Thursday, February 4, 2016

Giving a Speech: Dos and Don'ts

Whether you are giving your first speech or your 999th speech, there are some things you should do and should not do while communicating your message to your audience.

The most important thing to remember while giving a speech is that your focus should be, as I said above, communicating your message to your audience. However, your ability to focus on that message during your speech comes with practice, practice, more practice, and preparation.

Speech Rule #1
Outline your speech.

An audience can tell when you have not outlined and rehearsed the order and content of your speech. The outline helps you ensure your speech has unity, coherence, and clarity.  Be sure to carefully consider your outline before committing to it and practicing it, but also do not be afraid to change your outline after rehearsing it.  You may realize changes must be made only after timing, pacing, and practicing your speech.

Speech Rule #2
Speak to and look at your audience.

If your eyes wander during a speech, or if it seems as if you are not speaking to your audience, your audience will (unfortunately) concentrate more on your discomfort and less on your message.  Since the message is the most important part of public speaking, be sure to speak to and look at your audience to make sure they are receiving your message.

Speech Rule #3
Move with a purpose.

Just like wandering eyes, wandering limbs are extremely distracting.  It's better to stand in a comfortable position, without leaning or swaying, than to distract your audience with excessive or jittery movements.

Speech Rule #4
Present yourself.

When experts speak on a topic they thoroughly understand, they present themselves as experts with pride in their accomplishments.  How do they present that care?  They dress to impress and groom themselves professionally.   It's more likely an audience will accept your credibility if you are dressed and groomed like a credible person.  Taking a few extra moments to iron and put on dress clothes shows an audience you care enough to prepare for them.

Speech Rule #5
Use standard English.

Colloquial phrases, slang, mumbled words, and bad or invective language should play no part in an academic speech.  Use clear, concise language to convey your message to your audience.  All the better, make sure you use standard English.  If this is difficult for you, transcribe your speech and use a free service, such as Grammarly, to help you correct your grammar before you begin practicing bad phrasing in your speech.

Speech Rule #6
Use transitions.

Break your speech into natural divisions and use transitional words and phrases to help your audience hear you "switch gears" between those divisions.  For example, in a sequential speech, use transitional words and phrases related to step-by-step actions, like "first," "next," or "after."

Speech Rule #7
Add sufficient detail to offer new knowledge.

Part of planning a speech is knowing your audience.  Be sure to offer them new information instead of repeating facts or examples they already understand.  Most college students, for example, know how to tie a shoe, so delivering a speech about how to tie a shoe would not be appropriate.  Likewise, explaining to that audience why they should tie their shoes would certainly be information they do not need.  Offer new information and responsible knowledge.

Speech Rule #8

Have an exit strategy.  Just saying "That's it" at the end of a speech is awkward and does nothing to help the audience retain your message.  Better to carefully plan a conclusion that reiterates your message in as clear a way as possible to really help the audience remember it.  Restate your thesis, point out key pieces of information, or summarize important considerations.

Speech Rule #9
Pace yourself.

If there is a time limit on your speech, be sure to meet it.  However, speaking slowly to make up for a lack of information (or speaking rapidly to stay under a time limit), doesn't fool the audience.  There is nothing that can make up for a lack of information.  Respect the audience enough to research your topic and present new information to keep them involved and engaged.

Speech Rule #10
Be confident or "fake it 'till you make it."

Apologetic speakers are difficult to watch.  The audience (because they are usually really nice people) starts to feel bad for a speaker as soon as they sense the speaker is uncomfortable and lacks confidence.  Remember, you want the audience to pay attention to your message, not your discomfort.  So, how do you show confidence when you feel like you've eaten a breakfast of butterflies?  Imitate confidence, or better yet, know your topic so well you can speak about it with true confidence.  Practice, look at your audience, and present responsible knowledge.

Copyright Amy Lynn Hess.  Please contact the author for permission to republish.

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