Most of us would rather dig a ditch than give a speech.
But the people who get ahead are those who know how to motivate others in public speaking forums.
The next time you’re offered the chance to make a presentation, say Yes!–and follow this advice:
Learn about your audience. Who will be listening? What’s important to them?
If you’re following other speakers, find out who they are and get an idea of what they’re going to talk about so you can fit your remarks into the right context.
Know your material. Don’t wing it with a few notes on a single 3×5 card. Do enough research to understand your topic and anticipate the questions you’re likely to be asked. Prepare an outline, if not a whole speech, and follow it as you talk.
Set a clear goal. Audiences rarely enjoy vague, wishy-washy speeches. Decide what you want your main takeaway to be, a clear call to action, and structure your speech around it.
Practice. Run through the speech a few times before you deliver it to an audience. You’ll feel more comfortable with a solid mastery of the words.
Check out the room. If possible, visit the venue before you have to step up to the lectern. You’ll be more relaxed if you can visualize the material ahead of time. You can also check for sight lines and get a sense of the acoustics.
Have a strong opening. You don’t necessarily have to open with a joke (“A frog, a rabbit, and Donald Trump walk into a bar . . .”), but your opening lines should be clear and focused. Wasting three minutes thanking the host and complimenting the audience (or worse, apologizing for your nerves) will encourage your audience to tune out.
Finish on time. Few listeners ever wish that a speech was longer. As you practice, keep an eye on how much time you’re using, and stick to the time limit. If you come up short, you can always take questions.