So, you've been asked to give a talk and you're dreading it. You imagine messing up, stumbling over your words and making a fool of yourself. You spend days crafting your speech and you have it down to a tee. You deliver your speech, no mistakes, you're so pleased with yourself... and your audience is in a coma... hence the tepid applause at the end- they've just woken up!
If you want to avoid being labelled a crashing bore, you have to take some risks with your talk; follow these public speaking tips and you will understand more about making your speech memorable, rather than tedious.
picture courtesy of Sarah Vitale
Public speaking Tip Number 1 - Storytelling
Tell a story. Not Goldilocks unless you can do your own motivational funny version! A story, your story- humans are programmed to like stories- they connect to narratives naturally. Stories have reassuring shapes- beginnings, middles, ends. They have recognisable characters- heroes and heroines, baddies, protagonists, supporters. There is a plot- a mountain to climb, mistakes to be learnt from, and triumphs to savour. How would you structure your speech if you told it to your nine year old niece? Use that structure, then add adult words.
Public Speaking Tip Number 2 - Time to prepare
Give yourself proper preparation time. If you have a couple of weeks to prepare your speech then spend 15 minutes a day working on it until you are comfortable. If you have only a day- spend at least an hour working on it- any less and it is likely to be sloppy, rambling, unstructured and ultimately, unsatisfactory. If using Powerpoint or software to support your speech do not spend more than 30% of your time on that- and the other 70% should be on crafting your words- what you are actually going to say. Do not become a member of the "Death by PowerPoint" cliché, school of presenting.
Public Speaking Tip Number 3 - Facts are not fun!
Facts play a supporting role in the theatre of speech; they are not the main part. People will not remember facts past the time they see them on your slides. However, if they are part of your story, your audience is 20 times more likely to remember them! Humanise your facts, make them relevant and weave them into your story to make them memorable.
Public Speaking Tip Number 4 - Be smart with images
If you support your story with vivid images, then your audience will remember 95% of what they hear and see- the images boost aural memory. Be careful with your images- if they contain text- it should be no more than 20% of the image. No blurry, out of focus shots, they irritate your audience. Make them LARGE, for the myopic viewer at the back of the hall. Black and white is useful for effect, and to support the idea of retro, history, or bleakness. Otherwise; use colour images.
Public Speaking Tip Number 5 - Peaks and Troughs
Your audience is most receptive in the first minute of your presentation and starting to nap after 10 minutes, unless you wake them up again! Your opening 30 seconds is crucial, see my blog post on Public Speaking Tips- 3 Fascinating Facts
So, construct your story to peak again after 10 minutes- throw in an interesting, controversial or shocking moment about 10 minutes in to keep their attention. Build tension as in all the best thrillers, with questions, then answer them later. Your audience wants a reason to keep listening so don't give them all the answers all at once.
You can be an interesting speaker if you follow this advice, but central to all of this is your own passion. If you are bored with your topic, your audience will be too. Communicate your passion by way of a well-structured story and your audience will stay awake and the applause will be enthusiastic!