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How to Give a Great Speech, Part 1: Preparation

How to Give a Great Speech, Part 1: Preparation

How to Give a Great Speech

    If you have to give a keynote speech, an after-dinner talk, or an address to a group of customers or colleagues then preparation leads to success. Here are some key tips:

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    1. Investigate the audience.

    Find out as much as you can about your audience, their interests and their likely mood. What is it that they will want from your session – information, entertainment, tips, ideas, guidance? What will they have heard or done just before you come on? Will they be impatient to eat? Will they have had something to drink? The better you understand their needs and attitude the more suitable you can make your speech.

    2. Talk to the organiser.

    If you are giving a talk at someone else’s event then find out what outcomes they want from your session. What are their expectations? What would represent success for them?

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    3. Investigate the logistics.

    What is the room layout – theatre style, cabaret style etc? Will you have a podium, a stage or a microphone? Ask for the things that you might need – e.g. a microphone, a projector and even a glass of water. Understand the programme and exactly how much time you have. Look at what comes before and after you and make sure that your talk fits in appropriately.

    4. Select the theme of your talk and the key message.

    What is the main purpose of your communication? What is the single most important thing you are trying to achieve with this talk? Focus on that. It is easier for people to understand and remember a short clear message rather than a long rambling collection of different points.

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    5. Write down various ideas that support your message.

    Collect different ideas, stories, quotations, jokes (if appropriate) that relate to and support your theme. You can do this on separate pieces of paper or on your computer. Move them around and consider how to construct your story.

    6. Build a structure.

    Your talk should have a simple and clear structure to it. For example you might start by stating a problem that affects the listeners. You might explain what causes the problem and why it is serious. You might then introduce your proposal for solving the problem. Then you might finish with a summary and a call to action that lucidly states what you want them to do. Whatever the topic, your talk should build in a logical way so that your audience can easily follow your train of thought.

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    7. Add some light and shade.

    Variety is the spice of life. Think about how you can make your talk really engaging by mixing the approach a little. You do not want dry facts and serious admonitions all the way through. If appropriate add in some humour to lighten the mood. Include some stories if possible – preferably about real people or even yourself. The personal touch can really help to give the talk authenticity and interest.

    8. Practise, practise, practise.

    Put your material together in the best way you can and then try it. Practise the talk – preferably out loud. Move things around and drop the less effective points so that the talk really fits together well and communicates the most important points effectively. If possible get someone to listen to your rehearsal and give you some constructive feedback. Check your timing and ensure that you will not over-run.

    9. Memorise and use prompt cards.

    You should not try to memorise the whole talk – just the key headings so that you can remember the main points. The subsidiary material will come to you in a natural way if you know the key topics. If you feel unsure on this then have some prompt cards just in case.

    If you follow these steps you are half way there. Now all you have to do is to deliver the talk really well and we will cover that next.

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    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

    How to Get Rich: 11 Bold Moves That Guarantee Wealth How to win Arguments – Dos, Don’ts and Sneaky Tactics How to be a Brilliant Conversationalist Think Laterally Write A Killer Resume In Seven Easy Steps

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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