So I am back this summer teaching a public speaking class....its been awhile and I am really enjoying the nervous energy from all the men and women in the course. The first night of class I asked students to pull out a piece of paper and write anonymous questions regarding their concerns for the course, or anything else. The majority of them asked about how to control their nervousness when having to stand up and speak to an audience. I offered them the following advice:
1. First, understand that you will not be asked to give a speech or presentation unless it is on a topic you are already comfortable with or on a topic others perceive you as an expert in. Therefore approach the entire process through the lens of confidence. Confidence in your ability to know your subject and confidence to present it effectively.
2. Second, Before you start writing find out the specifics of the audience. Spending time performing some basic audience analysis can be crucial to your success. Find out how many people you will be presenting your speech to as well as what their ages, education level, gender, group membership, ethnicity and socioeconomic level are. This will help you tailor your message appropriately.
3. Next, Determine how long you will be expected to speak and stick to it! If you are given 10 minutes to speak keep it to 9 minutes and 30 seconds. DO NOT GO OVER TIME! Unless you are God, the President or Oprah, people do not want you to speak longer than expected. Make sure you plan your speaking outline to meet this requirement.
4. Then, its time to write your speech, following a basic writing outline with no more than 4 main points with an effective introduction including a "hook" is the easiest way to do this. Your outline should look something like this:
I. Introduction - (Opening Device) Put a detailed creative "hook" here where you really get the attention of the audience, add detail, facts, stats, quotations, etc. Then deliver a clear thesis statement and a preview of what you will cover in your main points.
II Body- This will be comprised of 2-4 main points and should only be fragments and keywords when you write it. This will force you to speak conversationally and sound natural and connect with the audience. It also forces you to make more eye contact.
III Conclusion- Conclude with a brief summary of your main points and a reference back to your introduction (Keep this short, no more than 45 seconds)
5. Finally, don't forget to make eye contact and speak slowly. Practice ahead of time and record yourself. It is hard to watch but crucial to improvement! Then, smile and have fun delivering your message!