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Follow these rules and your next speech will be a success!
Need help calming 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 last a little longer than they would be in a typical 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 speech is lost. Use your intonation and raise or lower your voice to emphasize the important points of your speech. Yet a word of caution: do not scream!
Use facial expressions and gestures carefully. Less is more! Hold yourself naturally and present yourself the way you are.
It's important to make eye contact with your audience. 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. Speaking in front of the mirror can often help, especially while practicing eye contact.
Everyone can lose their train of thought. If it happens to you mid-speech, don't panic. Remind yourself to be calm. Take a sip of water, take a deep breath. Maybe make a joke to connect with your audience even more, something like: "I had been planning to pause here, actually – and here we go!" Humor is a great way to break tension, and will likely bring out 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's had it at some point, even the most confident speakers have dealt with it. The trick is to learn how to handle it. 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 way to manage nervousness is to begin 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 can go a long way.
Use A4 or letter-sized sheets of paper and a large font size. Print on only 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 possibly), but don't stress too much about learning it by heart – your notes will be on hand for when 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.
Often, repeating the previous sentence might trigger your memory. Or, inject a short pause to make it seem like you intended to stress that sentence. Maybe you can ask your audience a question or few as you use that time to think. At the very worst, just admit to losing your place and summarize what you have said so far – if the setting is right, your audience will appreciate honesty.
With so many tricks at your fingertips, one will feel like the right option for the moment. 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 will be the starting point for the writers at MySpeechwriter. Providing background information – or at least telling us where to find it – is just as important as that core message, as your speech will require fleshing out and tangible connections to your audience. If part of your speech touches on a topic your audience knows, but one that you're unfamiliar with, then this extra information is particularly important. As a speaker, you must come across as informed and competent to gain the respect of your audience.
What's the best way to gather this background information? Books, newspapers, journals and especially the Internet are all good places to begin. The more comprehensive and concise the information you source, the easier it is for MySpeechwriter to provide you with an effective speech. However, having a good speech is only half of the equation – your presentation will still have a huge impact on the speech's effectiveness.
You may already be feeling beads of perspiration forming on your forehead. 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 giving a speech, your conversational partner is a room 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
Ending a speech requires some forethought. You want all of your listeners to realise you're wrapping up – it's the climax of your presentation. Try to accentuate your final sentence in a way that clearly marks it as the last one. Use your intonation to ground your words with your voice. Wait briefly, look up at your audience, and smile as you step away from the podium. The applause is yours.