I think every one of us dreams of someday giving THAT ONE SPEECH. You know exactly what speech I’m talking about.
The one where you are standing on stage, supremely confident in your knowledge and flawless delivery. The one with no stutters and no awkward pauses trying to remember what to say next. The one with nobody in the audience looking around or checking their watch or wondering what they should eat for dinner. The one where your voice does not shake with fear and your gestures are not awkward and forced. The one speech where at the end of it, the audience gives a thundering applause (not the standard applause, or the half-hearted applause, or the pity applause), but the geniune 100% certified grade A “We most definitely loved your speech and we want to show it” applause. That’s THE speech I’m talking about.
During my time at UCLA, learning how to give a great speech like that was one of the things I wanted to do. I talked with friends who had taken the regular Speech 101 classes that UCLA offered, but their reviews about it weren’t that glowing to say the least.
Then one day, while browsing for classes to register, I stumbled on an obscure speech class buried deep within. I believe it was called Oral Communication or something to that effect. What surprised me was that it was filed under Math and Science department (maybe it was Math or Science department, not math and science, but I digress). The point I want to make is that it wasn’t filed under the same department as the regular Speech classes were.
What’s more, the class maximum size was extremely small (I think 10 people), which meant individual one on one time with the professor, as opposed to the huge regular speech 101 classes, where you were akin to a grain of sand on a beach.
The professor (I apologize profusely for forgetting your name Professor as I am horrible with names and that’s what I get for calling you the generic title of Professor all the time :)) consulted with top executives in fortune 500 companies and helped them to overcome fear of public speaking and gave real genuine advice on how to give a great speech.
The cool thing about this class was that it offered a whole new paradigm of public speaking (at least it did to me and to the other people in my class).
The concepts we learned in class were so good that they helped people in my class who had strong foreign accents, (which made their English hard to understand), give great speeches.
I admit, I was skeptical until this one guy, whose thick Asian accent made it pretty hard to understand his English, (but by learning these key points), was able to give a terrific speech on nanotechnology. Despite his accent, he made an extremely complex subject very simple to understand and got his message across very effectively. My classmates and I were blown away and it was truly inspiring, to say the least.
The following are the main key points that I remember from that class. I don’t know where I left my notes on that class, but these key points are (in my honest opinion) all you need to know to give a great speech.
Key Point #1: You Have an Important Message You Want to Tell People
Adopt the mentality that you have this great message (your speech), that only you are capable of delivering this important message to the audience and that it is your job to make them understand your message.
It is very crucial they understand your message.
Put your entire focus on wanting and making sure the audience understands your message.
A lot of speech classes cover topics centered around the speaker.
Don’t sway side to side.
Stand up straight.
Speak loudly, but not too loudly.
Don’t tap your foot.
Don’t let awkward pauses build up, etc.
What this does is put all the focus on YOU, the speaker. It makes you very self conscious, which in turn makes you nervous, which will in turn show in your speech.
The key here is to throw all that focus and subsequent anxiety on the AUDIENCE.
Have the thought of “I really have an important message and I want the audience to understand it. It’s very important that they do. I am the chosen one to give this speech and I want to make sure I get my message across and they understand.”
By adopting this simple shift in focus from the speaker to the audience, you eradicate a lot of the pain that people associate with public speaking, and that is “I hope I don’t screw up and look like a complete jackass in front of a lot of people.”
Your focus shifts to “I really want the audience to understand my message and I’m going to do everything in my power to achieve that.” Develop a burning desire to do so.
Really focus on that and I guarantee you that the audience will feel it and pay way more attention, because they sense you have something important to say and you DO. The audience will feel that you are sincerely trying to help them in your speech and you will find the audience will thank you greatly for it.
You know what else happens when you do this? All your body language, your tonality, gestures, volume, etc will correspond to that of a great speaker, because all great speakers have a burning desire to get their message across.
Ever wonder why motivational speakers are so inspiring and such great speakers? That’s exactly why.
This is a great shift in paradigm because it turns all the focus from the speaker trying hard not to make mistakes to the audience understanding the message.
Key Point #2: Speak in a Conversational Tone
We’ve been influenced by the media to “broadcast” when we give a speech. To speak like Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather on the Nightly News (I don’t mean to imply that form of communication is “bad” in a sense. It’s just a style not suited for giving speeches”). Giving speeches in a “broadcast” format is an instant turn off to audience members. Why?
Because they feel that they as an individual are not important. You are just “broadcasting” your message to the whole. In their eyes, you don’t care about them as an individual.
The majority of people tend to go into “broadcast mode” when giving a speech and the audience members groan inside thinking “not this type of speech again”.
When giving your speech, speak as if you were talking to a friend. This will give the impression that you are talking to each individual audience member, on a very personal level. This will hold their interest in you and your speech because they feel your are talking to them personally.
For example, let’s say your speech is “Why Berries are the Best Antioxidant Fruits”
Right before the first words come out of your mouth when you give your speech, picture your best friend in the front row asking YOU, “Hey (insert your name), why are berries the best antioxidant fruits?” Answer him like you would in the tone of a normal conversation in your speech to get that conversational tone effect.
Also, make individual eye contact with one person while speaking in that conversational tone and then move on to the next person and make eye contact with them and repeat this process. This will further enhance your speech.
To help you better understand the difference between Broadcasting and the Conversational tone, let’s see how the opening lines of the same speech are like according to these two styles.
Broadcasting: “Numerous scientific studies have shown that berries contain a high level of anti oxidants, more so than any other fruit. They attribute this unique quality to the ……”(zzzzzzzzzzz the audience shuts down mentally as they realize it’s just another broadcast.)
Conversational: “When I heard berries were the best antioxidant fruits, two questions came to mind. What the heck is an antioxidant, and why should I care about the berries that have them? I bet you thought that too. Well, I did a little reasearch and came up with some answers. It seems an antioxidant is like a cancer fighting machine. It’s sort of like …… (audience’s ears perk up right from the start because they sense this is no ordinary (aka broadcast) speech. This speaker is talking to them on an individual level because of the conversational tone of the speech so they listen accordingly.
Trust me, the vast majority of people give speeches in broadcast mode (i.e. remember your high school’s valedictorian speech?), without even realizing it, and without knowing that it kind of shuts people’s minds off the instance they detect it, (unless they are really really really really interested in what you have to say).
Kill the broadcast. Open up the conversation and invite the audience in.
Key Point #3: P.R.E.P
No, it doesn’t mean prep, although that’s something you should certainly do.
P.R.E.P stands for:
Most audience members will only remember one or two key points from a speech.
The sad thing is that most people tend to ramble on and on and on and on and on in their speeches while all the while the audience is thinking “What’s the point? Get to the freakin point! You’re all over the freakin place. I don’t know what you’re trying t to tell me. Arrrrggghhh. I’m just going to think about what I should eat for dinner.”
To avoid this, try to keep your point simple by saying it in one sentence. (P)
When people hear your point, their next natural thought is “why?”.
You must satisfy their thought by providing a good reason. (R)
Then you give a simple example to illustrate your point. (E)
Studies have shown that people will remember the examples in the speech and use that as a link to remember the point of the speech (tortoise and the hare – easy example that everyone remembers and the point is easily extracted from the example). So choose a good example.
Then reiterate your point for good measure. (P)
Include at the most 3 P.R.E.Ps. If possible, try to cut down the number of points to one or two in your speech because the average audience member will only remember one or two things from your speech.
When preparing your speech, keep these points and examples simple so you’re audience will fully comprehend your message. A good acronym my professor used for this is K.I.S.S (Keep it super simple).
You’ll find that if you use this simple P.R.E.P formula, the audience will easily be able to recollect the main points of your speech, which is something very rare for audiences in general.
Key Point #4: Let it Land
Sometimes, we may be so eager to get our message across that we speak faster than a high school girl sitting with her friends on a lunch table with the juiciest piece of gossip to hit the school in weeks.
When you speak, let it land. Pause after each sentence. Let it sink in. Look at the audience to gauge whether you are speaking too fast. You know just as well as I do that if you have to keep up your comprehension with the speaker’s fast rate of speech, you’ll switch off and forget about it, as it is way too much work.
Let it land.
Key Point #5: Know Your Material (aka Practice)
Know your material. Inside out. Yes, it’s cliche. Yes you know it. Yes I don’t have to tell you, but I’m still going to. Know your material. Inside out. Know it in your sleep. Know it in the shower, in your car, when you’re working out. Be sure of it. Be rock solid. Know your material. Know it so well that you don’t even need to bring a line by line transcription of your speech. Just a brief outline, as shown at the end of this article. This is just the ultimate confidence booster. Know your material and you will knock your own socks off.
Key Point #6: Visualize
Yes you’ve heard about this as well. Every book, teacher, and speaker recommends this practice and you know why? It’s because it works. I will post an article on visualization in the near future that will go in depth as to why it works, but for now, know that it works.
Get a layout of the place where you will be giving your speech. Stand on stage and picture the audience. Visualize yourself giving THAT ONE speech, and nailing it, and having the audience give you thunderous applauses and genuine comments afterward. Envision it constantly and feel the joy, hear the applause, see yourself in your eyes giving the speech, feeling the confidence, laying out the simple points and examples, seeing their heads nod in understandment and agreement, etc. You will find that your visualizations will come true.
The Whole Package
So here’s the basic outline of your speech.
Intro – Like they say, use an attention grabbing intro. Use a funny anecdote, or something you noticed in general, or whatever you can come up with. I leave this up to your creative mind. Case in point, get their attention so you can tell them about:
Point #1: My point is…What I’m trying to say is….etc..
Conclusion (wrap it up and reiterate your points again)
Apply the tips outlined in this article and I guarantee you that your fear of public speaking will greatly diminish and that you will be able to give THAT ONE SPEECH you’ve always dreamed of.