Lots of people are intimidated when faced with giving a short speech. Preparation is the key to overcoming any anxieties and delivering a successful presentation.

Get Back to Basics in Order to Find Your Key Message

If you are stuck at where to start writing your speech, try writing it as a letter to a friend. Now, find the key message in your letter and get rid of any extraneous information. Every stage of your speech should illustrate this key message. Being merciless in your editing will ensure a more powerful speech.

Everybody Loves a Good Story, Here’s How to Tell Yours

People love to hear stories. Use a good personal story to connect with your audience and deliver your message.

 

Next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.

- Khalil Gibran

 

Good storytelling has innate patterns and elements.  Every story that you tell should have a main character, in this case, it should probably be you. Personal stories are the best ones to use for a short speech, this way the audience can relate to you.

Next your story needs to have a conflict or problem, if you are talking about quitting smoking then you want to use a story about the struggle of battling this strong addiction. Each member of your audience has struggled with something in their own life. When you make it personal, they’ll feel your struggle and will be rooting for your success.

Then your story needs resolution. How did you stop smoking, and what did you change to see results? Finally, you want to wrap up the story so that it sends a clear message. Your message here should be the one thing that you want your audience to take away and remember.

Be Descriptive: Show, Don’t Tell Your Audience the Details

Just like in writing, it’s important to show your audience not spell out every detail for them. For example, don’t tell your audience you were “embarrassed” when you cheated and had a cigarette on your lunch break. Instead describe your reaction to the emotions, about “the flush that rose up your cheeks” when a colleague who came by your desk after lunch. You were certain they could smell the smoke.

Plan and Rehearse Your Material to Avoid Nerves on Speech Day

Create notecards to keep you on track with your speech. Make sure they are brief and easy to read. You’ll only want to glance at them, not read them. It’s important to know your subject and material thoroughly. You’ll be much more comfortable and your personality will shine through your speech when you aren’t struggling to remember the words.

Practice in front of a mirror or, even better, in front of a video camera. Stand up while you practice and imagine yourself in the room where you’ll be giving your speech. Notice your posture and hand gestures. Standing up straight and tall will boost your authority. Plan your wardrobe for the speech. Be sure that what you are wearing is suitable for the venue and projects the desired image. If you are addressing business people, wear a suit.

Body Language:

  • Minimize hand gestures to maximize their impact
  • Don’t pace back and forth, it’s distracting for the audience
  • Use your eyes, connect with audience and judge engagement
  • Maintain a confident posture, shoulders back and head up
  • Clothing sets the tone for your speech

Speak Up, The People in the Back Can’t Hear You!

We tend to speak quietly when we are nervous. Speak as if you are talking to a person in the back of the room. It may feel uncomfortable or unnatural at first. That’s why it’s important to practice using your “speech” voice in advance.

Respect Your Audience By Being Mindful of Time Constraints

Most speeches have time constraints. Make sure you’ve timed your entire speech during practice. Studies have shown that most people are not very good at estimating times. On the day of your speech ask a friend or colleague time your speech and give you discreet cues, one minute before the end time and again at the end. Or set a silent timer on your phone and keep where you can easily glance at it. People will appreciate your respect for their time.

Your time and effort in preparing for your short speech will pay off. Public speaking is a skill that you can learn and improve upon with practice. You might even find yourself seeking out speaking opportunities!

Featured photo credit: Nina Prentice giving welcome speech/British Embassy Rome via flickr.com

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