There comes a point in almost every professional’s career when they are called upon to give a speech. The cause for this may be anything from a high-profile sales presentation to an end-of-year round-up for your team, delivered to an audience of ten, twenty, or several hundred colleagues, but the basic principles behind public speaking remain the same. To develop your oratorical prowess, follow these five techniques.
Your opening remarks should establish the overall theme of the speech, seizing your audience’s attention. In order to construct the perfect introduction, you’ll need to know exactly where your speech is going, so you may find it helpful to write the body first before returning to the opening. Think about how you want your audience to feel once you’ve finished speaking and set the tone accordingly.
Quotes or anecdotes can be useful openers, so long as they dovetail harmoniously with your main point, illustrating and enhancing it. For example, if your aim is to motivate your employees, you could open with: “The writer Helen Keller once said, ‘Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much’. I truly believe that we can achieve something amazing in the coming months.”
Add a personal touch
Good public speaking is driven by passion and energy. The most fascinating speech will fail to connect with its audience if delivered in a monotone, so it’s important to imbue your words with emotions, taking your listeners on a journey with you. Remind them of your personal involvement with phrases such as “I’m so proud of how far we’ve come” or “I’m delighted to present you with the product of all our hard work.”
Brevity is the soul of wit
It’s harder to write a short, effective speech than a long, meandering one that covers all your points. If your speech will be longer than five minutes or contains complex information, ensure that the content is broken down into sections and has a clear trajectory. You may wish to establish early on how many points you will cover, utilising discourse markers such as “Our third priority” and “Lastly” to guide your audience.
Although you should take care to phrase your speech in a way that feels natural to you, employing some rhetorical devices may help your speech to have a greater impact. Repetition and rhetorical questions can be used to emphasise your points and engage your audience. The two can also be effectively combined: “Did we give up at the first hurdle? Did we give up at the second hurdle? Did we give up at the final hurdle? We did not.”
Speak loudly and clearly
Projecting and enunciating every word takes practice. If possible, rehearse in the venue with a friend or colleague seated at the back of the room to check that they can hear you clearly. Focus on slowing down your speech: nervousness frequently makes people talk too fast, so even if you sound a little slow in your head, you will come across as measured and controlled to your audience.