Category Archives: Public Speaking

Avoid the five biggest mistakes made by speakers

  1. Failing to tailor your speech to the needs and interestes of the audience
  2. Being poorly prepared
  3. Trying to cover too much in one speech
  4. Failing to maintain good eye contact
  5. Being dull

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My quick guide to public speaking

To help prepare a major speech, I’ve gathered a few key principals of preperation and delivery.  They are:

  • Audience.  To reach listeners, find out as much as you can about them.  What are their ages, gender, education level?  What is their attitude toward the subject of your speech?  How much do they already know about the content you intend to present?  Once you’ve gathered as much info as possible, try to adapt your speech to meet thir needs and interests.
  • Topic.  Choose a topic that is intersting to you and about which you know a lot about.  Your topic should also be interesting to your listeners – one they will consider timely and worthwhile.  Narrow the topic so that you can comfortably and adequately cover it within the time allotted.
  • Organization.  Organize the body of your speech by devising two or three main points that explain or prove the central idea.  Next, try to develop at least two subpoints for each main point with material such as examples, statistics, and quotations from experts.  Subpoints should illustrate your main points.
  • Transitions.  Try to carry your listeners smoothly from one part of the speech to the next.
  • Introduction.  The first part of your speech should grab the attention of the listeners and make them want to listen to the rest of the speech.  A good attention getter may include stories, intriquing questions or intersting facts.
  • Conclusion. Summarize your key points and then close with a clincher (such as a quotation or story) to drive home the central idea of the speech.
  • Outline.  Put together all parts of your speech into an outline.  Make sure that everything in the outline serves to explain, illustrate, or prove the central idea, otherwise known as thesis.
  • Practice.  Rehearse your speach several times.  An hour speech should translate to aprox 8 hours preperation.  Don’t memorize the speech, but strive to rehearse ideas (as qued by your notes).
  • Self-confidence.  Develop a positive attitude about yourself, your speech and your audience.  Don’t let fear cripple you:  nervousnes is normal for most speakers.
  • Eye Contact.  Look at all parts of your audience throughout the speech, glancing down at your notes only occasionally.  Avoid staring at a wall, the floor or a window.
  • Speaking rate.  Speak at a rate that makes it easy for the audience to absorb your ideas, neither too slow or too fast.
  • Clarity and volume.  Pronounce your words distinctly and speak loud enough so that all listeners can clearly hear you.  Avoid verbal fillers such as uh, ah, um, er, okay, ya know and most recently, “right”.
  • Posture and poise.  Stand up straight.  Try to be comfortable, yet poised and alert.  Avoid leaning or slouching.
  • Enthusiasm.  Don’t simply go through the motions of giving a speech.  Your whole manner – eyes, facial expression, posture, voice- should show enthusiasm for your subject, and you should seem genuinely interested in communicating your ideas.
  • Ending and departure.  Say your conclusion, pause a few moments, and then ask – in a tone that shows that you sincerely mean it – “Are there any questions?”

A Speakers’ Responsibilities

I happen to attend (and participate) in alot of public forums; meetings, conferences, user groups, associations, clubs, etc – and it has recently become a priority of mine to become a better speaker.  To do so, I’ve begun researching various speaking techniques, etiquette and even responsibilities.  During my findings and while attending recent events I’ve realized, perhaps others can benefit from this process?

Now, I’m by no means claiming to be an expert here, in fact I often struggle at times myself as I tend to be rather analytical and occasionally long-winded; however, I’m very passionate and try to expose myself only when I have relevent content or experience that can add value to the conversation.  Recently, I’ve begun doing some speaking within small and local levels, but my intent is to continuously grow, feeling more confident within larger and larger groups until I can command the stage in front of 1000’s!  Thats one of my 2007 goals anyways..

So, in the weeks/months to come, I intend to periodically share in my ‘public speaking’ findings, whether from first hand experience, observing others or just general thoughts on the subject.  I hope we can all benefit from the excercise and provide a more meaningful experience to all that watch us one day speak.

To those of you that do currently exel at public speaking, feel free to share your input.  Until then, I’ll begin mine, with a wiki like format:

  1. Maintain high ethical standards.  Speakers should be honest and straightforward with listeners, avoiding methods or goals that are decietful, dishonest, misleading or unfair.
  2. Never distort information.  An ethical speaker should always be honest about facts and figures.
  3. Respect your audience.  Some speakers show disrespect for their listeners, talking down to them as if they were ignorant or foolish.  Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.  Will Rogers once said, “There is nothing as stupid as an educated man if you get him off the thing he was educated in”.  When you are the expert on a subject, remember that your “ignorant” listeners, on other topics, can reverese roles with you.
  4. Reject sterotyping.  You should reject stereotypes because they are “mental cookie cutters”, forcing all people in a group into the same simple pattern.  They fail to account for individual differences and the wide range of characteristics among members of any group.  Some lawyers are dishonest, yes, but many are not.
  5. Enrich listeners’ lives.  To make a contribution, you dont necessarily have to present life-saving tips.  You can persuade your audience to take action to solve a vexing problem; you can provide fascinating information that satisfies intellectual curiosity; you can entertain with anecdotes that divert people from their daily toils – all of these messages can be worthwhile gifts.
  6. Take every speech seriously.  Simple enough, you should try as hard to communicate with an audience of five as you would with an audience of 500.  You never know when one of your listeners may start a national movement based on your ideas.