by Sam Mednick
Now that you’ve put the fear behind you and have brought yourself ‘to the table’, how can you convey your message in the most powerful way?
In part two, we’re going to discuss actual tips and tricks for public speaking with the hopes that you’ll walk away with some tangible tools that you can start putting into practice.
What are the key ingredients to crafting and delivering a powerful speech?
The cardinal rule when giving a speech: Never Be Boring. This is something that might seem obvious, yet it’s one of the areas that most people get wrong. The last thing you want is to look out over a sea of people who are either struggling to stay awake, consumed with their smartphones, or gazing off into the distance. However, there are several things you can do to keep people engaged with all eyes on you. We’ll expand on those areas shortly.
Rule Two is close to follow in importance:
Genuinely care about what you’re talking about.
- If you don’t 100 percent believe and ascribe to it, it’ll be lost on your audience.
- On the contrary, if it’s important to you, people will feel it and believe it.
Now that we’ve delved into a few general points to keep on the radar, let’s break it down even more and figure out how to keep people on their toes.
Five show-stopping public speaking tips
Here are five of the most important areas to consider when putting together and delivering a speech:
Public Speaking Trick #1: A Killer Introduction
When writing the introduction to your speech, make it punchy, thought provoking, and intriguing. This is important because your introduction sets the tone for your entire speech. Sometimes people use stories to start their speeches in order to illustrate the message or theme.
When I was 12 years old, I gave a speech about the power of time and how a millisecond could change your life. It was a story about a decorated and extremely successful Olympic swimmer in the 1960s, Elaine Tanner. She was a renowned Canadian athlete who in the finals of one Olympic race lost the gold medal by a 10th of a millisecond, which in turn changed her entire life. She was expected to win and when she lost her world completely fell apart.
I started that speech with two words: Tick Tick. Two words which continued to replay themselves throughout the five minute speech. The story of Elaine Tanner has stuck with me to this day and people who heard it still come up to me and say: Tick Tick.
Powerful openings and powerful stories create large impacts. Find a story, a quote or a message that resonates with you and convey that to your audience from the second you open your mouth.
Public Speaking Trick #2: Know your audience.
I once heard a woman at a conference give a speech on what small businesses could do to grow, prosper and be valuable. She had an audience of small entrepreneurs that really cared about the topic and people had signed up for it specifically. Her speech was presented awfully. She went on tangents, seldom finished a thought, said “um” a hundred times, over 45-minutes, but because she met the needs of her audience, she got a standing ovation. They had felt that she cared about them and had understood what interested them. That’s how important it is to be tuned into your audience.
If you connect with your audience, even a poorly delivered speech can be well received. If you do not, even a polished one can fall flat.
Public Speaking Trick #3: It’s all about timing.
Public speaking in many ways is like telling a joke — it’s all about timing.
You have to know when to emphasize a word, when to s-l-o-w down, when to speed up, lower your voice, or increase your volume. (Try reading this last paragraph aloud to see if you can hear the inflection in my tone.)
Something that is highly underestimated not only in public speaking but in communication itself, is the use of silence.
Pausing is public speaking’s secret weapon. There is nothing that compares to not saying a word while looking at each member of your audience and knowing that you hold them in the palm of your hand. It’s one of the most powerful tools you can use but many people don’t tap into this because they’re afraid of ‘dead air’. Don’t be scared to pause, it looks like you’re thinking and it also looks like you’re deliberately taking a second before you say what’s next. It’s a wonderful way to re-group and to bring the audience back if you feel like they’ve drifted off. It’s 100 times better than filling empty moments with ‘um’.
Public Speaking Trick #4: Body language is essential.
When we speak about communication style, body language is key. When we’re in front of an audience, how we stand, what we’re doing with our hands and where we’re looking all greatly attribute to our presence and ability to come across with confidence, conviction and passion.
A few Dos and Don’ts to get you started:
- Do: Make eye contact, Keep your hands/arms quiet, Hold your head up
- Don’t: Pace, Sway, Look down
Public Speaking Trick #5: Communicate clearly
Part of conveying your speech and communicating on a whole, is about diction and how you enunciate your words.
If anyone’s ever told you to stop mumbling and speak up, there’s something to it. The more articulate we are and the more clearly we speak, the more others will listen (and can listen) to what we’re saying. With our short attention spans these days you’re that much more likely to lose someone’s interest if they can’t understand you right off the bat.
There are some great ways to practice your diction, a personal favourite is alliteration exercises, sometimes called tongue twisters.
For example, try saying the phrase, “A Big Black Bug.” Now, say it again and hit the G, the K, and the G at the end of each word. Then add: A Big Black Bug Bit A Big Black Bear. Try saying it fives times fast as clearly as possible.
For the extra ambitious ones, this next alliteration was used by radio stations decades ago to test announcers’ abilities to speak clearly.
They had to do it perfectly in 20 seconds or they weren’t hired. Give it a try and see how you fare:
Your delivery is vital, but if your words are not clear and concise, no delivery can save them.
And this leads us to crafting your speech. We’ve so far discussed presentation and clear diction, but what about how to write?
Practical tips on writing a stellar speech
Speech Writing Rule #1: The Rule of Threes.
Use three short sentences followed by one long sentence, for example:
- I love Management 3.0.
- It makes me smile.
- It’s filled with fabulous people.
- But what I love most about the community are the insightful and witty blog posts.
Speech Writing Rule #2: Use three adjectives.
The third one is the most important.
“Friends, Romans, Countrymen lend me your ear.” Let your voice escalate with each word.
Speech Writing Rule #3: Use the right words.
Don’t get caught up twisting your tongue on your own jargon and pretension.
- Short words
- Common words
- Words of definite meaning
- Words of vivid impression
The idea is to help us stay simple with your messaging and communication.
It’s not about sounding intellectual or using big words. It’s about getting your thoughts across, succinctly and passionately, so that people can understand it and be able to visualize it.
Speech Writing Rule #4: Leave them with something to remember.
My mentor once gave me some advice about giving a speech and she said: If you’re lucky, people will take away one message or one story from your speech. That’s all most will ever retain.
So think about one thing that you really want to convey. Own it, learn it, believe in it and practice it over and over until you can say it in your sleep. The more you know your speech, the more confident you’ll feel and the more you can ‘play with it’ when you go live on stage.
Above all, the most important thing to remember when public speaking is to HAVE FUN. Enjoy yourself up there because if you’re smiling your audience can’t help but smile with you.
Yes I promised ten but delivered nine! Now it’s up to you to deliver #10 in the comments below! Don’t have a public speaking or speech writing tip? Then tell us about a public speaking experience that made you laugh or cry and share with us what made it stand out in your mind.
This is the second post in a two-part series about how to be a great public speaker.