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Public Speaking Know How
Public Speaking Know How
Tips for Informative Speaking
1. Choose a topic that you're familiar with or at least interested in.
2. Begin gathering materials for your speech.
3. Look for at least three credible sources. Credible websites from governmental or educational institutes such as .gov and .edu. Use materials published within the last 10 years. Find articles written by respected and well-know authors. Go to academic databases (JAVA, AAAS, etc.)
4. A preparation outline will need to be written for this speech. It must contain (a specific purpose statement, labeling of the introduction, body and conclusion, similar indentation and symbolization throughout the outline, all main points and subpoints need to be written in complete sentences, label any transitional statements, and list credible sources on the last page of the outline.
Specific Purpose: To inform my audience about taking antibiotics only when necessary.
Introduction: In today's world, everyone wants a quick fix. If you get a cough, take a cough drop. If your throat gets sore, gargle with warm salt water. If you get a cut, clean the cut and put a band-aid on it. These are quick and easy ways to treat minor problems. If your illness is more serious like a low-grade fever or a cough that starts to filter down into your chest, maybe it's time to see a doctor. Today, I'm going to discuss when to see a doctor, the purpose of an antibiotic, and taking care of yourself so you don't get sick. (This last statement is your preview statement. It contains the main points of a speech).
I. The first item to discuss is when to see a doctor.
A. Go see your doctor when it becomes a challenge to breathe deeply.
B. Go see your doctor when you've had a low-grade fever for a couple of days.
II. The next item to discuss is the purpose of the antibiotic.
A. The first purpose is to clear up the infection.
B. The second purpose is to keep patients from becoming sicker.
III. The last item to discuss is taking care of yourself so you won't get sick.
A. Be sure and get plenty of rest to keep your strength up.
B. Be sure and eat healthy to keep immunity up.
C. Be sure and exercise to keep the heart pumping and blood flowing.
Conclusion: All people are susceptible to colds from time to time, but this is no reason to rush off to the doctor every time you have a sniffle. Remember, know when to seek help from your doctor, understand the purpose of antibiotics, and ways to stay healthy.
Interview with Margaret Latta FMD (Fictitious Medical Doctor)
(Obviously, I'm the only source but this is the idea behind the preparation outline. It's well-thought out, planned, and backed by credible evidence)
5. After the preparation outline is ready to go, it's time to write the speech.
6. Once the speech is written, it's time to start practicing your speech. It needs to be three minutes in length. Once you've got the general idea of the speech ready to go, create a speaking outline for your eyes only.
7. For the Informative Speech, you'll need to present a visual aid. Don't just show the visual aid, explain it. You'll need to go old school. There will be no presentations on the computer. Once you present your visual aid, set it aside and continue with your speech. Read over the visual aid power point for more information.
8. As you're practicing delivering your speech out loud, if there are any words or phrases that don't work, delete them from your speech.
9. Make sure on speech day that you have a preparation outline for me as well as yourself. It must be typed, double-spaced, 12 point font.
10. Most importantly, have fun. You're sharing with the audience a topic that you're very familiar with. It's something you know well and you're just telling a story. The video at the top of the page is a very good example of how to deliver the speech. The presenter doesn't have a visual aid and her speech is over four minutes long, however, she has just enough notes to jog her memory. She has an introduction and a conclusion. She shares the preview statement in the introduction and concludes the speech by restating the main points.
Let me know if you have questions by sending an email. See you next week.
Studies have found that retention is greater with pictures when compared to the written word. The brain will absorb a picture and store it to memory along with a corresponding word. The written word is stored by the brain as only the written word. If you compare remembering the contents of a book to the camera shots of a two hour movie, the recall is much greater for the video image as opposed to words on a page. Visual aids have the duality of a picture and a word. Learning to use a visual aid appropriately and effectively in a speech will increase the probability of a more memorable experience.
A visual aid accomplishes three objectives: clarity, interest and retention. When a speaker discusses an object and shows it at the same time, it provides clarity. If you’re discussing the recent SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule docking at the space station, clarity is amplified with pictures and an explanation.
Interest is the second objective achieved by using visual aids. When performing demonstration speeches, it’s important to have a physical demo to keep the audience’ attention as you go through the step-by-step process. While recalling a recent speech by an online student. his topic was 'how to change a tire'. Without a good visual presentation, a speech topic such as this would be like watching paint dry. However, with a little bit of finesse, explaining how to use the car jack or take off the lug nuts is much more interesting with visual aids.
The third objective of the visual aid is to provide retention. The amount of information we receive on a daily basis is insane. Being expected to keep up with everything we hear and see is impossible. Our brains go into overdrive and a good chunk of information is lost. By using pictures, our mind ingests information two-fold...by picture and word association.
Types of visual aids
There are so many different types of visual aids. Today, many use computer- generated presentations. If your plan is to use a PowerPoint, make sure the slides are sharp, simple, and to the point. Deliver your speech extemporaneously. In order to deliver a speech with few notes, a speaker will need to know the content of the slides. A speaker should be able to glance at the screen for a quick review then make eye contact once again with the audience.
Other types of visual aids include objects, scaled-down models of objects, photographs, artwork, graphs, maps, or the speaker. It’s a matter of being creative and finding the best possible visual aid for your speech.
How to use the visual aid
After finding a suitable visual aid, the next step is incorporating it into the speech. . If you’re going to use a visual aid, you need to know how to explain it. To simply show a visual aid without explanation may confuse the audience. Explain why you’re presenting the visual aid and what it means. Remember, the goal is to provide clarity, interest, and retention.
At first, it may seem awkward. If you’re demonstrating how to do something or make something, the body of the speech will be the demonstration. If you haven’t practiced using your props, you may make a mess of it all. By practicing with the visual aid, you'll find the places that need to be adjusted.
Another pitfall from lack of practice is the ‘dead air’ time during the speech. It’s important to keep the audience engaged. For instance, some students like to demonstrate how to cook or bake something. They’ll bring all their props, maybe even dessert for the classroom to sample. As the mixing process begins, students forget to speak. They forget they have an audience resulting in ‘radio silence’. If you’re going to demonstrate a process, be sure and have a couple of short stories or examples to share with the audience while demonstrating.
When creating visual aids, remember to keep them simple. If designing a PowerPoint, use a limited number of fonts. Be sure and use color on the slides to increase retention. Only have the visual aid in front of the audience as you’re explaining it. If you leave it in plain sight the entire presentation, the audience may continue to review the visual as opposed to listening to your speech. If you have handouts, don’t pass them around while giving your speech, wait until after the speech has concluded. If there’s something the audience needs to see while you’re speaking, enlarge the handout or use a projector.
It’s smart to use visual aids in your speeches. They aren’t meant to be a crutch, they’re meant to further enhance your delivery.
Any track star will tell you that the race doesn't just happen, it's a well-planned event.
Giving a formal speech requires a formal outline. If you’re a student speaker, it’s a necessary step in the speechmaking process. The formal outline or preparation outline requires strategic planning, research, proper grammar, and the fortitude to stick to the plan.
Students may think it an extra step that’s easily skipped, especially when speeches are only three minutes. This is absolutely not true. The outline keeps you on track and focused.
There are three main sections to the preparation outline: the introduction, body and conclusion. Before you begin putting pen to pad, you’ll need to determine the general purpose and specific purpose of the speech.
The general purpose is the broad goal of the speech. There are three: to inform, persuade, or entertain. When writing an informative speech, you present facts. There’s no opinion or conjecture, just the information. Speaking to persuade goes beyond giving information to convincing the audience to consider your point of view. Speaking to entertain is a speech that’s amusing, yet with a clear message. An example would be a toast or keynote speech.
After determining your general purpose, it’s time to create your specific purpose. The specific purpose statement is what the speaker hopes to accomplish in the speech. It’s designed to keep your speech on track. The statement narrows down the topic into one distinct idea. It should be audience-centered so the audience remains in the forefront of the speaker’s mind.
It’s time to start planning your research. If you’re speaking on a topic that’s familiar, the main points may come to you quickly. However, if you’re speaking about a topic of interest, it may require internet searches.
When searching research materials, it’s important to use credible sources. A credible source is unbiased and is backed with evidence. As the research unfolds, so do the main points of your speech. Take as many notes as you can. If you run across a good quote, jot it down. As you’re uncovering evidence for the body of your speech, you may find a good quote or two to use in the introduction or conclusion.
There are three main types of supporting materials most students use in their speeches: examples, statistics, and testimonials. The more the credible evidence, the more credible the speaker.
Once the main points evolve, it’s time to start building your speech. The main points may be broken down into sub-points. In order to create balance throughout the body of your speech, it’s important to create a clear path. A path that helps the speaker see how much evidence is available for each main point.
Balance is the amount of time spent on each point, whether it’s a sub-point or a main point. Main points are the backbone of your speech. They are what you want your audience to remember at the close of the speech. They help you prioritize, focus, and sequence your information. The sub-points are the examples, statistics, stories, analogies, quotes that back-up the main points.
At this point, you may have written the introduction of the speech. Opening remarks can be quite flexible with plenty of time for rewrites. While researching, you may have come across material for your introduction. Try several options before choosing the one.
After the body of the speech is ready, it’s time to write the conclusion. Typically, conclusions represent between 10 to 15 percent of your speech time. You want to be able to wrap up the main points of the speech and conclude with a bang.
As you review the outline, you may want to add transitional statements in the body of the speech, somewhere in between the main points or leading into the conclusion. The introduction has a ‘built in’ transitional statement called the preview statement. The preview statement discusses the main points of the speech before moving to the body of the speech.
Once the preparation outline is written, it’s time to add the cited sources. All main points and sub-points should be written in complete sentences. For the outline, you want each sentence to be a complete thought. Main points or sub-points shouldn't contain fragmented sentences or phrasing.
The preparation outline is the skeletal body of your speech. By taking a brief look at the outline, you should be able to see the connection among ideas.
After the preparation outline is ready to go, you’ll want to create a speaking outline for the actual speech. The speaking outline is created after the entire speech is written. You’ll be able to take key words and phrases from the written speech and organize it from the preparation outline.
The speaking outline is less formal and meant for the speaker only. The basic features are the same as the preparation outline. The difference is using key words and phrases as opposed to complete sentences. By using key words and phrases, the speaker is able to produce a more conversational quality.
In addition to the phrasing, the speaker may also write nonverbal cues in the margins of the outline. Maybe you need to remember to give good eye contact in the introduction so you draw a pair of eyes. The speaking outline is more casual, less formal, and is meant for your eyes only.
Great care should be taken when creating the preparation outline. It’s the inner workings of your well made plan. By following the outline, you’re able to stay on track and write your speech in an organized fashion. Then, it’s onward and upward to edit, practice, and give an excellent speech.
Steven Tyler of Aerosmith...'You're only as good as your last note."
When a speaker is speaking to inform, the objective is to disseminate information. When a speaker is speaking to persuade, the plan is to go beyond just giving information to espousing a cause.
The goal of the persuasive speech is to convince the audience to accept the speaker's point of view. The persuasive speech is arranged in such a way to convince the audience to accept parts, if not all, of a speaker's ideas. If accepted, the speaker may ask for a simple nod of agreement or they may want the audience to physically take action.
For someone that works in sales, persuasive speaking is a ‘must have’ in order to do the job. If the salesperson has researched the product, explained the features and benefits, and provided potential disclaimers; all that’s left is to close the deal. I share with my students that if the introduction is weak and the body of the speech has a few holes, make sure you nail the conclusion. Steven Tyler, lead singer of Aerosmith and former judge on American Idol said, “You’re only as good as your last note.”
There are four methods used in persuasive speaking: credibility, evidence, reasoning, and emotional appeal. For a speech to have the requirements needed to persuade, these four methods should be included in the speech writing process.
The first of the four methods is credibility. Credibility is the audience’ perception on the believability of the speaker. The two major factors that determine a speaker’s credibility are competence and character. Competence is the audience’ perception of the intelligence, expertise, and knowledge of the speaker. Character is the audience’ perception on the speaker’s sincerity, trustworthiness, and concern for the well-being of the audience.
Speakers that hold higher education degrees, certifications, or have initials like MD or PhD at the end of their name automatically are considered credible when speaking on topics that are in their wheelhouse. Their CV (Curriculum Vitae) proceeds them.
For example, if you’re wanting more information regarding the long-term effects of COVID-19 on lung health, attending a virtual talk with a pulmonologist or infectious disease expert is ideal. As a person seeking medical knowledge, your confidence in the speaker is rest assured.
The character of the speaker is more subjective. A speaker that's sincere and shows concern for the audience is more likely to be considered trustworthy and in turn, credible. Speakers of good character are typically genuine in scope and have no expectations of reward. It's a slippery slope but if your hearts in the right place, the audience will give you the benefit of the doubt.
There are three types of credibility; initial, derived, and terminal. Initial credibility is the audience’ perception of the speaker before they begin to speak. Typically, this is based on a speaker’s experience, education, proven track record, or reputation. Students will earn initial credibility after they’ve performed several speeches in front of the classroom.
Derived credibility is earned while speakers are in the process of delivering the speech. Once the topic is introduced, the speaker needs to provide credible content in the body of the speech and deliver the speech fluently with few errors.
Terminal credibility is earned after the speech has concluded. If a speech doesn't go as planned but the speaker 'rocked' the conclusion, earning the audience' credibility is still a possibility. As Steven Tyler said, “ You’re only as good as your last note.”
The second method needed for persuasive speaking is evidence. Evidence is the available body of facts indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid. Most student speeches use three types of evidence-based materials; statistics, testimonials, and examples.
Without evidence, it’s difficult to be a persuasive speaker and even then, it’s not guaranteed. It’s important to use credible evidence. When researching facts online, use websites registered by (.gov, .org, .edu). You’ll want to find articles that have been written by respected, well-known authors. Current materials are deemed more credible, at least within the last 10 years.
Good, credible evidence will go a long way in the eyes of your audience. As a student speaker, credible evidence is one of your best persuasive tool. The evidence collected from credible sources and presented as facts is the second method used in becoming an effective persuasive speaker.
The third method of persuasive speaking is deductive reasoning. At this point, a speaker begins to use their critical thinking skills. They draw conclusions based on the evidence collected and presented. If your evidence is solid, this step isn’t difficult. If you can put two-and-two together, you can provide the audience with reasonable assumptions based on the evidence. The trick is to be reasonable and keep it real.
There are a few guidelines to follow when drawing conclusions based on evidence. First, don’t make hasty generalizations. As it stands, pharmaceutical companies are in a race to develop a vaccine that will effectively fight the coronavirus. For instance, it's a hasty generalization to say because two or three patients improved after taking hydroxychloroquine that all patients infected with CoV-2 should take it. As more practitioners started prescribing the drug, more patients started developing worsening heart problems.
A second guideline for drawing conclusions based on evidence is embellishing the facts. It’s the big ol’ fish story. Events begins by catching a ½ lbs. crappie and by the end of the story you have a 10 lbs. Largemouth bass. It’s the boy who cried wolf.
And, as always, make sure your evidence is accurate. If statistics aren’t derived from sources that are fair and balanced, conclusions drawn based on the evidence won’t be persuasive and the speaker will lose their credibility.
The fourth method of persuasive speaking is emotional appeal. Emotions that tug at the heartstrings will cause an affected person to write a big check to your charity. The television commercials with the dogs and cats in the animal shelters afraid, cold, and alone, will prompt many to donate, volunteer, or start a ‘go fund me’ account.
Emotions may be generated by using emotional language, painting a vivid image, or speaking with sincerity and conviction. Emotive language is the deliberate choice of words to elicit emotion. Using specific words and phrases is more than just providing facts, it’s getting the audience to adopt the author’s opinions and attitudes toward a particular subject. Words are powerful and the better you are at using them, the more influential you’ll become.
Speakers may paint vivid images of a particular situation. It’s taking a storyboard and putting it into words. Instead of talking about the cluttered room, a more vivid description is the room had books on the floor stacked to the ceiling, piles of dirty laundry in three corners of the room, and paper wrappers scattered throughout from last night’s candy raid.
If you believe it, the audience will too. A dynamic speaker with the ability to speak with sincerity and conviction will have the audience eating out of the palm of their hand. Everything changes when you speak from the heart with passion and intensity. The audience will get as caught up in the presentation as the speaker.
As a persuasive speaker, it’s your duty to present all information accurately and with the best intentions of the audience in mind. If you’re speaking on a subject that’s controversial, try to establish common ground. The audience wants to be seen. Not everyone in your audience will agree with you so it’s up to the speaker to diffuse the animosity or mistrust. You may even want to present the opposing party's good side.
A persuasive speaker asks for the audience to do something. Whether it’s listening to ideas or physically taking action, it’s up to the speaker to lead the audience down the preferred path.
Choosing the best method of delivery for any type of speech is determined by many factors. Factors such as the occasion, the venue, or time constraints.
The pandemic has interrupted one of those factors...the venue. For example, Sunday morning’s have traditionally been reserved for in-person church services. Having the opportunity to meet in a house of worship, exchange hugs with other believers, and welcome visitors with a warm handshake is no more. COVID-19 has interrupted our Sunday routine.
Some options other than physically going to church include watching services on cable television or other streaming services, drive-in churches, or virtually worshiping online. More than ever, all interactions are from a distance.
In case you were unaware, preachers or spiritual leaders are public speakers. They’re responsible for engaging the audience, without interruption, with a prepared message, and a delivery that will hold the audiences’ attention.
There are four methods of delivery a speaker may use when giving a speech: impromptu, memory, manuscript and extemporaneous.
An impromptu speech is a speech given ‘off the cuff’ with little to no planning. A speech given with little to no preparation can be quite scary, a rush of adrenaline we could all do without. If we had our druthers, all speeches would be planned way ahead of schedule and with carefully chosen words.
If you’re asked to deliver an impromptu speech, take a few deep breaths before you begin. You can keep it brief, just cover the main points. Begin with a good opening line, hit the highlights in the body of the speech, and close out with a zinger. Many times, it’s safe to begin with an opening story or example. By doing so, it sets up an easy way to conclude the speech. The speaker may refer back to the introduction tying up any loose ends in the process.
Delivering a speech from memory is a tough one. First, you have to be pretty good at memorization. For young students, it’s a piece of cake...your minds are like sponges. However, it’s one thing to memorize a speech and another to skillfully incorporate non-verbal communication.
Memorizing the words of a speech is only half the battle, the other half is the delivering the message with strong non-verbal cues. Vocal inflections, pitch, hand gestures, are all part of non-verbal behavior used to complement a memorized speech. Words won’t be compelling without good non-verbal communication. The audience likes an animated speaker.
Memorizing a speech takes a lot of practice. If you’re busy trying to remember your lines at the cost of engaging the audience, it may all be for nothing. When memorizing a speech, it’s best to use this form of delivery for brief engagements. Events such as wedding toasts, acceptance speeches, or award ceremonies. These types of occasions require shorter speeches therefore fewer words to memorize.
Speaking from manuscript is reading a speech word for word. This type of delivery is usually reserved for those that want to make sure ‘not one word’ is misquoted or taken out of context. For instance, the State of the Union address is a speech given in a totally scripted format. Every word that’s uttered needs to be exact. If there’s a mistake, it could start World War III.
Delivering a speech from manuscript is more challenging than one might think. Don’t assume because the words are available to you, that it’s an easy delivery. If the speaker hasn’t practiced reading the speech out loud, there could be trouble.
Visualizing the words and speaking the words are quite different. A speaker may find they get tongue tied while reading a certain word or phrase. By reading a speech out loud, a speaker can adjust or change the script to avoid potential pitfalls in delivery.
A speaker delivering a speech from manuscript should work on energy, vocal variety, and planned pauses. A speech read word for word can sound wooden and rehearsed and a ‘one note’ or monotone speaker won’t keep the audience’ attention for long.
A speech delivered extemporaneously is a speech with just enough notes to jog the memory. This type of delivery is adaptable to a wide variety of situations and the result is a more conversational presentation. The less rigid format is a key advantage for any speaker.
An extemporaneous delivery requires more planning. You could use note cards or a tablet with key words and phrases to help stay on task. This type of delivery allows the speaker the freedom to connect with the audience. It’s much more effective in both word and delivery.
An extemporaneous delivery works well with speaker time limitations. Being able to have the flexibility to adjust where necessary is part of the functionality of extemporaneous speaking.
In today’s technical world, a speech with a PowerPoint presentation is considered an extemporaneous delivery. A slide presentation with key points may help the audience remember the most important parts of the speech. Remember to keep your slides short and sweet.
Whichever method of delivery is chosen for any speaker presentation, all methods will need to be practiced. Even the impromptu will require a few minutes of forethought. Remember, speak with confidence and speak with the best interest of the audience in mind.
The impromptu speech is the most dreaded speech in public speaking class. It’s the element of surprise and the unknown that makes students uncomfortable. Interestingly, students that are more apprehensive about this type of delivery usually do quite well. It’s a matter of thinking fast on your feet, choosing the best path from the ‘get-go’, and sticking with the plan.
An impromptu speech is one that is given ‘off the cuff’ or with very little time to prepare. In most situations, you’ll be asked to speak on topics that are familiar to you. The trick is to 'wow' them with a catchy introduction, deliver a knock-out close, and provide some key points in the body of the speech.
Giving an unprepared speech on the fly isn’t high on the priority list. It's a scary prospect standing in front of a group 'empty-handed'. Each time the subject is brought up in the classroom, eyeballs roll, sighs are audible, and faces look panicked. However, in the classroom, everyone’s in the same boat. In the business world, it’s something you need to know how to do in order to get ahead.
Trying to calm a speakers’ nerves may be achieved by taking a few simple steps.
If you’re anxious, try practicing some relaxation exercises. For instance, before heading to the podium take slow, deep breaths. This type of exercise will help to slow the heart rate and provide moments of pause. Use the power of visualization. See yourself successfully giving the impromptu speech in front of your peers. Try opening and closing your fists releasing excess energy from your body. These types of exercises will help to reduce nervousness with minimal movement or effort.
Next, it’s time to clear the mind. Most impromptu speeches will cover familiar topics. If it’s a classroom speech, the instructor may ask students to share a family memory. If you’re in the boardroom, your boss may ask you to give an update on a project. Intellectually, you know it’s an easy recap. Psychologically, you’re afraid you’ll screw it up.
Taking the steps needed to deliver a great impromptu speech
First, grab a pen and pad for brief note taking. If paper isn’t available, grab a napkin. During a recent classroom impromptu speech, I shared with students that if they didn’t have notebook paper on them, just grab a paper towel. There's plenty available in each classroom (cleaning supplies are everywhere due to CoV-2).
Begin jotting down key points. For a recent classroom impromptu, students choose from a variety of topics. Once the topic was decided, they were required to find two credible sources, via the internet to enhance the credibility of their speech. This exercise in fact finding not only provided more content for the speech but an unplanned lesson on how easy it is to find credible sources for speeches.
Once students had their sources, it was time to find good supporting materials to use for the speech. Students had 10 minutes to find two credible sources, take a few key notes, and plan their introduction and conclusion.
There wasn’t a time limit on the speech. For an impromptu, the length of time isn’t as important as providing enough credible material to satisfy the audience. Regardless, there needed to be an introduction, body and conclusion.
The introduction of a speech needs to get their attention. If you’re discussing a topic that’s familiar, opening statements are easier to create. The introduction should be personal, it should reflect your personality, and it should mean something. Remember, introductions are more of an art than science.
You may want to try to memorize your key points. Whenever you’re writing a speaking outline for a speech, typically your main points are written in key phrases and not sentences. You want to approach the impromptu speech in the same manner. Use keywords or phrases for the main points so they’re easier to remember. Check your notes and make sure you don’t forget any important statistics or examples. The key is to continue to engage the audience through good eye contact and a conversational tone.
Realize you’re in charge of the speech. The speaker is the one that procured the evidence and planned the content. Deliver the speech with all the confidence you can muster.
After the body of the speech comes the close. Sometimes the close may be as simple as restating the main points of the speech. However, you might want to combine the recap with a personal note of your own.
Give the conclusion a little punch and make it memorable. You want to close out the impromptu with a good line.
After recent impromptu speeches were completed, students felt good about the work they had done. Most of the speeches were around 2 ½ minutes. For prepared student speeches like the informative or demonstration speeches, speakers are to have three credible sources for each speech and they're to be three minutes in length. Preparation for this particular exercise in impromptu speaking allowed for 10 minutes of evidence gathering and a brief plan for the introduction and conclusion.
The end result was student’s had a speech prepared in 10 minutes that had depth, personality, and a conversational quality. It was the most relaxed speech to date. If students had an additional five minutes to prepare and the request had been for three credible sources, an entire speech, minus the preparation outline, would be 'good to go' with 15 minutes of invested preparation.
Talk about a confidence booster. This type of exercise was one for the books. Confidence levels rose as credible evidence was delivered in an informal impromptu speech. It was effective and only took 10 minutes to prepare. It was a win for the classroom and the boardroom.
‘Beginnings are scary. Endings are sad. It’s the stuff in the middle that counts’. It's one of the better lines to borrow from the movie script, Hope Floats starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr.
Hope Floats is a romantic comedy that begins with a nationally-televised revelation that Bullock's character's husband has been cheatin’ on Bullock with her best friend. As the movie progresses, Bullock recognizes she has trust issues and slowly opens her heart to the handsome Harry Connick, Jr. In the end, everyone's happy and Bullock gets her man. Anyway, this is the idea behind the body of the speech. It’s the stuff in the middle that counts.
The body of the speech is where you ‘lay it all on the line’ for the audience. It contains the blood, sweat and tears and endless effort poured into researching the speech. Unless you're an expert in a particular field, speeches will need credible sources to enhance the speaker’s credibility. Credibility is the audience’s perception on whether or not a speaker is knowledgeable on a particular subject. If you’re giving a speech on nutrition and you’re not a nutritionist, dietician, or in a related-field then you’ll need to support your evidence with a person or organization that is an expert.
Supporting materials can be defined as scientific evidence that serves to support a scientific theory or hypothesis. They are essential to establishing credibility. There are three types of supporting materials used by student speakers and they include examples, statistics, and testimonials.
Examples may be brief, extended, or hypothetical. A brief example is a reference made in passing. For instance, if your speech was about depression, you might mention the famous comedian Robin Williams as a person that had suffered from depression.
An extended example is more extensive. Case in point, Robin Williams may not have openly expressed his unhappiness. Maybe he was good at hiding his sadness and used humor as a disguise. As the speaker, you might discuss small behavioral changes that if recognized early on, may have thwarted his plans to end his life.
A hypothetical example is one that’s created by the speaker. There’s no actual truth to it, just an inference. This type of example is more difficult to cultivate. Examples need to be believable and relatable and sometimes it's tough to do with an imaginary idea.
Another type of supporting material is statistics. Statistics is the gathering, collection and analysis of data for interpretation purposes. Numbers can be very influential if presented properly.
As a public speaker, it's up to you to use data with the best of intentions. There's no room for misrepresentation of the facts. All credibility could be lost if intentions are misguided. It's the speaker's role to interpret the data with integrity.
The third type of supporting material is testimonials. There’s peer testimony and expert testimony. Peer testimony is an eyewitness account of a situation. For instance, if you’re a witness to a car accident, you have firsthand knowledge. Expert testimony is an account given by a person with specific qualifications or special training in a particular field. In malpractice suits, a physician is typically called to the witness stand to give expert testimony in a medical wrongdoing.
After you’ve collected all your data, it’s time to focus on the main points of your speech. The main points are the most important part of the speech. A speakers primary objective is for the audience to retain the information contained within the main points.
In three minute student speeches, there are typically two to five main points. Main points should be briefly discussed in the introduction and conclusion and fully-developed in the body of the speech.
Main points need to be balanced and evenly developed within the body of the speech. If there’s not enough research material to support one or more of your main points, then find more evidence, discard it, or have another main point absorb it. The same holds true for sub-points.
Sub-points are materials that support the main points; they are part of the larger point. Sometimes in your research, a main point may have two or more sub-points that directly relate to the point behind discussed. Again, as a speaker you want to create balance among ideas and provide strong evidence for each point discussed in the speech.
The body of the speech contains transitional statements. Transitions provide a bridge between two paragraphs and help to create a smooth transition from one idea to another. They may either be words, phrases, or sentences that connect one topic or idea to another. Essentially, they let the audience know you’re about to change directions.
In the end, it’s important that the body of the speech is evidence-based and thoroughly developed. It’s the meat and potatoes of your four course meal. If you’re going to keep the audience interested throughout the body of your speech, the speech needs credible evidence. Do your research, make sure and use credible sources, and develop the main points.
Have you ever listened to a speech and wondered what’s the point? Either this clown is as lost as I am or they seriously don’t know how to write a speech. Part of the confusion may be the result of an ineffective specific purpose statement.
Before the first word of an outline or a speech is written, the specific purpose should be clearly stated. It begins with a single infinitive sentence that tells the audience exactly what you hope to accomplish in the speech.
The specific purpose statement isn't part of the introduction. It's not to be read out loud to the audience. It's to keep YOUR mind focused on the magic. The magic of fulfilling your role as the magician and performing well in front of your audience.
Keeping the audience in mind from beginning to end, starts with the specific purpose statement. 'To inform my audience about how to pull a rabbit out of a hat.'
During this step, the speaker has knowledge of the topic but the audience doesn't. It's a blank canvass. The 'big reveal' of the topic will happen in the introduction of the speech.
Revealing the topic of the speech is one of four objectives to cover during the introduction of the speech.
You may think it's clever to keep the audience guessing about your topic. That it's strategic. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Revealing the topic is the second objective in the introduction of the speech and is necessary to produce a solid beginning (The first objective is the attention-getter discussed in a previous article). If the audience gets lost or confused at the beginning of the speech, there’s little chance they’ll continue to listen for the remainder of the presentation.
After revealing the topic, the next objective of the introduction is to establish credibility. Credibility is the audience’ perception on whether or not the speaker is knowledgeable on a particular subject. There are three types of credibility: initial, derived, and terminal.
Initial credibility is established before the speaker steps to the podium. For an expert, it’s based on credentials and notoriety. When President Trump’s physicians from Walter Reed Military Hospital addressed the public regarding Trump’s health, treatment therapies, and overall prognosis, the audience had a preconceived idea that the entourage of providers had the training and knowledge necessary to explain the facts. There was no magic here, simply science and medicine.
If you’re a student speaker, you may establish initial credibility after the first couple of speeches. If you’re prepared, knowledgeable, rehearsed, and engaged, fellow students will look forward to your speeches with eagerness and high hopes.
Derived credibility is earned as the speaker gives their speech. As a student speaker, you may have limited initial credibility, however, by using credible evidence, practicing your speech, and showcasing your ability to engage the audience through eye contact, conversational style, and overall presentation, derived credibility can be accomplished. If you're able to saw the lady in half without bloodshed, credibility will be awarded.
Terminal credibility is achieved after the presentation has concluded. As a student speaker, it’s understandable that nerves could derail opening statements. Even creating a good rhythm or conversational style could be difficult the first couple of minutes. Suddenly, you’re able to switch gears and a flow is established. Your close is strong. You start to connect the dots. Whatever magic you have up your sleeve, all the coins disappear and the audience is left with an overall good impression.
The fourth objective of the speech is to give a preview of the main points to be discussed in the body of the speech. The preview statement does two things. First, it tells the audience the most important parts of the speech and secondly, it provides a smooth transition from the introduction to the body of the speech.
One of the best compliments an audience can give the speaker is to walk away remembering the main points of the speech. In the introduction, you tell them what you’re going to tell them. In the body of the speech, you tell them. In the conclusion, you tell them what you told them. And this my friend is magic.
Have you ever used a bullhorn? Blowing the horn to get the crowds’ attention and hearing your voice through the high-powered PA system is empowering. Just as a bullhorn is powerful, so is your voice. Using your voice effectively will not only ‘sound the trumpet’ and get their attention, but keep their attention with amplified speakers and adjustable volume.
As a public speaker, your goal is to keep the audience interested. If your content is good, the pendulum shifts to the delivery. The idea is to recreate the effect of a bullhorn without causing irreversible hearing damage.
To start, practice a more conversational style over a wooden, rehearsed ‘one-note’ delivery. Being a conversational speaker builds trust and likeability. An audience doesn’t want to be yelled at or preached to...they want to be engaged...to be part of the conversation. There's probably never been a more conversational presidential public speaker than George W. Bush. Regardless of your politics, he's the guy you want to sit on the front porch with and enjoy a glass of sweet tea.
If you take a look at the 'bullhorn video' you'll witness the engagement from the audience...the cheers, the 'hoorahs', and the applause. It's a time when the country was broken and needed encouragement. As a public speaker, you may not hear the cheers of a crowd but you may witness a powerful non-verbal dialogue. If you’re connecting with the audience as a speaker, you’ll see eye contact, head nodding, forward movement, an audience at full attention. It’s a satisfying feeling to get that much commitment from your audience.
As a public speaker, one of the keys to establishing the trust and likeability connection is to be conversational. The voice is a remarkable tool for speakers to refine, retool, and perfect. In order to develop a more conversational tone, you have to practice. Writing good content and practicing the presentation go hand-in-hand.
To produce a conversational tone, a speaker has physical access to volume, pitch, pause, rate, pronunciation and articulation of words that assist in generating the desired quality of voice.
When investigating the venue for your speaking engagement, it’s important to determine the size of the room. If there’s no microphone, you’ll need to estimate how your voice will travel from the front of the room to the back. If the room’s large, you’ll need a microphone.
If a microphone is needed, always check the equipment before going ‘live’. Oftentimes, there are adjustments that need to be made. It’s not always the quality of the sound system, but the placement of the microphone.
As a cheerleader in high school, I remember the thrill of being 'cheer captain' for a week. Captain translated into choreographing the routines, deciding the order of the entire ‘show’, and manning the microphone. Having the entire student body focus all attention on me while introducing cheers, chants, events, and ball players was quite the thrill. (I’d mentioned being afraid on stage, I believe this was an adrenaline rush).
After the pep rally, the HS Choral Director, Loretta Whitaker approached me and said, “There’s something wrong with your voice.” I told her nothing was wrong. I wasn’t sick and felt good. She said, ‘I thought something was wrong because you sounded like Minnie Mouse.” She said I was holding the microphone too close causing a ‘squeaky’ distortion. I was deflated.
If the venue is outside, you might want a microphone or bullhorn. In one of the Life Stories written for WKY Community Living, Ruth Gunther was mentioned. She was the Drill Corp coach for the dance team. She literally carried a bullhorn around with her on a regular basis. Gunther was more of a drill sergeant than a coach but her no nonsense ‘get it right’ attitude was effective.
Pitch deals with the rise and fall of one’s voice. Think about sentence structure when checking pitch. If you’re making a statement, the pitch goes down. If you’re asking a question, the pitch goes up.
In the movie ‘Perfect Pitch’, acapella singers focused on staying in harmony. Without an instrumental accompaniment, every out-of-tune note was a ‘screech’ fest. As a speaker, try focusing on an ‘Easy Listening’ voice. It’s the voice that’s mellow and hits all the right notes. For some, it comes natural. For others, it takes practice.
Pauses can be very effective when used properly in public speaking. If there’s a period or a coma in your written speech, take a breath or a short pause when speaking out loud. If you’re asking a rhetorical question, insert a longer pause. Again, this is about rehearsal time and figuring out what seems natural.
Pauses give the speaker time to soak in the moment and the audience time to absorb the words. There’s got to be time to breath and feel the energy in the room. The only way to do this is to slow down and pause. 99% of the time, a speaker never takes too many pauses (unless they lose their place while speaking)
Practicing the pause will help eliminate vocal utterances like ‘uhs’, ‘ums’, and ‘ers’. For some, these distracting verbal stalls are due to lack of rehearsal time. For others, it’s the uncomfortable silence or the pause. A more intelligent and prepared speaker will use the silence or pause as opposed to the audible pauses. Taking the planned pause controls the pace of the speech. You’re able to create a rhythm. The more you practice, the more you’ll find it relaxing.
The rate of a speaker's voice depends on several factors. Geography may play a role on how fast or slow one speaks. Southerners tend to talk slower and have a bit of a draw while Northerners speak staccato and are more uptight.
The audiences’ level of education may determine how fast or slow a speaker presents their message. When Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech, his rate of speech was slower. The audience was less educated, requiring MLK to slow the pace. The estimated number of words per minute was 92. In contrast, President John F. Kennedy recorded a number of speeches at 180 words per minute. That’s some fast talkin’.
Speakers that use timing for theatrics may use speed to their advantage. As the drama heats up, so does the speed. If the speech is nearing the end, the pace may begin to slow as if a spotlight descended on stage and slowly faded until dim.
If you’re nervous, the rate of speech will automatically accelerate. It’s best to practice your speech numerous times and clock the time. If the words per minute are too fast, try to slow it down or add more content. Typically, speakers talk between 100 and 150 words per minute.
Pronunciation of words is only a distraction if there’s a word that causes a tongue-tie. The only way a speaker will know if a word is hard to pronounce is by saying it out loud. If you can’t pronounce a word, find another word.
Articulating words may only require some physical adjustment. Articulation is the physical act of using your tongue, jaw, teeth, lips and palate. If you mumble, you’ll need to practice opening your mouth, ‘saying your words’, as your mother might say. If you don’t have a speech impediment or a hearing problem, there’s no reason not to articulate your words.
Just as singers warm up their voices by singing the scales, so must a speaker practice the proper way to enunciate words. Enunciation is how clearly a person says a word and how clearly the sound is made. Anyone who can articulate can learn to enunciate.
Creating a more conversational tone while speaking increases audience’ attention, likeability, trust, and overall enjoyment. The connection is one of warmth and sincerity. The audience isn’t easily fooled, sincerity plays a huge role in building the kind of relationship needed to retain an audience. Sound your bullhorn and amplify your voice. It’s good to be ‘cheer captain’.
Public Speaking Attention-Getters
Fishing is one of those activities that’s considered a sport and a pastime. Whether you’re looking to win a tournament or simply enjoy the sunshine, both require patience and forethought.
As you begin to plan for a day of fishing, some things to consider might include scouting for the right fishing hole, organizing the fishing equipment, and figuring out what the fish are biting (bait). But, being able to snatch a fish ‘plum out of the water’ before it even has a chance to bite, that takes some talent.
It’s the first season’s first episode of the Andy Griffith Show. Aunt Bee isn’t much on fishin’ but Sheriff Andy Taylor wants to introduce his son Opie to Aunt Bee as more than just somebody to help around that house after his momma passed away, but as a friend and experienced fisherman.
While at the pond, Opie asks, “Paw, if she’s such a great fisherman like you’ve been telling me, how come she’s fishin’ with her bait out of the water?” Taylor explains that Aunt Bee is used to deep sea fishin’. He said, deep sea fish like porpoises and such jump out of the water and “come up and meet your pole half-way”.
Wouldn’t it be somethin’ if we could snag our audience without applying actual bait to the hook? That’s the intention of attention-getters. The ability to jiggle the line just enough to snag the fish. It’s a task speaker’s toil in as they prepare opening remarks.
There are four components required in the introduction of the speech. They include an attention-getter, establishing credibility, revealing the topic, and having a preview statement. For now, we’re exploring five different attention-getters speakers may use to get the audience hooked.
Grabbing the audience’ attention is challenging, no doubt. It’s the first impression the audience has of your ability to capture their interest. For those that have busy schedules, time is valuable and there’s no time to waste listening to a speaker without a good opening line.
Writers have a similar dilemma. They have to jiggle the line for the reader’s attention within the first few paragraphs or pages or lose them. With every article, book, or speech written, if the author doesn’t find a way to bait the audience into wanting more, you’re fish bait. For student speeches, there are five suggestions the speaker may use to grab the attention of the audience.
The first is to state the importance of your topic. The year 2020 will go down in the history books as a year fraught with life-altering events. It’s fair to say, the pandemic, presidential election, and the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg will change the course of history and hence change the lives of many.
The same may not be true of other topics. In a time when ‘big fish’ prevail, how does the casual speaker prepare a passionate speech with great significance?
If raising money for the local animal shelter is the goal, it’s essential to express the importance of funding your passion project. For instance, there are K-9 police dogs that ‘sniff-out’ illegal drugs at America’s borders and horses that provide equine therapy promoting human physical and mental health. If the speech topic is fish, it’s the task of the speaker to create importance.
Based on a survey and estimation, there are nearly 13 million households in the United States that own fish. That means over 10% of Americans have fish in their homes (based on 2.5 people per household). If you can effectively use statistics in your speech, it can improve the significance of your topic.
Asking a rhetorical question is a quick and easy way to begin a speech. The trick is the presentation. Once a question is asked, it’s necessary to give the audience time to reflect and respond mentally. For some speakers, an inserted pause is difficult and will take some practice.
Rhetorical questions are questions asked that don’t require a verbal or non-verbal response. The idea is for the audience to create a visual answer within the confines of their mind. Try to formulate rhetorical questions that encourage the audience to take a trip down memory lane. Try to avoid questions that are close-ended with ‘yes or no’ answers.
Another attention-getter designed to reel in the audience is having relatable openings. If the audience understands you’re trying to be inclusive, the speaker is much more likely not only to get a nibble but maybe a tug on the line.
Instead of discussing the time you went fishing with your partner, include the audience in the storyline. The events unfold as follows: Imagine you’re going on a fishing trip with your significant other. This trip, you’re going to use ‘live’ bait. As you head to an unfamiliar pond or lake, you need to decide: worms or crickets. It’s a question to ponder, so you decide to pick up both.
After buying the worms and crickets, it’s time to bait the hook. Think about your first experience threading a worm. Ugh. Maybe the time you stabbed a cricket with the hook and heard a ‘crunch’ sound as you pierced its body. At this point, the audience is fully invested and ready to listen to your next disgusting example.
Startling the audience is another technique used to get the audience’ attention. Using statistics is a great way to cast the baited hook and catch a fish. As a public speaker, evidence is your ticket to the Big Bass Splash, the world’s largest amateur's big bass fishing tournament. Information included in your speech from credible sources takes the speech to a whole new level. And surprising statistics will leave the audience wanting more.
An example might be the number of deaths in the United States due to COVID-19. As of September 2020, the United States has lost 200,000 people to COVID-19. According to John Hopkins University, the United States leads the way in total deaths and total infection rates. Brazil has the second highest death rate with approximately 50,000 fewer deaths than the United States and India comes in third with 86,000 total deaths. When the pandemic death estimates were first announced by the CDC in mid-March, American’s didn’t believe it would happen. It has and it is.
The fifth suggestion for jigging a lure to catch a fish is the use of quotations. Quotations are a group of words from text or speech that’s repeated by someone other than the original author. Be quoting experts or people celebrated in their respective fields, credibility is enhanced.
When choosing quotes for the introduction of your speech, it’s important to consider the length of the quote. Most introductions require 10 to 15 percent of presentation time. If you find a quote that’s too long, either find another quote or paraphrase.
Find quotes that move you. This particular quote contains few words but the message is big, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Maya Angelou.
As speeches are prepared and beginnings are written and rehearsed, remember, you aren’t locked into any particular introduction. The important thing to remember is write and rewrite the introduction until you find the perfect fit. Beginnings are hard and scary. The ‘big fish’ is out there waiting to be caught. Give a man a fish and they eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime.
Basketball teamwork is admired for the functionality and collective sacrifice of five ball players working in harmony to achieve a common goal. In public speaking, the speaker and the audience are a team. One doesn’t function without the other. Take a moment and visualize the speaker as the point guard and the audience as the remaining four players.
The point guard is viewed as the ‘one’ that makes the team ‘tic’. They’re the ‘one’ that carries the ball forward in offense and takes responsibility for calling the plays. The point guard is usually fast, smart, and full of energy. They’re the ‘go to’ player on the team.
The audience' role is to follow the point guard's lead. They listen for the play, watch for a passing ball, and look to the player that will make the shot.
As a speaker, you control the content, the energy, and the mood of the presentation. Part of your job is scoring points with the audience to keep the game moving toward a favorable outcome. The responsibility is intense but well worth the effort.
Understanding the connection between the speaker and the audience is key. Since a speech doesn’t involve a verbal dialogue between speaker and audience, the non-verbal communication is the driving factor. If the audience is engaged...game on. If the speaker's message is clouded by an ineffective delivery, they’ll lose interest and call a timeout.
There’s no truer cliché than actions speak louder the words. Understanding the mechanics of behavior such as gestures, eye contact, posture, facial expressions, appearance, anything other than non-linguistic factors will determine if the team is ahead at half-time of if there's going to be a 'butt-chewing' in the locker room.
A recent study that analyzed TED talks speakers shared some positive feedback from people that used hand gestures. The study found that viral speakers tend to average 465 hand gestures per engagement. The study also found that people who talk with their hands tend to be viewed as warm and more agreeable.
Inserting movement into your speech is a bonus. When speaking extemporaneously or with just enough notes to jog your memory, gestures can be viewed positively. It’s when gestures become a distraction, that the added movement becomes a deterrent as opposed to an asset.
When using gestures, make sure they are purposeful. For instance, if the speaker wants to emphasize the main points of their speech, they may indicate each main point by simultaneously verbalizing the main point while holding up their hand and displaying one finger at a time: first, second, and third.
By practicing with planned gestures, the speech becomes more fluid and natural. The same holds true when moving around a stage. Incorporating a few steps toward the audience, will help create a more intimate setting. Recalling late night comic Jay Leno, once the stage moved closer to the audience, an instant connection formed.
Eye contact is another non-verbal behavior a speaker may use to connect with the audience. There’s a technique called the ‘z movement’ that encourages the speaker to be inclusive while engaging with the audience. The speaker moves his/her gaze from the left-front of the room, to the right-front, to the left-rear, and finally to the right-rear of the room. Using this particular pattern gives the illusion that the speaker is looking directly at each individual audience member.
By using good defensive tactics (like good eye contact), the speaker can detect if the audience is interested or drifting away. If it's the latter, the speaker can adjust the playbook before the audience completely disengages.
It's important to note that not all cultures view eye contact in the same light. For instance, Asian cultures don’t believe in the necessity of direct eye contact. Iranian cultures believe eye contact is rude. While Native Americans show respect by avoiding eye contact. As a public speaker, it’s good to be aware of social norms.
Another defensive tactic on the court is to stand tall with hands in the air to block the shot. Standing tall behind the podium or beside the podium is essential. No slouching, leg-crossing, or one-legged pelican stands allowed. The idea is to have a commanding presence...to be the tallest guy in the room (You may want to keep your hands to your side, though).
If there’s a podium and you’re not quite tall enough, bring something to stand on. It doesn't have to be announced that you require a lift. Bring a stool and set it in place before speaking. Many that are short, will opt to stand to the side of the podium.
One of the best assets a speaker has is facial expression. There are over one thousand micro-expressions at your disposal. If the mood of your speech is happy a smile is appropriate. If your content is more serious in nature, keep a somber face. Make sure the non-verbal behavior fits the content of your speech.
First impressions are vital. If you’re going on a job interview, dress appropriately or if unsure, overdress. The same goes for public speaking. The speaker should be more formally dressed than the audience.
The color of your attire as a public speaker is important. For light backgrounds, wear dark clothing. For dark backgrounds, wear light clothing. You want to be noticed on stage not blend into the background. There are many small details to review before speaking at a new venue. If possible, investigate the layout before committing to your wardrobe.
The rules are as follow: The speaker sets the pace of the game. You're the point guard, take control. Interact with your team, the audience, it's essential for success. If you want to be an above average or even a 'great' public speaker, incorporate non-verbal behaviors into your speech. It will separate the winners from the losers.
Pig or cow. Pig or cow. Pig! Giving a speech without taking the time to practice is very similar to Cristina Yang’s surgical conundrum on the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. Yang extensively researched the procedures for the pig and cow valves that required two totally different surgeries. Yang’s patient couldn’t decide which animal valve felt ‘more like her authentic self.’ While waiting on ‘the Beatnik’s’ decision, Yang crammed for both valve procedures.
While in surgery, the two procedures started blending together. Yang experienced a ‘brain bleed,’ figuratively speaking, due to information overload produced by the ‘pig or cow’ dilemma. A patient almost lost their theoretical life because Yang planned but didn’t practice. If she had spent more time simulating the surgery (she was a surgical intern and simulating surgeries was part of how they learned), there may never have been the ‘pig or cow’ moment. The procedure was theoretical in practice.
Of course, the situation described is from a fictional television drama and, to be clear, medical doctors 'practice' medicine. However, the analogy between the Yang example and public speaking still applies. Studying for the ‘pig or cow’ replacement valve surgery represents time researching, planning and writing the speech. The ‘brain bleed’ or ‘pig or cow’ conundrum represents a lack of practice delivering a well-written speech.
A speaker may practice their speech within the confines of their brain, but until words are vocalized, the speech process is incomplete. And when words are uttered (no pun intended), they never come out the way you planned inside your head. Words and phrases seem disconnected and foreign.
A standard rule of thumb is for every minute of speaking time, there should be an hour's worth of preparation...this includes rehearsal. All the planning, research, pen to pad scribbles, and final drafts are futile unless the speech has been practiced out loud.
Delivering a polished speech is the difference between a good speech and a great speech.
Delivering a great speech is more than just 'mooing' words. Prior to the formal presentation, a speech requires rehearsal and a reset button. Quirks spoken and unspoken will only be uncovered during the dress rehearsal.
For instance, some people use hand gestures when talking. As a public speaker, gestures can be important to create interest and likeability. It’s the big movements that are cause for concern. Flailing arms and untimely motions can distract the audience from the message. The idea is to use gestures in moderation. It’s learning when and how to use them that’s important.
There are methods that are helpful in uncovering the good, the bad and the ugly mannerisms that may either enhance or detract from a speech. Let’s begin by taking a look at speaking in front of a ‘live’ audience.
A good case study in ‘the power of a live audience’ is The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. When Leno took over The Tonight Show from Johnny Carson in 1992, executive producers wanted Leno to be another Carson. The former late night host had been a staple of NBC for 30 years and after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Carson and Leno had very different approaches to entertaining. Carson was ‘laid-back’ and ‘cool’. He didn’t mingle much with the audience or his guests and only laughed when something was really funny. He required little feedback. On the flip side, Leno’s roots were in stand-up comedy. He lived by the sword (laughter) and died by the sword (lack thereof). He needed audience feedback. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno needed a make-over.
NBC tweaked the show’s set in 1994 to move Leno closer to the studio audience. For years, Leno opened the show by walking out to the audience and shaking hands in order to absorb the audience’ energy. The show had more of a comedy-club vibe, which is where Leno was the most comfortable. Adjustments were made to fit the performer and the audience.
Before tackling a large audience that’s virtually unknown to you, find a few family members or friends to pose as the audience while you practice your speech. There’s no need for critique, unless you’re open to that. The main objective is to have eyeballs on you while working through the speech and make adjustments.
Another good tip to assist in practicing for a speech is to stand in front of the bathroom mirror. The idea is to find a mirror that’s large enough to capture body movements as well as facial expressions. If you see yourself speaking too much with your arms, adjust and try to incorporate planned gestures. It may seem awkward at first but the more you commit to the mirror, the easier it will get.
A tool that’s readily available today is the smartphone. Just click play and begin. Recording your voice, gestures, posture, all the elements that result in a ‘make or break’ presentation could be invaluable as a public speaker. It may be one of those insightful moments when you think, ‘I can work with that.’.
Having a well-written speech is half of the battle. And, if the words are yours and not someone else's, most of the content will come naturally. The tip is to practice out loud. Don’t be caught in a ‘pig or cow’ dialogue inside your head or screaming at the top of your lungs, ‘pig or cow’ “pig or cow’ Pig!
There are days and sometimes weeks, especially during a worldwide pandemic, that are completely devoid of excitement, passion, and enthusiasm. One day is the same as the next. The routine of waking, showering, dressing, working, exercising, eating, sleeping, never changes. The highlight of the week may be a virtual tour through the Smithsonian Institute, watching a concert online, or ordering take-out from your favorite restaurant. Same exercise, different day.
Let's take an inventory.
Uno - Traveling is ill-advised. The state of Kentucky is under a travel advisory that asks Kentuckians to self-quarantine for 14 days after visiting states with positive coronavirus testing equal to or greater than 15%.
Dos - The current guidance for social gatherings stands at 10 or fewer people. Recovered COVID-19 patients have shared war stories about attending a family wedding or funeral and sitting next to the guy that spread CoV-2.
Tres - Mass gatherings are still 'hauci fuera' as my cousin would say. So, here we sit in a bubble without travel, social gatherings, or ‘live’ entertainment. Today’s emoji is screaming ‘find the passion for the passionless.’
If I were approached and asked to speak about my infant website, I’d be super pumped. It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited about anything. Summer pushed me to the brink and I needed a critical thinking task. Not just ‘busy work’ or something to occupy my time, I needed to wake my brain. Starting WKY Community Living did that and more.
How it began.
I became a ‘news junkie’ after working for the local newspaper. I became interested in ‘the news’ after my high school journalism class. Most of my general education requirements were fulfilled prior to my senior year. The only courses left were English and a couple of electives. Journalism sounded fun and the teacher was cool. My teacher, Ms. Vicki Russell was also the advisor for The Tilghman Bell and once a year she invited the journalism class to participate in a single issue of ‘The Bell.’
For my contribution, I sketched a cartoon with a funny headline. Once submitted, it was accepted and printed. Though my submission seemed small and insignificant, it was my ‘wake up call’ to declare a major in journalism.
After high school, I attended Murray State University majoring in broadcast journalism. After completing my undergraduate degree, I continued my education and received a Masters Degree in Organizational Communications.
My first career job was at a local radio station as a reporter and disc jockey. After a few months of struggling financially, I was recruited into sales...my lifelong occupation.
After years of suppressing my passion, it reignited. I started writing for a small newspaper group and over the next several months ‘took a stab’ at creating a website. Writing my thoughts down on paper has been one of the most fulfilling challenges of my professional career. It’s a game changer.
It’s in these life exercises we get permission to explore new opportunities or passions. To choreograph a life left on the stage after the lights have dimmed. Developing an impassioned speech, requires turning the lights back on. Writing about what interests you instead of playing it safe.
In previous articles, I’ve discussed giving speeches on topics that are familiar and I still advocate this approach. However, if you want to light a new fire, choose topics that spark interest for yourself and your audience.
COVID-19 has kept us home-bound, disconnected, and without adventures. It’s time to start thinking post-CoV-2.
For a start, research foreign lands and find out how South Africans or other cultures live their lives and plan a trip. If you want to further your education but don’t want to go into debt doing it, find out how joining the military could be the answer to college tuition fees. Research and investigation will take an ordinary topic to the extraordinary.
Before each class, I start by discussing current events. Students are busy with work, studies, home life...each requiring big chunks of an already jam-packed day. There’s limited time to scroll through multitudes of news apps, read the newspaper, or watch television news. Part of my job is to help get the conversation started and keep students engaged.
As a public speaker, it’s important to include novel (current) information in your speeches. Unless you’re speaking about the Civil War or other historical events, information that’s more than a decade old is considered irrelevant and untimely. Information such as election 2020 and CoV-2 are considered novel and timely. Be forewarned, topics like COVID-19 are ever-changing and it’s your job to stay on top of new information.
For example, this past week government officials released new protocols on testing for the COVID-19 as well as admitting to embellishing the effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy as a treatment for CoV-2. If you’re giving a speech on subjects that are evolving, be prepared to update.
If your goal is to find subject matter that includes an emotional element, take a self-inventory. A time of reflection of who we are sometimes is a necessary first step.
For instance, we are born into a value system, one of which we had no control over. It’s those systems that assist in shaping our lives. Take an inventory of childhood experiences including the environment, financial situation, health, friends and family, all those nuances that helped mold your world view.
Though we are born into one value system, as we age and become free thinkers, we get to choose to either keep those values thrust upon us at birth or create new ones.
Our personal values or core values are the foundation and navigation system for our life. We begin to form opinions on subjects like the death penalty and abortion. We begin to associate with like-minded people by joining political parties, group memberships, or religious institutions. Speeches that include our personal values give the audience a glimpse inside the speaker’s sentiments. Being able to speak openly and honestly about things that make us tick is of great value to the speaker and the audience.
Another option for giving edgy, passionate speeches are to choose topics based on our hobbies, special interests or charity work. These subjects are action-oriented and provide good energy. Topics that explore outside interests can be extremely passionate. If you can do it, you can say it.
Being a public speaker goes beyond ‘showing up and throwing up’. You may not even know you’re living a life full of interesting content that needs to be shared with the world, colleagues, or the classroom. Everybody has a story, be sure you tell yours.
If you’re a person that’s interested in animation or has watched any of the Looney Tunes cartoons, you may recall a phenomenon known as the ‘silhouette of passage.' In classic cartoons like Road Runner, Daffy Duck, or Tom and Jerry, sometimes you’ll see one of the characters run directly through a wall, a rock, or any solid surface leaving behind a silhouette. The cookie-cutter replica of the cartoon character is suspended in time and space. The sole purpose of the extreme act is to escape or exit as quickly as possible from a situation initiated by cowardice or fear.
We have a choice to make when it comes to facing our fears. Do we want to emulate a cartoon character that runs through walls to escape our fears or do we want to face our fears and walk through an open door, a door that leads to opportunity and advancement? If we make the choice to let fear ‘rule the day,’ it can take away our joy, our voice, and our meaningful moments. If we choose to ‘rule the fear’, we find our voice for the voiceless and our moments in time.
“If you become frightened, instead become inspired” is a way to take the power back. The power to change the world or at the very least, have our voices heard. The potential to change or alter the course of history may not come to fruition because of our deep-rooted fears. Be the one that takes action instead of the one that ‘door dashes’ relying on someone else to make the move.
Performance anxiety is real, there’s no denying it. There are politicians, performing artists, celebrities, and ordinary people that admittedly have extreme stage fright. Not the kind of fear that’s experienced a few minutes prior to performing but the debilitating terror that causes a person to leave the funny cartoon imprint in the wall .
Adele is one such artist that admits to being so terrified of performing in front of an audience while at her own concert, she once bolted for the nearest fire exit leaving her audience in the dust. She said she’s never at ease on stage and doesn’t feel relief until after the curtain has dropped.
Your body has physical reactions to fear. Emotions associated with intense fear can be paralyzing, numbing, and harmful. The crippling effects of a person with uncontrolled fear, can be felt throughout the entire body. What Adele experienced was the ‘fight or flight’ syndrome. She could either stay and face the fear or she could escape it. No performer can continue under such conditions. Soon, it becomes necessary to find solutions or stop doing what you’re doing.
On the upside, small amounts of nervousness can energize a performance. Normal physiological reactions to fear include: queasy stomach, rapid pulse, sweaty palms, shaky voice, and tense muscles. The audience doesn't know you’re nervous unless you tell them. Sometimes, these types of physical reactions enhance our speaking experience. We can turn negative energy into positive energy. A little nervousness shows you care about the outcome, that you’re vested.
Barbra Streisand is an entertainer that didn’t perform in front of an audience for 27 years because of fear. She attributes her stage fright to a performance in 1967 when she forgot the words to a song. The experience was too embarrassing to overcome so she just quit. That one show kept her from doing the one thing she did best for almost three decades.
When teaching students ‘the art of public speaking’, I share personal stories about performance anxiety. I don’t remember having much fear when I was younger. I held lead roles in school plays and sang solos in the church choir and really enjoyed the audience’ reaction. It wasn’t until I got older, that the fear started to creep into my performances.
Participating in piano competitions might have been the beginning of the end. Being judged on one’s piano skills can be very hard on young musicians. The pomp and circumstance is quite different from many judging contests. In Jane Austin’s “Pride and Prejudice.’ young women were admired for their ability to play Piano Forte. By playing well, a woman was viewed as more valuable and desirable by society and potential suitors. Being your best at this particular skill dates back to the 1800's.
The visualization of the piano competition is as clear to me today as it was many years ago. The image of gliding onto the stage while approaching the ominous Steinway Baby Grand Piano was intimidating. All eyes were focused on me as I slid into position on the piano bench. After taking a deep breath, I lifted my hands so they hovered over the keyboard. My palms remained rounded and my fingertips barely brushed the keys until it was time to play the first chord. The hope was for a superior rating. If achieved, a grand feat had been accomplished.
Slowly, the anxiety began to seep into my vocal performances. I remember having a rolling stomach and nausea before going on stage for a solo performance wondering which end was going to blow.
The nail in the coffin was the Miss MSU pageant at Murray State University. Somewhere in the middle of my talent, I forgot the words to my song. The humiliation of that experience remained imprinted in my mind for a while. After that, performances were few and far between and eventually stopped.
In the business world, formal presentations play a big role in career success. If you’re ambitious and have plans to climb the corporate ladder, being a polished communicator is essential. Small group presentations were palpable, it was the large groups that gave me an out-of-body experience. To conquer my fear, I decided to become a public speaking instructor. I jumped right out of the fire into the frying pan.
It was an exercise in dedication and commitment. I knew that by learning the tricks of the trade and becoming more knowledgeable on the science of public speaking, the art of public speaking would soon follow.
I was inspired to do something positive about my fears. I wanted ‘the joy’ and limitless career potential associated with overcoming performance anxiety. By learning strategies and techniques, I was able not only to conquer my fears but thrive.
Any person wanting to overcome the fear of public speaking, should turn fear on its ear. Inspire instead of perspire. Embrace the ‘new-found’ freedom of the power of the spoken word. There’s so much to teach and so little time. My goal is to share all that I know with those that want to learn and achieve their dreams. Practice, prepare, and polish (the three p’s) the art of public speaking and be ready for whatever life throws your way.
Recalling the scene from the ‘Pants Alternative’ episode on The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon wins the Chancellor’s Award for Science and is asked by Chancellor Morton to give a speech. Sheldon has spoken in small groups but not groups large enough to stampede him. He needs to overcome his fear of public speaking, and the gang is all up for helping him deal with his anxieties.
Penny suggests a new suit to ‘dress for success’, Leonard tries to psychoanalyze his fears, Raj performs a meditation exercise, Howard pretends to care, all nice tries, but nothing seems to work.
While at the banquet, Sheldon is very nervous and Penny suggests he drink a glass of wine, and then another, and another, all in an effort to loosen him up. The liquid confidence gives a whole new meaning to imagining the audience in their underwear but this time the speaker is without pants.
Neither alcohol nor imagining the audience in their underwear helps much when trying to overcome the fear of public speaking. Some have been told to avoid eye contact with the audience, ‘just look over their heads’ they say, ‘the audience won’t know the difference,’ says another. This little trick doesn’t help either.
The best way to overcome anxiety as a public speaker is to get experience. It’s probably a solution many have heard before. Just the idea of having to get up in front of people time and time again in order to overcome speaker anxiety is mortifying.
When in college, most students are required to take a public speaking class. Advisors encourage students to ‘get it over with...go ahead and take the class so it’s out of the way.’ Remembering the years as a freshman in college and being told to ‘get it over with’ sounded like telling the parents you wrecked the car.
Public Speaking class is one of those opportunities to get experience in front of a large group of people. Unfortunately, the number of times a person will engage in an ‘actual speaking experience’ won’t get the job done. It takes months and months of practice to overcome the fear of speaking in front of an audience. The question is, what to do in the short-term.
The best advice that should be offered to any public speaking student, business professional or reluctant speaker (person with an incredible story to tell) is to talk about what you know.
If asked to get up in front of a group to speak as a student, professional, or reluctant speaker, think about what’s available ‘in the wheelhouse of experience.’ As a student, credibility will need to be established through extra research, practice and polishing the delivery but as a professional or someone with first-hand knowledge on a topic, there’s a certain amount of credibility already established with the audience (pre-speech or initial credibility) without a word being said.
If the speaker concentrates on what they know, the anxieties should already feel less invasive. All the negative talk and self-doubt will begin to dissipate and confidence levels will rise.
The speaker is having a conversation with the audience on information that’s familiar and easy. There’s no trying to impress the audience with a verbose vocabulary or using clever metaphors, it’s painting a picture of your experiences with familiar details. The more you narrow down the topic, be specific, and share personal stories, the more the audience will engage. Choose any subject and break it down into chewable pieces with splashes of color and good ole fashioned storytelling.
There’s nothing extra special required of the speaker. No tricks or hypothetical stories. Try to give the audience your best. Don’t be afraid to look them directly in the eye. Find the friendly faces in the crowd and focus on them. Granted, scan the room but find those with eyes on you, the speaker. There’s no greater feeling as a public speaker to make good eye contact with the audience and know your topic matters to them as well as to you.
Definitely avoid alcohol while giving a speech. It seems like a no-brainer to discuss leaving the booze until after the speech is completed but there will always be those Penny’s. Those that are trying to be helpful but fail miserably. Alcohol is a depressant to the Central Nervous System (CNS). The first drink may feel like a ‘pick-me-up’ but continued drinking will slow everything down from altered speech, brain fog, dulled hearing, weakened muscles, all negative effects for the effective public speaker.
Though Sheldon Cooper got the nerve to head to the podium and give his acceptance speech, the next morning he woke up without his pants and shamefully aware of the YouTube video streaming around the world of his ‘dark side of the moon’ show and tell.