Successful speakers always plan and rehearse their presentations as far in advance as possible. They never leave anything to chance says experienced speaker and member of Toastmasters International, Moira Beaton.
For example, Ken Robinson, whose TED Talk Do Schools Kill Creativity? is the most watched TED talk ever, at over 37 million views, said that preparation is one of the most important parts of giving a great speech.
So, what do you need to do to prepare?
Moira suggests there are 11 actions you must take before you deliver any speech:
- Before you begin, it’s important to know what your message is. If you can’t explain your message in one short sentence, it’s not clear enough. Once you are clear on what you are trying to convey, use that message as your guide. Everything you say in your presentation should be relevant to your message.
- Organise your speech using the method that suits you – spider diagram, mind map, bullet point, writing it out in full. Write down all the points you want to make – three is usually the maximum an audience can remember.
- Research and gather relevant material – note that, not everything will be relevant.
- Unless you are very confident, write your talk out in full on paper or screen with a beginning, middle and an end.
- Be ruthless and remove superfluous words and phrases, repetition and clumsy phrasing.
- Once your presentation is as well-structured, succinct and as clear as you can make it, you are ready to practise.
- The purpose of practising is not to memorise your words, but to help you internalise them. This means knowing your presentation so well, you don’t have to think about the words and you can focus on the audience.
- Read your presentation silently to yourself several times.
- Then, read it aloud a few times. Ask – does it sound natural and conversational or formal and stilted? Am I using words that I would normally use in conversation or am I giving a lecture? Then, if necessary, make adjustments to help your speech flow more smoothly.
- Next, present your talk to a friend or friends whose opinions you value and ask for feedback.
- You can also record yourself. Watch, or listen, to the recording and ask yourself – Do I sound natural and relaxed? Is the structure of my speech clear? How does my voice sound – too quiet, too fast, monotonous or engaging with good variety in pace and tone? Do I use pauses to emphasis a point? Also, be aware if you use too many distracting speech fillers such as um, ah, kind of, sort of, actually, you know – the list is endless – and get rid of them.
Having a well prepared speech or presentation not only helps your confidence but steadies your nerves and allows you to focus on the audience, not trying to remember what to say next.
Public speaking is not about the speaker giving a wonderful performance. It’s about making sure that the audience understands your message and remembers it long after you have spoken.