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How to Make a Speech

Updated on December 6, 2010

No matter who you are, one day you are going to have to give a speech.  Chances are if you are one of the millions of people trying to prepare for a public speaking engagement, you are terrified. Fear not, the following article will provide a step by step guide to nailing your speech.

Preparation

I cannot emphasize enough how important preparing for your speech is. Believe me, you arnt going to figure out what you are going to say while standing in front of a room full of people waiting to hear you speak. You must get ready early. The first step of preparation is:

Source

Step 1: Knowledge of the topic.

You must know what you are talking about! Whether it be your best friend (at his wedding) or the research paper that you turned in for your biology class. You have know and understand the information that you are sharing. This can be accomplished in one of two ways.

  1. You can have an immense passion for the subject you are talking about and already be intimately familiar with it. Suppose you are an active baseball player getting ready to give a speech about baseball. Chances are you wont need to do much research because you already know everything that you could possibly talk about.
  2. Research. If you don’t know the facts about your speech topic, then you can be hung out to dry by an inopportune or ill timed question. You must know what you are talking about. Research the topic until you can talk about it off the top of your head with ease.

Step 2: Formulate an Outline.

Any speech is going to have three major parts, each of which are made up of smaller sub parts. There will be an introduction, in which the speech is introduced, the main body where the meat of the speech is presented, and the conclusion, where the speech is summarized and the audience is left with a powerful closing thought.

1. In the introduction it is important to to accomplish three major tasks.

  • i. First grab your audience’s attention. Why should they be interested in this subject?
  • ii. Establish Credibility: Why should your audience believe what you have to say about this subject? What makes you a credible source?
  • iii. Preview the main points of your speech: Tell the audience what you are going to talk about.
  • iv. Transition into the main body: Signal that the introduction is over and now you are moving on to the information. This can be done with a simple transition sentence like “So first I will talk to you about…”

2. The main body will contain most of your speech. You will present your information or arguments here. You will need to organize your main points in a way that makes sense and will be easy for your audience to follow.

3. The conclusion will wrap your speech into a nice package. It is here that it is important to place the main point you want your audience to remember.

  • i. Sum up everything you just said. Repeat your main points. Try and leave your audience with a final powerful statement that sums up everything concisely and can be easily recalled.

Step 3: Summarize your introduction, each of your main points, and your conclusion on separate note cards. Do not give too much information. Just enough to remind yourself what you intended to say.

Step 4: If you intend to use a power point presentation, do that now. Make sure that your slides match what you intend to say, and do not serve as a distraction to your audience. 

Step 5: Practice, Practice, Practice! Gather your friends or family and give the speech in front of them. Practice until you are very comfortable.

Delivery

  1. Dress for the occasion.
  2. Try and look good and professional. Part of establishing your credibility as a speaker is looking like a credible speaker. Take your time to dress professionally.
  3. Use your cards, but don’t read from them. Don’t just stand up there and read what you have written down. Use your note cards simply to remind you of the points you are trying to make. If you have practiced the ideas and the speaking will flow freely once you remember the point you are trying to make.
  4. Make eye contact with your audience rather than just staring at your cards.
  5. Finally, when you mess up, don’t apologize. If you mispronounce a word, stammer, forget what you meant to say, pause awkwardly etc… Don’t draw attention to it! Chances are, if you act like nothing happened, the audience won’t notice! If you mess up, just keep on going like nothing happened. If you are nervous, don’t stand up there and say “I’m nervous”. Even though you may be feeling nervous on the inside, the audience really has no idea whether you are nervous. If you don’t draw attention to it, the audience won’t know you are nervous.

Finally, a quick recap: Prepare, Practice, Don’t Read, and if you mess up just keep going like nothing happened. If you do these things, your speech will knock their socks off!

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