Effectively mastering speeches

Have you experienced it as well? You know that you have to present in front of a major audience, maybe your company’s leaders will also be present in the room, and already three weeks before the event, you are afraid of that single moment. Well, rest assured, you are not alone; in fact, many of us feel exactly the same and this doesn’t make you a bad speaker.

Even the best and most experienced speakers around the globe though, have to prepare thoroughly what they are going to say and how they are going to interact with their audience. Exactly like acting on stage in a theatre or in front of a camera, all gestures, climaxes, intervals and jokes are carefully studied and planned. Not that there would not be any room left for adaptations or flexibility, no, of course not! An experienced speaker will simply be more at ease coping with unforeseen situations or reactions from the audience as he/she will have a reservoir of anecdotes and stories at hand to fill the gap or bridge the difficult moment.

So, how should you prepare for an important speech? A couple of things to remember when putting your slides or other support materials together:

  • Images tell more than words; use as many images as you can to stress what you are saying, don’t write all you have to say on your slides (why should people listen to you otherwise, they could just read your hand-outs).
  • Your only text should be key messages and take-away points; this will make your speech much stronger.
  • A speech is like a story, it needs a clear, intro, climax and closure; never lose the red thread during your ‘act’, it would confuse your audience.
  • Give examples that ,speak’ to your audience (you should thus know in advance who you are going to address).

And of course:

  • Practice, practice, practice… as many times as it takes to feel safe and confident when you speak. Select somebody to present to, he/she might even give you interesting hints and tips on how to improve yourself.
  • For the important day: choose clothes that you feel comfortable with. This is extremely important! If you are not happy with your looks, how will you be able to convince your audience?

Last but not least, when you present, please remember to:

  • Speak slowly and clearly; even when time runs out (maybe something unforeseen happened): a good speaker knows how to shorten a speech and will still be able to make his/her point.

With this in mind, your speech will have the desired impact and the more often you take the opportunity to be on stage, the less anxiety you will feel. And remember: no one is born a master!