Seven Step Speaking Course
In this seven-step speaking course we’ll look at the foundations for a successful speech or persuasive presentation. With a dash of added alliteration for fun. The seven key ingredients are:
- Presentation Planning
- Speech Structure
- Voice Volume (and other elements)
- Body Language – can’t think of anything alliterative here
- Painting Pictures (with words)
- Helpful Humour
- Nice Notes – try not to use ‘nice’ too often
Before you start, think about the purpose of your speech or presentation. What do you want the audience to get out of it and what do you want them to do as a result of hearing it?
Then start by jotting down ideas – just any thoughts that come to mind. When you can’t think of any more, try to link them into a coherent whole. Perhaps use coloured pens to highlight aspects that link together.
Once you have your ideas grouped, think about the best order so that the presentation flows in a logical manner. You should aim to build the ‘story’ so that the more important parts come later.
Go to our post on planning a speech for more information.
Once you’ve planned what you want to say, it’s now time to add a bit more structure.
Speeches and presentations need to be structured to make it easier for the audience to follow and absorb what is being said. In simple terms, there should be an introduction – speech body – summary/conclusion.
Unless it’s a very straightforward subject, it is better to break the main part of the speech into sections, ideally three. Each section will consider a different aspect of the subject.
The introduction should identify the purpose of the speech and outline the three elements to be addressed.
The key points of the speech should be highlighted in the conclusion, including any call to action you are hoping for.
If you can start with a powerful sentence and finish with one, so much the better. The former will catch the attention of the audience and the latter will indicate you’ve finished. You may then even get a round of applause!
In summary, the speech should be constructed as in the diagram below:
Body – Part 1
Body – Part 2
Body – Part 3
Check out our post on structuring a speech for more detail.
The way you use your body can have a significant effect on the impact of the message you are trying to convey.
If you are forever wandering around or waving your hands and arms about, the audience are liable to become distracted and, possibly irritated. Unless there’s reason to move, it’s better to stand in one place.
Having warned against excessive movement, don’t just stand ramrod straight throughout. That will look unnatural and undermine the enthusiasm that you have for your subject.
Even in a video meeting, be careful not to move excessively. The closer you are to the camera, the more even slight movement will be noticeable. This is especially true if you move forwards and backwards.
Facial expressions can add extra impact to your performance but it’s difficult to control them, so it’s probably best to let your face react naturally.
The single most important aspect of body language is how you use your eyes.
It’s important to look at everyone in the room on a regular basis. Make them feel that you are speaking directly to them.
But don’t stare at them. Just make brief contact with each one in turn throughout your presentation. Do this on a random basis rather than regularly sweep the room like a lighthouse beam.
If it’s a video presentation, look at the camera, not the images of the audience.
For more information, go to our post on body language.
A speech delivered at constant speed, the same volume and without any pauses will sound tedious, sleep inducing and won’t have impact.
Speaking to an audience is different from conversational speaking. The level of difference will depend on the room and audience size. The larger the audience, the louder you’ll need to speak, probably sounding to yourself as though you are shouting.
Acoustics will also have a bearing. A room with curtains, carpet and full of people will absorb sound much more than a half-a-dozen people in a room without curtains and with a hard floor.
When you speak, you need to enunciate clearly so that everyone understands what you’ve said.
Speaking quickly makes it harder to speak clearly, so you may need to speak slower than you do in conversation, particularly in a large room.
But, it’s good to inject pace when you want to build excitement. And turn up the volume as well.
A good technique when about to say something really important is to slow down and drop your volume slightly. Then the audience will have to really concentrate to hear you.
Pausing before and after an important statement is also a good way to make sure the audience can absorb it. Likewise, if you use humour, pause when the audience laughs to let them (and you) enjoy the moment.
Yes, you’ve got it. There’s more information in our post on using your voice.
We retain images in our memory far more effectively than words. You can harness the power of words to create images in the listeners’ minds.
Just think about your last holiday. What comes to mind?
It’s images isn’t it?
Overloading the audience with information, fact and figures will lose them. But if you illustrate the key points by creating images in their minds, you can keep them engaged.
As mentioned earlier, slowing down helps the audience to take in what you are saying. It will also provide time for those images to develop.
Your message will be so much more compelling if the audience can visualise what you are discussing. They are unlikely to remember your words for long but they will recall the pictures you’ve painted in their minds.
Find out more about becoming an artist with words.
One of the most effective ways to engage with your audience is by using humour. We’re not talking about jokes, just subtle humour.
Self-deprecating humour, particularly if used early on, can warm the audience to us. Being a speaker at an event confers a certain amount of authority. But it can make us seem a little remote. Humour can break down the barrier.
Even in a serious speech, humour can be used to give some light relief. Contrasting light and shade can help the impact of the message.
An unexpected change of direction that wrong-foots the audience can work very effectively if related to something that the audience will be familiar with. Take them along an apparently predictable path and then say something unexpected. For example: ‘There are lies, damned lies and …’ pause briefly and someone is bound to chip in with ‘statistics’. At which point you insert the word(s) of your choice e.g. politicians, tabloid press, weather forecasts etc.
Find out more about using humour.
Notes should be notes, not anything approaching a script. The more notes you have, the more you will be drawn to looking at them.
Reference to them should be limited and not adversely affect eye-contact.
If you have the use of a lectern, then take advantage of it by having A4 sized notes. Card is better than paper because it lies flat and is easier to turn over if you have more than one page.
If you don’t have a lectern, then small cards are the answer. 15cm x 10cm card is probably the best size compromise.
Whatever format you use, have as few words as possible and use a large font or clear handwriting. You want to be able to scan the notes without losing eye-contact with the audience.
If it’s a video presentation, try to stick, pin or otherwise attach your notes above the screen as close to the camera as possible.
Take note: there’s more information in our post on using speech notes.
So there we have it. The bare bones of perfect presentations and stunning speeches in a seven step speaking course:
Planning, Structure, Voice, Body Language, Images, Humour, Notes
Once you have your speech roughed out, it’s time to practise, practise and practise. Speak out loud and try to replicate what you will do when you deliver it.
Time yourself. Too long? Then go through and take out anything that isn’t essential. A bit of presentation pruning never hurts.
And if you want to become a polished presenter, then find a speakers’ club near you to aid your development as a confident and capable communicator. If you are in the Bromsgrove area, why not book a taster evening with us?
From nervous speaker to confident communicator with our help
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