At some point in 2017, you will probably have to make a speech. A little extra work will ensure it’s the best speech you can possibly give.
We had the pleasure of seeing Michael O'Leary (above), hands down one of Ireland's best public speakers, in action recently. But while addressing an expectant audience is easier for some than it is for others, there are plenty of ways you can prepare yourself for the moment you are handed the microphone.
Whether you are a seasoned speaker or a nervous novice, the best way of boosting your confidence is to make sure the content of your speech is top notch. That requires preparation, practice and time spent honing your words. Here are five fixes that will ensure your trip to the podium goes well.
Give your speech an intriguing title
You want your audience to be curious about what you’re going to say. You want people to be leaning forward, craning their necks, eagerly anticipating your opening remarks. Even if your subject matter is not exactly earth-shattering, an unusual or alluring speech title can help create a mood of expectation.
For example, if you are presenting last year's financial results, most people will expect something fairly conventional, even banal. But if your speech is entitled ‘Why 2016 sets us up for an amazing five years ahead’ they will be intrigued: What happened in 2016? Why five years? From the get-go, it sounds like they are going to hear something really interesting – and you bet they’ll be listening.
Open with an eye-catching story
This is critical because most people make up their mind about a speaker, not within minutes but within a matter of seconds. You have a brief window in which you must grab their attention and convince them that you are somebody worth listening to. (Remember, your captivating title will have them expecting great things!)
So hook them with a story, ideally something funny if circumstances allow it, but at least something that touches our instinctive human desire to be entertained. It can be anything you like, as long as it relates somehow to your main point and as long as it gets people sitting up straight.
Then get quickly to the point
Once you have got the audience on your side, it’s time to get along to the main point(s) of your speech. It can be useful here to set out exactly what you are going to say, and even roughly how long you are going to speak for. Then dive in.
Stop when you’ve said enough
Even with an audience that is actively engaged with a speech, the average adult attention span is no more than about 15 minutes. If you’re still speaking after that length of time, the chances are most people have stopped listening.
You know your subject matter, you know your audience, so you know how much detail is required. If you feel your word count is getting out of control, be ruthless with yourself and ask “Do they really need to hear this? Would I want to hear this?” The shorter the speech, the better chance people will remember it.
But sum up before you finish – one final thought
And of course, the whole point of your speech – of you being there at all – is that people will take note of what you say. So even if you have made a number of points, you should finish by distilling your content into a single, powerful, utterly memorable thought.
You owe it to your audience to give the best speech you possibly can.
(Image © irishtimes.com)