How to Give a Great Speech


Tips for Effective Speaking

effective speaking

Want to Give a Great Speech?

Try these suggestions…

DO…start right in the middle of a story.  If you want to make a point,  think of a true story that illustrates that point and start right in the middle of that story.  The best stories are the true stories that have happened to YOU in YOUR life.  Only borrow your stories from books very sparingly.  Audiences will likely have already heard those stories.  You’ll come across as someone who doesn’t really know what you are talking about from experience.

DON’T… say things like “I’m glad to be here today”.  You will lose your audience in the first few seconds.

DON’Tsay “Here is a point I want to make.”  The audience will check out right then.  Just start in the middle of the story.  Stories teach.  Let your story make the point.

DO… speak in the same manner you would use talking to a good friend when you are having fun.  Move your arms and body in the same way you would if you were telling a funny or frustrating story to a good friend.  Be as animated as you would be if you were recounting a story to someone you know well.  If you would say, “Well, duh!” to a friend, it is OK to say “Well, duh!” to an audience.

DON’T…obsess about all the things you have ‘learned’ about giving a speech.  If you have to think about moving your arms, the entire gesture will look wooden.  If you have to think about voice inflection, tempo and eye contact, you will look terrified and plastic.

DO…what feels natural.  After quite a bit of experience speaking, I decided to join Toastmasters to further improve my skills.  What did I discover?  Toastmasters wasn’t for me.  They had lots of rules like, “Never walk away from the microphone.”  I move when I speak.  It feels natural.  I didn’t want to become self conscious about my movement so I had to give up on the Toastmaster way.

DO…look for a ‘nodder’ in the audience.  There is always at least one person there, nodding at what you say.  They are hoping you do well.  Their nods will encourage you.  Make eye contact with that person and talk to them like you are talking to a best friend.  Use all the animation you would use with a best friend. The whole audience will feel that eye contact.  As the larger audience starts to feel the story with you, then move your eyes to another person and connect with that person.  Once the audience starts to laugh and feel with you, move your eyes to others.

DON’T…move your eyes around the room looking over all their heads.  You aren’t performing.  You are connecting.  Caution:  There are two exceptions to this.

  • When you are in a spotlight and the audience is in the dark, this becomes more difficult.  Try to focus on someone in the front rows if that is possible at all.  Or ask to have the lights turned up.
  • When I’m telling a story and an audience member becomes emotional, I may move my eyes to someone else.  I don’t want to cry as I speak.  I want my audience to feel the emotion, but I need to be able to tell the story without someone else’s tears making me lose my composure.

DO…pause and let your audience laugh.  If you go on too quickly after a funny part of the story, you won’t give them time to enjoy the story with a laugh.  If you can pause just a little bit longer, they will laugh twice.  It takes courage at first.  Inexperienced speakers tend to rush through their material.  But audiences feel during the pauses.  That is when they will laugh and cry a little.

DO…relax and let your personality shine through.  The audience wants you to do well.  When they see you relax, they will relax and enjoy what you have to say.  If you are overly worried about your weight or hair or outfit they will feel your discomfort.  Audiences are very forgiving.  Your less than perfect outfit, hair or weight makes you more endearing.  It puts them on your side.  Focus on your connection with them, not your appearance.

DO…use audio visuals.  But use them sparingly and well.  Show a slide of a person whose story you are telling.  Use a silly prop to make a point.  Use music when your audience enters or leaves.  Use music to speak over to add emotion. Speaking over music takes quite a bit of rehearsal.  But once you have it nailed it will be dynamite.

DON’T…use a slide with lots of writing and then read the slide to them.  This is the biggest don’t on my list. Don’t, don’t, don’t do this!

DO…laugh at yourself.  Your audience will love that.  Tell about a time you goofed up, a mistake you made.  They have failed and goofed up too.  They will love you and want to see you succeed.  They’ll think, “Hey, she is just like me.”  I once fell down on the stage right in the middle of a speech.  I was in my fifties and getting up wasn’t pretty either.  But once I was up I did a curtsy and waited.  I got a standing ovation.

DOend with an inspiring story.  Audiences will remember the stories.  If you tie them in well with your points they will remember the point you were making.  But they WILL remember the stories and how they felt when you told the stories.  The big skill is noticing the stories in your life as they occur.  Use your stories to encourage others and you will hear plenty of…


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