School Resources: Public Speaking Guide

Public speaking is when a person has to make a speech in front of an audience of people. Most people find themselves in a nervous state when they have to speak in front of a group of people. There are studies out there that show that public speaking is a big fear amongst many people. Experienced public speakers even feel a bought of nervousness before getting up in front of the group of people. A lot of people have different methods for practicing their speech, and delivering it in front of the audience without having to stall during the speech. To be successful in public speaking, one should learn how to reduce anxiety, create a tailored, well-thought out speech and execute a confident delivery.

Reducing Anxiety

  • Speaking will become easier as you gain confidence through your speech. The more you speak through your nervousness, the easier it is going to be to continue the speech with less anxiety.
  • Look at your surroundings before you give your speech if possible. Once you become more comfortable with the environment that you have to deliver your speech, the more you will feel less nervous.
  • Utilize positive visuals. A lot of people might visualize themselves flunking out of their speech or doing a bad job overall at delivering it. This type of negative thinking will increase your anxiety. Try to visualize yourself repeatedly giving the speech in a confident and strong manner. If you can visualize yourself doing well, then you most likely will.
  • Try not to think about the speech that you’re going to give right before you give it. This will make you feel more nervous. Try to think about good thoughts that are not related to your speech.
  • Be as prepared for the speech as possible. Understand the topic you’re about to present, the more you do, the more your audience will follow along with you.
  • Concentrate on breathing during the speech. Make sure to be relaxed and tall while speaking.
  • Sound confident and project your voice out for all to hear. You do not want to be afraid of speaking loud. Make sure that those in the back of the room can hear you.
  • Concentrate mostly on getting your message across to the audience. You have to work hard for those to understand your message, and this will keep your mind off your nervousness.

Tailoring Your Speech to Your Audience

  • You want to think about your audience, and the setting that you’re going to be giving the speech at. You do not want to be funny while at a funeral, and you want to be more playful with your words at a party.
  • What is the context that you’re using to give the speech in, a dinner? A wedding? A Banquet? Informal meeting? Funeral? The place you’re going to give the speech at is a large part of what you will say, and how you will say it.
  • Think about your audience. You want to match the speech to the age, race, religion, and cultural background of your audience. Everything you say could be taken offensive by the wrong person if you do not watch what you say.
  • Are you talking to children? If your speech is to children than you want to think about simplifying what you want to say so the children can understand. You would not give an in depth, technical speech to a group of kindergartners.
  • Think about how much your audience knows about the topic that you’re doing the speech on. You need to make sure to explain in detail parts and words that your audience might not be familiar with. If your audience already knows a great deal about the topic than you do not want to keep explaining parts and words that they already know. They might take this offensively.
  • Organize your speech to your audience. You want to make sure the audience knows the language you’re using. Make sure that you put together the introduction, support, examples, statistics, visual aids if you’re using any, and the conclusion.

Outlining and Organizing Your Speech

  • Write down the exact purpose of you speech, and why you’re about to give it. Try to start your sentence off positively and choose a reason besides because I have to, such as “I would like to inform…”
  • Make sure you write down who your audience is going to be. You want to make sure that they know you’re speaking to them, and that you know you are as well.
  • Narrow down the points of discussion with your audience. You want to just focus on the key points of your speech, and that is about it. This will give you a chance to limit the statements to the main goal that you want to accomplish through your speech.
  • Ask yourself a few questions about your speech. Some of the questions include, but are not limited to: is your purpose for your speech too vague? Is the purpose for the speech relevant to the type of audience? Can you accomplish the speech and your goal in the amount of time given? Is the purpose of the speech too simple or perhaps too difficult to understand?
  • Write your thesis statement down on the piece of paper. This should explain, in detail what your specific purpose is for the speech. You should write down the five major points of the thesis. Basically ask yourself a question, and then answer it five different times.
  • Create an outline based on your thesis statement. You want to use the main points as bulleted sections and go in depth with them. This will organize the whole speech for you.

Practicing Your Speech

  • Use a mirror to practice your speech if you’re the most comfortable this way. Sometimes this raises anxiety in people, and this might not be the best solution for them.
  • Practice in front of family or friends that will give you their opinions and feedback. This allows you to have a live audience that can actually share their thoughts on the speech and help you become better at presenting it.
  • Practice the speech on your own when you have spare time without anyone watching. You can do so in the shower, in your room, on your way to work or class. Make sure to go over the key points, and emphasize the areas you think need improving.
  • Record your speech as you say it out loud either with a video camera or audio tape. This allows you to play it back to yourself to find out the key areas that need improving, while also giving you an idea of your strong points in public speaking.
  • If one of these choices does not suit what you need, try to find one that tailors to your likes and needs. You want to make sure you practice before hand so you have an idea of what to expect and the areas that you should work on.

Delivering Your Speech

  • Always keep and hold good eye contact with your audience. Scan over the audience and hold eye contact with one of the members. You do not want to blur the audience out. Your creditability comes with being able to hold the audience with your eyes.
  • If you hold notes in your hands during your speech, you want to think about cutting them down if there are a lot. You also want to be organized so you’re not shuffling them during your speech or trying to find your place.
  • Use visual aids if at all possible. They can help you get some of the attention off of you and onto the aids. This can help lessen your anxiety during the speech. It can also help you get your point across by showing the audience instead of just telling them.
  • Deliver your speech in a calm, confident manner that is not too slow or too fast for your audience. You also want to pay attention to the tone and volume of your voice. You want to speak out loud so those in the back of the room are able to hear you, and you want to make sure you do not sound like you’re yelling sternly in them so watch your tone. You want to reach out to all of the audience, so you have to have your voice work for you and not against you during the speech.
  • Try to move a little bit during your speech. You want to be loose and comfortable with the speech. You can use hand gestures and move about. Try not to have jerky uncertain gestures however. You can distract the audience by using these gestures and make yourself feel more comfortable talking.
  • Try use humor as freely as your audience and setting allows you too. You want to loosen the audience up at the same time you’re doing so to yourself. Having some jokes or ice breakers can help you feel more at ease, and also hold your audience’s attention longer. 

For More Information

  • Speaking: Various tips and links that show you (the speaker) how to deliver your speech to your audience. The notes and aids were taken by a professor at MIT that delivered a speech about public speaking.
  • Outreach Training: The US Department of Labor thought it would be helpful to give in depth details and tips on how to present a speech, while also making use of visual aids. They help you organize your thoughts onto paper.
  • Guidance: In order to fully understand how to deliver effective oral speeches, look into the information and protocols that they show you on their website. Not only can you become more organized, but you will be able to talk your anxiety down.
  • Speaking: Dave Finley, the author of this web page gives do’s and don’ts of public speaking. You can learn what to say, and what not to say, as well as what not to do, and what you should do.
  • PowerPoint Tips: If the speech that you have to give comes along with PowerPoint slides than you need to know the most effective way to organize them. They show you exactly where to put each slide, what each slide represents, and what should be on each of the slides.
  • Speaking Guide: Informative speeches are more technical in nature, and might need a bit more planning to perfect. Help comes in these links provided on the website. They can help the public speaker go over their notes and present a wonderful speech.
  • Delivering Information Face to Face: For technical speeches, it is always good to look at tips and hints to get you through the speech. In depth information shown here provides the public speaker with a lot of information to make the best of their technical speech.
  • Delivering an Oral Presentation: Step by step, bulleted, simple, and easy to follow list of the tips a public speaker should keep in mind. Quick start guide to getting the best information.
  • Oral Communication: Not only do you need to learn about preparing and presenting oral speeches, but you should also know more about oral communication. This will prepare you for what is ahead of you in your oral presentation through communication.
  • Oral Presentations: If giving your speech in the class setting, you should know how to present properly. Tips and hints are on this page to show the speaker what should be done to hold their class’s attention.
  • Oral Presentation Skills (PDF): A practical guide to presenting an oral speech to an audience. It is very in depth and has many pages to learn from depending on your weak areas that need to be boosted up more for your speech.
  • How to Deliver an Oral Presentation: Learn different hints and tips to presenting a presentation in front of an audience. There is also an easy to follow outline for constructing your speech.
  • Making Oral Presentations: Presenting the oral presentation is one thing. You need to know how to make the oral presentation. Providing public speakers with outlines and tips to make the best speech possible.
  • Oral Presentations: A lot of other websites provide information on what to do for the speech and when the speech comes. This website shows what to do much before the speaker has to give the speech and how to prepare.
  • Oral Presentation Outline Format: The in depth look into the format that the outline for an oral speech has to be in. Organize your thoughts onto paper using this format for delivering an effective speech.
  • Oral Presentation Advice: Advice on the different forms of speeches out there. Depending on the type of speech that you have to give, advice is always good to have.
  • Guidelines for Oral Presentations: Different in depth guidelines on presenting oral speeches to audiences. No matter how large your audience is, you should know the general guidelines for giving a speech and what is expected of you.
  • Oral Presentations: Different side links for the different sections of an oral presentation. Learn how to effectively write down your ideas and thoughts, and turn them into a speech that works.
  • Oral Presentation: Different questions and answers on how to prepare and deliver an effective speech. If you had questions about what you should do for the speech or during the speech, this is where to go.
  • Information About Oral Presentations: Learn more about oral presentations before actually giving one. You can find out the different types of presentations out there, and what is usually expected of the speaker for each one. 

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