Updated: Jan 26
Maybe it's your first time in front of an audience. Or perhaps you've given dozens of speeches. What matters most once your presentation is delivered, will it be memorable? Here are some tips to make sure you're prepared.
1. Take aim
What do you want to accomplish? Are you trying to inform, persuade, motivate or entertain? Perhaps it’s a combination. Clarifying your objective will guide both your content and verbiage.
2. Who’s who
Know your audience. Why they are there? What will resonate with them? What are they hoping to learn? How much do they know about the subject matter?
3. Start small
After your speech, if the audience only remembers one thing you’ve said, what would you want that to be? Your answer will drive content development.
4. Make them care
Connect with your audience. If they connect with you, they’re more likely to connect with what you’re saying. Share something about yourself. Show some emotion. When you’re passionate, you come across as as authentic and authenticity lends credibility. If you’re talking about a subject that is less than soul-stirring, it’s even more important to tie in some personal perspective.
Listing facts and figures might be necessary in your speech but is it memorable? Tell a story. People connect to people more readily than numbers and data. Think about a story that illustrates your main point and weave it through your speech if possible. The story should connect to the topic at hand and elicit emotion.
6. To PowerPoint or not to PowerPoint
Some of the best speeches come down do just one thing: a great speaker. Don’t automatically assume you need a PowerPoint, video or handouts. Ask yourself: what does this add to my speech? Unless there’s a clear value-add, leave it out. In the case of a complicated subject, slides are a big help but remember, they should punctuate your points, not duplicate your speech.
7. Practice, practice, practice
The more prepared you are, the more successful you’ll be. Run through your speech out loud multiple times and, if possible, in front of someone you trust for honest, thoughtful critique. Use technology to your advantage. Record your speech and watch it back, looking for nervous habits, filler words or areas in need of clarification.
8. Nerves are natural
I’m not sure about you, but looking out into an audience and picturing them in their underwear makes me MORE uncomfortable, not less. Feeling nervous before a speech is totally natural. You’re there because you have a unique perspective or knowledge on the subject. YOU’RE the expert. Even still, you might make a mistake. That’s ok! Keep going! Ninety-nine percent of the time you’ll be the only one who will notice.
9. Embrace the unexpected
We’ve all been to a presentations (or maybe even given one ourselves) where things don’t go quite as planned. Maybe the sound goes out or the slides don’t load or someone asks a question you can’t answer. Stay calm. Focus on what’s in your control. If you get angry or flustered, you’ll be remembered for how you reacted instead of what you said.
10. Speeches have legs
Any speech or presentation has the potential to reach people who weren’t even there. Share it! Record your speech and post it on social media. Looking to build your rep? Hire a PR team to leverage your speech and position you as a thought leader. Create additional content and keep the ball rolling!