Follow a few simple guidelines and your next speech is sure to be a success!
Need to calm down those butterflies in your stomach? We've put together some tips to make your speech the highlight of the event.
Speak slowly and clearly. Don't be scared to ask the people at the back if they can hear you.
Remember to breathe! Regular pauses between phrases are good – they can even be a little longer than they would be in a normal conversation. Pauses give your audience an opportunity to follow your line of thought.
Speak loudly and clearly. If no one can hear what you're saying, your message is lost. Use intonation and raise or lower your voice to emphasize the important points. But a word of caution: do not scream!
Use facial expressions and gestures with consideration. Less is more! Hold yourself naturally and don't be afraid to present yourself just as you are.
Eye contact is important. Don't just read off the page, look up and around at your audience regularly. Remember to move your gaze across the whole audience. It might feel awkward at the start, but it will quickly build your self-confidence.
Wear comfortable clothing! Dress neatly and stylishly, but make sure you can breathe. If you have something around your neck – a tie or a scarf – make sure it's not too tight. If you have to hold something – a bag, a prop, a purse – make sure it won't get in the way while you speak.
Practice makes perfect! Go through your speech in full at least once beforehand to find your rhythm and flow. Practicing in front of a mirror can help, especially to practice making eye contact.
Everyone loses their train of thought sometimes. If it happens to you mid-speech, don't panic. Breathe, be calm. Take a sip of water, take a deep breath. Maybe make a joke to connect with your audience – something like, "I'd actually been planning a pause here anyways, so how's that for timing!" Humor is a great way to break tension, and will likely draw sympathy from your audience.
If possible, finish your speech on a humorous note. Laughter brings everyone together and builds that community feeling.
Managing stage fright
Everyone has it at some point, even the most confident of speakers. The trick is to handle it well in the moment. The best strategy is to simply keep calm and take a deep breath. You're well-prepared, and you have the words before you. But the best time to manage nervousness is to start to work at it even before you're in the spotlight.
Choose your outfit for the day carefully – feeling comfortable will make you feel more secure and confident. Give yourself enough time to reach the venue early. That way you can get a feel for the room and try out the mic or any other technical assistance you might have. Try to avoid feeling rushed, and you'll find that everything feels calmer.
When you begin your speech, make eye contact with your audience. As humans we generally underestimate our performance, but after a few minutes you will probably notice that people are engaged and interested in what you have to say. Remember that your listeners are there to hear what you have to say.
If you stumble, just breathe and remind yourself to stay calm and relaxed. Think back to past situations where everything worked out just fine. By the time you're finished speaking, you'll be amazed that it went by so quickly!
Gestures are an integral part of human communication. They engage a speaker with the audience, giving the speech life and excitement. When you're speaking, use this to your advantage – but not too much! Use gestures to emphasize your point, but overall, try to maintain a relatively neutral demeanour in your stance, facial expression and gestures. Do not exaggerate. When you do use gestures, remember that a little goes a long way.
Use A4 or letter-sized sheets of paper and a large font size. Print your speech on just one side of the page. Number your pages, and highlight or underline important passages. If possible, place your notes on your podium or table rather than holding them. Maintaining eye contact with your audience is important, so try not to look at your text too often. And of course, don't forget to practise your speech beforehand – in front of a mirror if possible – but don't stress too much about learning it by heart. Your notes will be there if you need them.
Losing your train of thought
It's everyone's greatest fear: losing your train of thought midway through your speech. The truth is, however, everyone stumbles at some point mid-speech. The most important thing is not to lose your calm, and to get back on track.
Repeating the previous sentence will often trigger your memory. Or, take a short pause to make it seem like you intended to stress that last sentence. Maybe ask your audience a question or few as you use that time to think. At worst, just admit to losing your place and summarize what you have said so far – if it's done authentically, your audience will appreciate your honesty.
With so many tricks to try, surely one will feel like the right option when you need it. Take a moment, breathe out your stress, and pick up where you left off.
Preparation, and what to tell us at MySpeechwriter
Consider what it is you want your audience to take away from your speech. Try to formulate this central message. This is what your speech has been built around, and it will be the starting point for our writers here at MySpeechwriter. Providing us with background information – or at least telling us where to find it – is just as important as that core message you want to convey, as your speech will likely require some fleshing out to build tangible connections with your audience.
If your speech touches upon a topic your audience knows but one that you're unfamiliar with, then this extra background information is particularly important. As a speaker, you must come across as informed and competent to gain the respect of your audience. The best way to gather this background information? Books, newspapers, journals, and of course the Internet are all good places to begin. The more comprehensive and concise the information you provide us, the easier it is for MySpeechwriter to write you a fitting speech.
However, having a good speech is only half of the equation – your own presentation will still have a huge impact on the speech's effectiveness.
You may already feel beads of perspiration forming. But don't panic! No one is born a master speaker, and besides, you've communicated successfully with others every day of your life so far! The only difference is that when you give a speech, your conversational partner is a room full of people, curious to hear what you have to say.
Take your manuscript and stand in front of a mirror – preferably one where you can see yourself from head to toe. Deliver your speech in front of this mirror as if you were standing in front of your audience. Watch your face and movements. Experiment with facial expression and gestures, and practise your intonation and emphasis. Practise speaking slowly and clearly. Take your time to pronounce each word carefully and precisely – this isn't a race to the finish.
As the moment approaches, do one last run-through in front of the mirror as a dress rehearsal. Watch yourself, and listen to your voice as you speak. Notice how your confidence and delivery has developed, and embrace it for that added sense of assuredness.
You can do this, you know you can do this, and your audience will believe it, too.
And finally, the conclusion
Concluding a speech requires some planning. You want your listeners to realize you're wrapping up – it's the climax of your presentation. Try to punctuate your final sentence in a way that clearly marks it as the last one. Use your intonation to ground your words with your voice. Take a brief pause, look up at your audience, and smile as you step away from the podium.
The applause is yours.