Public Speaking Tips: Making an effective public speech

If you plan to make a public speech, take time to plan a careful approach to provide a dynamic talk that will inspire your audience.

Many people in the business world must occasionally make a public speech. It may take the form of addressing or leading a business meeting, or your talk may be geared to co-workers during a training session. Some well-known leaders or speakers may be asked to share ideas with a community or civic group.

Public Speaking Tips: Making an effective public speech

Whatever the occasion, speaking to an audience is an exciting opportunity to persuade people of something you believe in strongly or hold dear. Reflect on your goals for the session in advance, and plan a thoughtful approach to presenting your information to a group of listeners.

First, determine your primary goal for making the presentation. Are you trying to change people’s behavior? Do you want to change the way they think? Is it important to make a good impression as a leader? Or do you hope to inspire the local community with a daring challenge or a tempting risk? Whatever the main purpose, make it the focus of your plan for the upcoming event.
Second, find out who will be in your audience. Are attendees mostly co-workers who want to learn from you? Or will there be community and civic leaders who need to find out about your company’s expansion plans or a proposed change in zoning laws? Perhaps you represent the organization on a good will mission, offering information, technology, or service to surrounding areas that will be represented by everyday citizens with little background knowledge of your company. When you know who your listeners will be, get estimates about their ages, dominant gender type (males versus females), education levels, and relationship to your organization. This information will help you target their learning needs in your presentation.

On the day of the speech, look and feel your best. “Clothes make the man” is an old saying with a core of truth. Male or female, dress neatly, groom well, and adopt an air of confidence when you step forward to begin speaking. Get plenty of rest the night before to avoid dark circles beneath your eyes and a slurred voice or forgotten words. Make an effort to use hand gestures, and change your stance occasionally, moving a bit around the platform area as space permits without appearing twitchy or nervous.

Organize your speech with a catchy introduction, detail- or example-supported body, and a resounding conclusion. List main points numerically or follow another type of order as you move from one section to another, which will allow your audience to keep up with you. Don’t overwhelm them with details or they may feel confused. Don’t drone on with one central idea or they may get bored. Start with a hook, state the key idea, provide support, and summarize or restate at the end. If the forum permits it, allow time for questions and answers.

Offer your audience something of value. A hot tip, insightful observation, useful suggestion, or empathetic reflection can serve as a meaningful gift to your listeners. They will leave feeling the talk was worthwhile if you follow Aristotle’s advice from the 4th century B.C., to “teach and entertain” those who come to hear you speak.

Finally, learn something yourself. Be alert to the effect of your speech on the audience. Think about their comments and questions. Look at the topic from a new perspective. You, too, will come away feeling enriched from your experience.