Few people are naturally great at giving speeches and even fewer enjoy it. Therefore the process of writing and delivering a speech is perceived as boring, uncomfortable, and bothersome to most people.
There’s plenty of tips out there for how to get better at public speaking in the long-term period, but that’s not what this article is about.
Instead you will learn different short-term public speaking tips that you can immediately apply to help your next speech become a success!
Before The Speech
1. Speak about something YOU are interested in.
Let go of the need to compromise for your audience. Make the speech about something you are genuinly interesting in. By playing to your strengths, you’ll make it so much easier for yourself.
In most cases the audience will actually like it more if you speak about something that you enjoy rather than something that you think they might enjoy.
By doing this you’ll avoid coming off as a try-hard.
2. Basic speech structure
There is a reason why movies, books, and speeches follow a structure.
This is because the brain likes to chronologically divide things into different sections. Therefore a typical speech has an introduction, a body and a conclusion.
By following this structure you are making it easier for the observer to process the information of your speech, which increases the likelihood that your message is well received.
For the intro you may want to start with a story or a question to get the audience’s attention from the get-go.
The body is is the main portion of the speech. It should contain the main points that you want to make
The conclusion finalizes the speech and clarifies to the audience what the most important points of the speech were.
People’s short-term memories are worse than you think. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting to include a conclusion.
3. Write an outline and focus on key points
Write down the key points of what you would like to say.
Keep it as simple as possible. Bullet points work well.
When you’ve written a very simple outline, give it a go immediately and film yourself while doing it if you can.
Continue doing this for as long as you can and feel free to improvise.
The point of this exercise is not to make a perfect speech, but to use it as inspiration for writing the speech and getting new ideas that you can write down. You will probably catch yourself saying smart things that weren’t already included in the speech.
Another reason why this is a good idea is that it gives you an extra repetition and enforces a strong foundation of the key points in your memory. This is going to make your speech come off as less scripted.
Even though it can be tempting to show off your expertise by speaking about a lot of different things and to provide a ton of information, it is usually a bad idea unless your speech is long.
By simplifying and focusing on a few main points (3 is the magic number) you will make it easier for the audience to fully grasp what you are saying.
Everything you say in the speech should relate to these main points and back up the simple message that you want to convey.
5. Enunciate words clearly
It can be helpful to remind yourself to speak slowly and to enunciate words clearly because many people have a tendency of speaking a bit too fast as a result of being nervous.
Plus it makes you seem intelligent.
6. Take deliberate pauses
People don’t understand as quickly as you think they do.
They need some time to catch up with what you are saying. This is particularly important when giving a humorous speech because pauses build tension and suspense which in turn is what makes something funny.
You can capitalize on this by taking deliberate pauses when you make your key points or your jokes.
7. Rehearse a lot
It goes without saying that you need to rehearse at least a couple of times. At the very minimum, you should know your introduction.
Just Before and During the Speech
8. Use appropriate hand gestures and body language
Most of our communication is made through body language, not by spoken words. Therefore, it pays to have an expressive body language and purposefully move around the stage, as opposed to standing still in one place.
A lot of people use the same hand gestures over and over. Try not to do that as it gets confusing to the audience.
9. Get audience engagement in any way you can
The faster you are able to involve your audience, the more interested they will become. Get them to invest into the speech somehow.
If you see a good opportunity to say something you think is funny, go for it. The things that you say in the moment and are situation-specific are often much more funny than scripted material.
Other ways of getting audience engagement might involve:
- Telling the audience to vote or raise their hands if they agree with what you’re saying
- Playing a game with them
- Asking questions to individuals in the audience
- Passing around a prop of some kind
10. Get focused
I mentioned earlier how it is important to get into an ideal state of mind before delivering the speech and how you could speak to people and also get to know the audience. That’s the social part.
But to get into an ideal state, you also require a certain degree of mental focus. To achieve this I would recommend you do at least one of the following three things prior to the speech:
- Work out or go running.
- Drink a cup of coffee or tea, or eat raw cocoa.
11. Get to know the audience
Speak to as many people as possible and introduce yourself. People will be much more friendly to you after you do this. Familiarity and likeability play very large roles in public speaking and sales. Take advantage of this.
Another key thing about getting this is the social warm-up it provides you with. If you are about to deliver an important speech, it pays to have put yourself in a peak state. You do that by deliberately speaking to as many people as possible and generating social momentum as early as you can in the day.
This will dramatically boost your comfort and make you a lot more relaxed and likeable.
12. Get an inside man
Ask a member in the audience to do you a favor and ask you a question when/if you ask for volunteers or questions. Set up some canned question to make yourself seem smart. Researchers and professional speakers do this a lot.
You could ask this person to do other things as well. Perhaps you could ask him or her to laugh a lot at a specific point of your speech, or to let you slightly heckle him or her.