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How to nail public speaking

by LLB Reporter
22nd Jul 16 12:13 pm

Nick Gold, managing director of Speakers Corner on how to ensure everything’s alright on the night

No matter how large your audience, whether it’s a presentation pitch to ten or a conference keynote to 1,000, public speaking can be a daunting prospect. As you draw closer to delivering your speech, those same old worries can start to turn around in your mind, from whether you’ve judged the audience correctly through to stance, posture and tone of delivery. It’s a potential minefield, but, with the right preparation and approach, these concerns can be overturned, to help you deliver an address memorable for all the right reasons.

Know your audience: prior research is essential. I have seen plenty of speeches in my time which have fallen flat because the maker had not gauged the demography of the audience prior to the event. Various factors need to be taken into account as it’s highly unlikely that you will be speaking to a group made up of one generation, ethnicity or culture mind-set. For the most part, speeches need to have a universal appeal. When you draft your content, ensure you ask for pertinent information about the audience. It is useful to look at the breakdown of delegates in terms of age, culture and language and factor this into your delivery so the speech has the desired impact.

Create a content journey: At the start of any speech you need to clearly define and lay out what you will be talking about, the content should be broad and relevant in order to create an experience which appeals to the interests of any type of individual. A breakdown in communication, and subsequently reduced engagement, occurs when an audience becomes lost amongst the nuances of a message; niche can be negative. Setting the aims and mapping out the structure of a speech helps to avoid this by allowing audiences to follow its flow.

Is it funny?: Humour varies tremendously and its use within a speech needs careful consideration. That said, the following guidelines can go some way to ensure its appropriate usage under any circumstances and, indeed, can be extended to any type of content. The golden rule is to never be offensive, even if the audience is a familiar one, as even these will comprise individuals with varying personal thresholds. While delegates are unlikely to complain that a keynote speaker was not funny enough, they will certainly protest if they have been spoken to rudely or if somebody has been personally attacked. Witty anecdotes can also enhance a speech, but care should be taken in terms of their delivery. Story-telling should not rely on the ‘big payoff’ or punchline at the end, but rather take people on a journey that is enjoyable throughout.

Strike the pose: How you deport yourself from the start of your speech will define how your audience relate to you throughout your address. In the most part its obvious things like avoiding slouching, limiting hand gestures and speaking in a measured, modulated tone. Body language has a powerful impact on perception so be confident and upbeat, clinging onto the lectern for dear life will give the impression that you’re out of your depth. Giving an impression of being relaxed and affable helps draw the audience in and take them with you down a path which you will define for them.

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