Ever been invited to give a speech at a sales meeting or even at a friend’s wedding and have found yourself wondering what possessed you to say “yes” in the first place? Lots of people have been in that spot. In fact, as a speechwriter, I get panicked calls and emails from people who have been asked to speak somewhere and are looking for advice, tips…anything!
Most of the conversations I have with them share this common refrain: “but I don’t know what to say up there!”
Granted being a great speaker is a skill that takes time to master. But it really is a skill that anyone can learn. And with the right advice to get you started, your next speaking engagement can be something that you’ll actually look forward to.
Earlier, I posted five tips to help you get started.
Here are five more (with more to come)…
6. Don’t worry about whether you’re funny.
Some people think that they absolutely must have funny-one liners in a speech to help break the ice. But most people just aren’t gifted with coming up with good material and delivering it in a way that makes people laugh…genuinely. So for most of us out there with a tin ear for comedy, we make do just by concentrating on putting together a great speech that people can relate to. And that takes me to my next point…
7. Don’t just be yourself. Share an experience.
When you’re speaking to an audience, it’s like making an acquaintance for the first time. And things tend to go well when people feel comfortable and can identify with their speaker. That’s the real key to breaking the ice. Early on in your presentation, try to share an experience with your audience…one that tells them a little bit about you. By doing this, you became less of a stranger
to the umpteenth degree. You’re on the road to being a friendly, familiar face.
8. Help the audience with cues.
For most, listening is a difficult skill. Many people get lost easily in a presentation unless you help them along with some simple cues. First, get right to the point explaining what your presentation is about. And be specific. If you can’t sum it up in a sentence, there’s a good chance your message risks getting lost. Next, give your audience a list of the things you are going to cover. In less than a minute, those folks sitting in front of you will know exactly what to expect, and they’ll appreciate you for it.
9. It don’t mean a thing if it ‘aint got that swing.
That’s what the songwriting powerhouse of Duke Ellington and Irving Mills once said. And there’s a truth in there that applies to public speaking. A great speech is about more than ideas. It’s about conveying emotion. When people can identify with the emotional space where you’re coming from, they become a lot more receptive to the ideas you put forward, including your call-to-action.
10. Practice, practice, practice.
Ideally, you should do a dry-run of your speech in the room where it’s going to be delivered. But that’s not always possible. Even if your practice area is your living room and your makeshift audience is the family dog and a photo of Aunt May, the more you rehearse the more comfortable you’ll be at the podium.