at all levels of an organization. This can be a very intimidating prospect for many people and stage fright can impact a great deal on the performance of the person who doesn’t enjoy the exercise. Here are some ideas on how to perform this exercise more effectively:

  1. Public speaking is a skill that can be learned: some people enjoy speaking in public and don’t seem to fear speaking in public. If you don’t belong to this category, don’t worry because public speaking is a skill you can learn. The first thing to do is to admit that you don’t enjoy the experience and then ask yourself why. This will help you define a simple action plan to manage the reasons why you are ill at ease when you speak in public. You may never attain greatness but you will gradually become more effective and above all less apprehensive.
  2. Prepare your speech in advance: it helps to prepare your speech in advance, especially if you don’t like the exercise. Write down what you want to say.
  3. Follow your plan and keep it simple: Of course, the more you say, the more you may find it difficult. Keep it simple. As you have planned your speech in advance, follow your plan. Tell your audience what you are going to say, say it and then when you conclude, remind your audience what you told them.
  4. Practice makes perfect: Of course, practice beforehand and if possible, learn your text off by heart.  It helps to rehearse, just like actors do before a play.
  5. Share your ideas in advance with some colleagues. If you know in advance that what will say is aligned with what your colleagues expect, you will be more comfortable with your presentation.
  6. Don’t read your slides, summarize them. If you have a powerpoint presentation to support your speech, don’t read your slides as this will possibly bore your audience. Try to summarize each slide in terms of key ideas. This will help your audience remember the key points of your speech.
  7. Find friends in the audience. When presenting and especially if you are speaking to a large audience, find friends in the audience and speak as if you are presenting to them. This will make your presentation more personal and make the context less forbidding. Don’t hesitate to smile when you address a friend in the audience.
  8. Dress comfortably: it helps if you dress comfortably in clothes you prefer. The more you are at ease with your appearance, the more confident you will feel.
  9. Imagine yourself making the speech successfully: just like sportsmen who imagine themselves performing the action successfully in advance (the golfer imagines himself making the putt, the soccer player taking the penalty, etc.). By making the speech in your mind, you are actually doing the action before you actually do it!
  10. Show conviction: people don’t always remember the words or the facts you may present but they always remember how you make them feel. Remember to engage your audience­­­. Don’t hide behind your slides but speak to your audience directly. Prepare a joke and use it at the appropriate moment. Always finish on a positive note.  If you make a mistake or forget a point, keep going. Nobody will probably notice.

Some quotes from famous speakers to help:

Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all(Winston Churchill).

It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech(Mark Twain).

In making a speech one must study three points: first, the means of producing persuasion; second, the language; third the proper arrangement of the various parts of the speech(Aristotle).

What helps you to perform effectively when you have to make a speech in public?

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