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Some Public Speaking Tips

July 24, 2017

I will go into public speaking in more depth in later posts, but I thought I’d offer a few tips, relatively easy things that can make an immediate difference.

  1. Rehearse your speech. This might sound obvious, but I’ve encountered so many people who are perfectly willing to write up their entire speech but won’t do more than skim through it once or twice before they have to give the speech. If you’ve written your speech out in full, then rehearse it. Practice delivering it in exactly the same way as you would to your eventual audience. This means including things like pauses, changes in tone and inflection, and even gestures. It makes a tremendous difference because when you’re tired or nervous or anxious, you default back to what you’ve practiced, and if you haven’t practiced anything… well, it can get ugly.
  2. Do not talk faster to get under the time limit. Many speeches have time limits (e.g., for school or university). It’s tempting to simply speak faster, so you can cover more ground, but that’s not something you should do. Instead, look closely at your speech. Are all of the points you’re making actually that relevant? Are you being as clear and concise as you could be? Speaking faster might get you under the time limit, but you’ll sound ridiculous.
  3. Make sure you know how to use any equipment involved in your speech. This is another common mistake that I’ve seen far too often. If you have to use a projector, or a laptop, or any other piece of equipment for your speech, then make sure you know how to use it. It comes across as terribly unprofessional if you have to call someone over just to operate the slides of your presentation. If possible, it’s often a great idea to speak to whomever is in charge of the venue beforehand to organise an opportunity to test things out. Alternatively, you can arrive early to try things out.
  4. Vary your pace and tone when you speak. Nobody speaks with the exact same pace and tone all of the time. Anyone who does ends up sounding like a robot. Think of your speech as a conversation with a friend. Would you talk to your friend without varying your pace and tone? Of course not. Varying your pace and tone can not only communicate enthusiasm for the subject but also authority and wisdom.
  5. A speech is a story. Your speech should have a structure that facilitates its message. If you’re giving an informational talk, then you could start with the basics and work your way up from there. If you’re arguing a point of view, then you need to explain your position and then provide evidence to support it. If you’re debating, then you need to attack weaknesses in the opponent’s argument and interpretation of the fact before showing how your interpretation is superior. Your audience doesn’t have the benefit of being able to simply glance back at what you’ve said, the way they would for an essay, so your speech needs to be set up in a way that makes it as easy as possible for them to follow your ideas.

If you want to read more about my thoughts on writing, education, and other subjects, you can find those here.

I also write original fiction, which you can find here.

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