Top Tips For Public Speaking
Most people are terrified at the prospect of standing up and speaking in front of people. Yet public speaking, if done well, is an effective way of reaching mass audiences with our campaign messages. With practice and some strategies for preparing and delivering a good talk, the most nervous person can become a confident and persuasive speaker. Here are some tips to get you started.
Know your audience and purpose
Before you start working on your talk, it is vital to establish who your audience is and what you want them to do as a result of your talk. Will you be speaking to potential allies or potential enemies? What are their interests, presuppositions and values? How might you create a connection with them? Is your aim to educate them or to persuade? Or, if they are already on side, to inspire them to take action?
Structure your talk
A good talk should have a logical framework which flows. Make sure there is a clear beginning, middle and end. The introduction should give a taster of what is to come and grab the audience's attention. Ask a question, give a shocking quote, tell a funny story, issue a challenge, show a powerful picture. Keep the body of your talk simple and focused and try to stick to three main points. The conclusion should summarise your talk and be short, strong and memorable. End with a challenge, a question or a call to action.
Make it visual
Use visual aids to focus the audience's attention and to illustrate your main points. Visuals could include flip chart, powerpoint, props, maps, videos. The size of your audience and type of venue will inform what is suitable - it needs to be visible to everyone in the room. Simplicity is key - use pictures and simple diagrams and keep any words to a few short bullet points. Check your visuals work beforehand and have a back-up in case things go wrong.
Maintain eye contact
Making eye contact helps you to build a rapport with the audience, making them more attentive. It also enables you to gage the audience's reaction to your message. Try to scan the whole room so that no-one feels excluded.
Be yourself and speak from the heart
Genuine passion and conviction are contagious. Be natural and let your unique speaking style and personality show. Inject a personal note - tell a short story about something that happened to you or share your thoughts.
Remember to pause
Well-timed, dramatic pauses can have a huge impact. They allow your words to sink in, as well as giving you a moment's respite. Silence is far more effective than 'ums' and 'ers'. Use pauses after shocking statistics or stories. If you know you speed up when you are nervous, try writing reminders to 'pause' in your talk notes.
Use your voice and body
Studies show that people pay far less attention to what is said than they do to how it is said. Practice varying the volume, pace, and pitch of your voice. Think about the rhythm of your speech: emphasise key words, use short sentences for dramatic effect, repeat important lines. Dress comfortably and appropriately and think about your posture, facial expression and hand gestures. And remember to smile!
Keep it human
Use stories, examples, case studies, photos to bring your points to life and keep the audience engaged. Hard statistics are important, but, if used on their own, can leave people feeling cold and unmotivated.
Try out your speech in front of a mirror or practice in front of others and ask them to give you feedback. They may notice nervous habits you haven't spotted.
Nerves and adrenaline are absolutely normal, and what is more, they can improve your performance and give you the energy to communicate enthusiastically, convincingly, and passionately. The key is to prepare thoroughly so your nerves don't overcome you on the day. If anything does go wrong or if you are asked a difficult question, pause and take a deep breath. Buy yourself some time by taking a sip of water or reflecting back the question. And smile - it will send positive chemicals through your body and help both you and your audience to relax!