Be a Great Speaker

Ten Secrets to being Great Speakers

So, you have decided you want to be, not just a mediocre speaker, but a great speaker.

Daniel Webster said he would as soon think of appearing before half-dressed as half- prepared. — Dale Carnegie  p. 31

Before you have a chance to speak, do your preparation.

1. Study the lectures, sermons, political speeches, and other speeches you hear. What makes one of them an outstanding talk? Why is another one boring or poorly presented. How could you have done it differently?

2. Make lists of interesting topics that would make good speeches. Think about them. List what three or four points you might make on such as talk.

3. Stay alert for good examples, quotations, and stories you might want to use in a talk.

Practice your skills

This means finding an audience. You might take a Speaking Class,  join Toastmasters or some other PublicA Confident young woman holds the mocrophone Speaking group. If you can’t find a group, form one yourself.

1. Always begin by thinking of your audience. Who are they? What do they want to hear? What do they need to hear? As a teacher, I often went through a list of my students and asked myself what they would find interesting and what they needed to learn. The speech you give a group of college freshmen should be different from what you would say to graduating seniors. And certainly what you’d say to a group of parents would be entirely different.

2. What information or ideas or skills do you have or can you learn that will be interesting and helpful to your listeners?  A speech is not a way of showing how talented you are. You are speaking because you have something important to say to these listeners. Define the purpose of this talk.  What can you say to you listeners that will entertain them, inform them, amaze them, and possibly, change their lives.

The young woman in the picture is sharing a personal experience as part of an inspirational talk. She is a powerful speaker.

3. Once you have selected a topic, find the information you need and organize it.

Brainstorm all the information, ideas, examples, stories, personal experiences  related to your topic. Do some research. Talk to friends about the topic. A discussion may help clarify your ideas. Take time to organize your ideas.

4.  Two parts of your talk are most important: The opening hook and the your closing. Think how you could start the talk so it will grab and hold the attention of your listeners. A writer calls this the hook. I often begin with an emotional  personal experience,  problem,  example, or story.

5.  Commonly, a speaker uses three main ideas for the body of the talk. (You might use four or five ideas if you speak  for an hour.)  Try several arrangements, each with three main ideas. Picture the audience listening. Which will hold their interest? Which will they find memorable and helpful? Which would they prefer to listen to?

For each of the main idea, try various ways of stating it clearly in a single sentence. Then look for one of two examples, experiences or stories that illustrate it clearly. This takes a lot of work.

6. Conclude with a bang.  What your listeners will remember longest is how you start and how you end. It could be a promise,  a call to specific action, the great or terrible consequences of their actions, or what they really need to remember. Sometimes, you might close with a powerful quotation.

5. Write your introduction, the main points and the conclusion on a 3 x 5 card, often with a word or two describing the illustrative material. Think about an extra couple of illustrations and choose which you’d leave out if time is running short. You might memorize the introduction, at least the opening sentences, and the conclusion. Do NOT write the rest of the talk. If you memorize, you don’t speak naturally. And, if you memorize and forget a line, you are likely to feel panicky. Good speakers simply speak from their heart.

Charles Kettner whose inventive genius sparked the growth of General Motors … was asked if he ever wrote out any part or all of his talks. He replied, “What I have to say is, I believe, far too important to write down on paper. I prefer to write on my audience’s mind, on their emotions, with every ounce of my being. A piece of paper cannot stand between me and those I want to impress.” — Dale Carnegie p. 71

6. You might spice it up with visuals, dramatized quotes, and asking the audience to raise their hands in response to questions.  You might even put on a baseball cap to quote a baseball player. For some subjects, you can actually do a demonstration. In a talk about flower arrangements, creating an arrangement as you speak makes the topic far more interesting. If talking about chess, bring in a large chess set. If talking about good plants for local gardens, bring a few in small potted plants.

The one thing to avoid is Power Point. Seeing and hearing the same material is BORING. It brings to mind other boring lectures that used PowerPoint.

7. Some people find it helpful to practice their talk several times. If possible, find a location similar to where you will be speaking. If you’ll be speaking in a large room, practice in a large room. After practicing, go back over the parts where you had difficulty expressing an idea or telling a story. Practice them several times until you feel comfortable. Some speakers prefer not to do this. Do whatever makes you feel most comfortable.

Stand tall and speak with confidence

8 .Just before you take the stage – or the front of the room – Look over your 3 x 5 card one last time. You will be reassured that you won’t forget anything. Tell yourself that this is exciting and that you are well prepared and confident. Then concentrate on regular breathing, as you picture your audience looking interested.

9. Now,  you take the stage or move to the front of the room.  Before you begin to speak, take a minute or two to look around the room, perhaps nodding or smiling at people you know. This helps both you and the audience relax. Nervous speakers are in a hurry to get it over and done. Confident people take their time starting, and they take their time speaking.

If you are running out of time do NOT talk faster. Just say less. Leave out an example or two. Leave plenty of time for a good ending.

10. As you speak, take your time and maintain eye contact with some of those who are listening. It is distracting to have a speaker who looks at the floor, at the ceiling or just over the heads of the audience.

You might select five to ten people in advance: some near the front, some toward the back, others to the left, middle and right. If you move from person to person too rapidly, it is distracting. So, as you look at a listener, imagine you are speaking directly to this person. Continue looking at this person for at least two or three sentences. Then focus on another listener.

A you watch the group, you know they are eager to hear what you have to say. Recognize that your position, standing in front of this group, is a position of power and responsibility. They are looking up to you, knowing that what you have to say is important. If you stumble, just smile and restate that idea. You aren’t trying to convince them that you are a great speaker. You are simply sharing important ideas with your audience. And when you do that, you are a great speaker.

Once you follow these steps, Please share your experiences here. There is one comment page for each section of the website. This is part of the Study Skills section

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