Public Speaking

The primary difference between a poor speech and a good one is in its delivery. The real challenge of public speaking is the actual presentation of the speech. Proper delivery techniques should be used to successfully communicate the substance of the speech to the audience. Nonverbal communication accounts for approximately 93% of the communication process. Essentially this means that how the presentation is delivered is more important than what is said. To present a speech effectively, the following skills should be developed: overcoming nerves, developing stage presence, refining vocal qualities, maximizing power of expression, making eye contact, and using presentation aids.

Preparing a Speech can be broadly divided in to two categories.

Preparation

  • Topic and Purpose – Make sure the topic you choose overlaps with their knowledge and interests with the interests and information needs of the audience. Presentations on general topics are more difficult to prepare and present than presentations on narrower topics. The immediate purpose of the Public speaking is to communicate your idea, thought & view point across to the audience. For this to happen, the speaker should be effective in persuading or informing the audience.
  • Audience Analysis – Speakers should also perform an “audience analysis.” Sometimes this involves gathering new information about an audience; sometimes it just requires taking account of information they already have as they plan and develop a presentation. Common aspects of audience analysis include: typical age, gender, group affiliations, education, type of employment, knowledge of the topic, attitudes about the speaker and the topic, and personal or professional interests that might be relevant to the topic.
  • Content – We think content should receive significant time and attention during preparation. After all, it’s the content that contains the message! Good public speaking presentations also include examples, illustrations and supporting stories that show how the information presented applies to the lives of the audience members. Most good speakers can tell a few jokes or give an enjoyable after-dinner speech. But the real work of public speaking is to inform or persuade. Therefore, it is important to present real information to their audiences, provide new insights for them, and convince them that the message rests on solid evidence. Simply testifying to the strength and sincerity of our own beliefs does not guarantee that anyone else will accept them.
  • Structure – The speaker must decide whether he or she is talking about steps in a process, problems and solutions, general categories of a broader topic, a historical sequence, case examples, and so on. Strong presentations are built around a logical structure that works for the topic and helps the audience follow the speech. The structure helps the speaker decide which main point to address first and the order of the points that follow. If a presentation is just a jumble of everything we know about a topic, it can confuse the audience. If people get confused, they assume it s the speaker s fault and tend to quit listening.
  • Developing the Introduction – The introduction is a vital part of the presentation because it sets the tone for what is to follow. A good introduction does the following:
  • Gets attention
  • Discloses the purpose
  • Identifies the speaker
  • Establishes Rapport
  • Gives an advance summary
  • Developing a Strong Conclusion – The conclusion should bring the presentation to closure. It should close the “loop” opened by the introduction. Where the introduction gives an advance notification of what will follow, the conclusion should review and reiterate the main points that have been covered. Where the introduction tells the audience how the presentation will benefit them, the conclusion should specifically tell them how and under what circumstances to apply the information provided. The conclusion should also touch again on the audience interests served by the material provided. This motivates them to remember and use the information.

Delivery

Most competitors work very hard on their speech mechanics, so delivery is generally strong. Thorough preparation and rehearsal, focused on good standards of performance, is the key

  • Notes vs. Memorization – Each speaker should do what he or she can do best. It’s certainly reasonable to memorize presentations when preparing for competition. Speakers want to be prepared so they don t forget anything important. But to memorize a speech, you have to write it out first. It turns out that we don t write the way we usually speak. In writing we use longer words, more formal phrasing and longer, more complex sentences. So, when speakers recite written material from memory it can sound a little stiff, as though they are reading from a book instead of speaking to an audience. Many good speakers use a keyword outline of their main points and any essential information like statistics and direct quotations. Since they aren’t following a script, they’re able to speak with personal pronouns, shorter words, shorter sentences and even sentence fragments. It just makes sense that this kind of speech is easier to remember and deliver effectively.
  • Wording – Good public speaking is only slightly more formal than ordinary conversational speech. Long words may sound important, but they don t necessarily communicate better. Some good rules to follow are:
  • don’t use any words you don t think your audience will understand,
  • don’t use any words you aren’t sure you know how to pronounce correctly,
  • don’t use any words you wouldn’t care to define in response to a judge’s question,
  • don t use any long words if you know short words that will do just as well,
  • never use two or more words when one word will do the job.
  • Movement – Many effective speakers stay at the podium, others prefer to move around. From my experience, I suggest that neither approach is automatically superior. There have been “movers” and winning “podium standers” speeches. The key is what works for the speaker. If the movement seems spontaneous and it emphasizes and supports the presentation, then it can be very effective. On the other hand, movement can also appear mechanical, detracting from the immediacy of a presentation. Also, if the movement seems random or nervous, it will only detract from the speech.
  • Gesture – Gestures and movements, like many other nonverbal communications, can either tremendously reinforce and clarify the speech, or distract the audience from the message. In order to eliminate nervous habits, the speaker must first identify any tendencies that may be exhibited. The best way to do this is by videotaping a practice delivery and analyzing the tape. It often helps to have someone else assist with the tape analysis since speakers tend to focus more on how they sound than on their mannerisms. Another benefit of movement is that it helps to engage the audience. They pay more attention, especially if the speaker is moving towards them. As speakers learn to read the audience’s feedback, they can use movement to respond. However, one of the most important factors of movement is that it looks natural. Movement that looks rehearsed takes away from the speech; unnatural movements do not help the speaker feel more at ease. Also, care should be taken to not go overboard. Pacing and overuse of gestures and movements distracts from the presentation.
  • Vocal Delivery – Some people are born with better voices than others. However, just about everyone can learn effective vocal delivery. The keys are comfort and variety. As speakers gain experience, they will discover the vocal pitch and volume that are most comfortable for them most of the time. Pitch means how high or low a voice sounds within its own range. Never try to “sound like an orator,” our natural voice will always sound better. Then, to add emphasis or help the audience interpret the meaning of the presentation, competitors should punctuate with changes in pitch, rate, and/or volume. Use a fairly conversational delivery for most of the presentation and save the extra volume and emphasis for when they are needed. Finally, effective delivery requires correct pronunciation. If a word is too hard to pronounce, choose a simpler word.
  • Interaction with Audience – The best presentations seem more like conversations than lectures or sermons. That’s because the best speakers know that audiences like to participate, to be involved. One way to do this is with the rhetorical question. (“What would life be like without agriculture?” or, “Who wants their children to live in a world without clean water?”) Speakers don’t ask these questions because they want the audience to answer out loud. Instead, the speaker wants them to answer in their own minds. When they do, they are participating in the presentation, even though they aren’t saying anything. Another way to involve the audience is to acknowledge their reactions and opinions (“When I say agriculture, I know that most of you are thinking ‘cows and tractors,’ or, “If you re like most people our age you ve never even thought about problems with the local landfill.”) These techniques allow a speaker to talk with an audience, as he or she would in a conversation, as opposed to merely talking in front of them.

Finally, smiling, making lots of eye contact and using personal pronouns such as you, we, us, and our help increase interaction and a sense of identification between speaker and audience.

Develop and deliver your presentation using these five key concepts and you’ll be a successful speaker.

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