Estimated reading time: 6 mins
Have you been asked to stand in front of a crowd and give a speech…. and you’re crapping yourself about it? Guess what, join the 85% of people who feel the same! You’re not unusual in this fear, and there is a way through it. I’ve got 5 secrets to share on how to stand up and give a speech, and make it ROCK!
These ‘secrets’ aren’t cheesy bits of advice like ‘imagine everyone is naked’. If my imagination was that good, then I’d be struggling to concentrate and the speech would be terrible. No, this is practical advice on how to give a speech and articulate better. So here goes:
- Firstly, I advise that you start understanding your current state of mind. You’re nervous. You’re worried that you will blunder. You’re worried people will think you’re a dork. Right? So you’ve got it in your head that you’re going to fail, somehow. As Kenneth Wydro writes in his book Think on Your Feet: The Art of Thinking and Speaking Under Pressure,
‘We come to expect too little of ourselves.’
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because the nervousness about failure is creating the conditions for failure! So the answer is to balance it out; when your mind begins to wander towards thoughts of failure, instead begin to think about the benefits of success – imagine that your speech has gone perfectly and that you’re being applauded and back-slapped by the big cheeses. For many people who try this, the more they focus their mind on these images, the more powerful they become, and eventually they become less of a ‘bag of nerves’. Keep doing it, and it will change the way you’re thinking about that speech ahead.
- Start preparation by deciding the end. What I mean is, decide what you and your audience should get out of the speech. Often, we can be so nervoud about the speech, we forget the purpose of it in the first place. So if your speech is to provide an update on progress, decide on your final conclusions before talking about anything else. If you want your audience to do something following your speech, then decide on what that call to action is first. It’s easier to work back from an established endpoint, than work towards an open goal. When you have your desired outcome at the front of your mind, you will be much more confident in how you’re going to get there in your speech. This is especially important if you haven’t had much time to prepare for your speech and you’re thinking on your feet.
- Prepare a clear and concise representation of what you’ll be talking about. Ever sat through a speech that has more waffle than IHOP? Yeah, me too. Drivelling speeches like this occur when the speaker hasn’t formed a clear, concise and powerful perspective of the subject they’re crucifying. These people often refer to notes and repeat them verbatim without emphasis or elegance, and the whole experience seems fragmented. Are you worried you’ll do this too?
You can overcome this by building a picture of your subject that is simple enough to remember fully, yet it also comprises the major components that you need to get across. Here’s an example; say you’re giving a speech about training, and you want the audience should buy the training course. You’re on a commission, so you better not mess up… so construct a simple, memorable and logical model that represents the important components of your argument (these could be the benefits of the training – a certificate, the time the training will take – 1 day, and the cost of the training – $100.) The model might look like this:
See what I have done here? It represents the 3 important points I want to get across – a certificate, 1 day, and $100. This representation can be easily remembered, or even more easily secreted on a post-it on to refer to whilst speaking; it doesn’t require you to read notes, or stare at a single point for too long. It’s a model which enables you to be to the point, clear, and concise.
Kevin Carroll and Bob Elliott use a similar technique too in their book Make Your Point!: Speak Clearly And Concisely Anyplace, Anytime. Carroll and Elliott have over 40 years experience helping clients such as Microsoft, GE and Cisco with their communication. They use a ‘Diamond’ to construct and internalize the messages of a communication, which they find results in less waffle and more audience engagement.
- Form interesting and unusual analogies to get your point across. The more interesting something is, the more memorable it will be (and even better, the more memorable YOU will be to other people). Let me give you an example, two years ago I gave a speech to over 400 sales professionals at a small business conference where I discussed online consumer behavior. I was required to explain a concept that required a diagram, which I called the ‘crotch of doubt’, because it looked like a line drawing of, you guessed it, a crotch. In fact this was as a result of me working through the above exercise of constructing a model that fits! It got many laughs, and it also stuck – even today I get people saying ‘you’re that crotch guy aren’t you – great speech!‘This is what Granville N. Toogood tells us in his fantastic book The Articulate Executive: Learn to Look, Act, and Sound Like a Leader; he writes:
‘A good analogy can make all the difference… a good analogy can stir the blood.’
So if your speech requires you to explain a concept, particularly if it’s about a particularly dry and unexciting subject, then inject some interesting and unusual analogies to raise interest and a few smiles. (And do this early, as it will also boost your confidence.) Warning: don’t go too obscure as you may end up losing your audience!
- Practice a few key statements. It’s well worth practicing the delivery of a few key statements that form ‘milestones’ in your speech. You might have just two, or quite possibly twenty, but a good tip is to align them to your ‘model’ as I described above – ideally as summary statements, or perhaps a statement that leads into that point. However you choose them, these statements are the backbone of your speech, so they need to be strong and well rehearsed. It’s a good idea to physically say them over and over, and put emphasis on those words that mean the most and are specific to results or actions. Try varying your pitch too and your rate of speaking. Get these few statements spot on, and the rest of your speech will fall into place!
If you REALLY want to master speaking…
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- How to convey your ideas for maximum impact
- Developing an impromptu repertoire
- How to improve your speaking voice (even if you consider it very poor)
- Controlling your gestures
- Keeping control and the audience in the palm of your hand
This system is for people who are serious about improving their speaking and developing confidence when talking to strangers. Is that you? Then buy it today.