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Most of us have experienced gifted speakers and heard one or more fantastic speeches. Some speakers simply have the charisma and talent to captivate audiences. However, as in any discipline, this outstanding group of speakers is in the minority.
However, preparation, techniques and lots of practice are the key factors in delivering a successful speech. The size of an event and the number of participants is a negligible factors.
Preparation of a good speech
Even with the inclusion of sophisticated technical aids, there is nothing better than a very good speaker who has mastered a topic. Many people find it difficult to get their message across to an audience or customer. This is also a reason why there are so many training courses, courses and much more to strengthen communication skills.
However, all good speakers are not in front of an audience for the first time. The best good speakers are not teenagers either, but usually people with many years of experience. You also need this time to become an absolute specialist in a topic.
The preparations for this not only took a few hours, but a lifetime, so to speak. Don’t be discouraged though, every great speaker started small.
Stage fright before a speech
One of the main difficulties is stage fright. Many people are very nervous or even afraid to speak in front of even a small group of people. Good preparation and practice help here. Talking about an unfamiliar topic is very difficult, how do you convince an audience of something you don’t know anything about yourself?
Suppose, however, that you want to explain to a group of friends a hobby that you have had for years and have put hundreds, if not thousands, of hours into it. This will be easy for you, because you are not only familiar with the topic on a knowledge level, but also on an emotional level. If you can tell from your memories and experiences, you hardly have to think about it. A speech almost holds itself and looks authentic.
Such topics are extremely suitable for training appearances in front of groups, because the training effect after a successful speech and the increase in self-confidence is great.
How do you become a good speaker at an event?
This title is a bit of a misnomer because you either become a good speaker or you don’t. Whether at an event, at a company event, or with friends, there are ultimately no differences. A good speaker is good for any occasion, regardless of the location and audience.
Get a message across
As in life, one should define certain objectives for speeches. Then you can decide how you want to achieve these goals. You also need to know the target group. At a specialist congress with nothing but specialists, one can certainly use a different language than when speaking to laypeople. An analysis of the factors mentioned is important here so that a message can be prepared and conveyed in a way that is appropriate for the audience.
The KISS principle in speeches
A quote from Einstein is: “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
As a speaker, you are often the best-qualified person for a topic. It is therefore important to present context in a way that most of the audience can understand. For example, if you, as a doctor, throw Latin and medical terms around in a lecture in front of laypeople, you will lose the audience after the first minute. In the case of complex topics, simple examples from real life are ideal. Analogies are also very useful.
However, one should not be tempted to use childish language, but simplify the complexity in such a way that a large part of the audience can follow the topic and understand the message.
It is well known that a picture says more than a thousand words. The use of visual aids can be extremely helpful for complex topics. It is not for nothing that the military uses simplified terrain models when planning operations. The abstract becomes tangible and understandable.
Know the target audience
I have addressed this several times before. If you give a speech in front of children at school, the language is fundamentally different than, for example, a speech at a medical conference. However, the speech at the school would also be understandable at the medical congress, but the reverse cannot be said.
The complexity, language, depth and breadth of a topic should always be adapted to the audience. If you are not quite sure, it is better to shift down a gear and plan a little more time for the question and answer session at the end. Gaussian distribution can certainly be used to estimate the audience. One should then consider at what level of complexity one is at the extremes of the distribution. If you don’t understand that, think of a pyramid. At what point do you start talking about such complex relationships that only the top of the pyramid understands what is really going on.
This should be avoided, otherwise, they will lose a large part of the audience.
Create a structure for your speech
Logical structures generally help us, humans, to simplify planning. Structural planning also reduces the risk of missing something. The simplest structure is:
- Main part
Such a structure can be expanded at will. Case studies, question and answer sessions, group or individual work, and much more can be included.
Ideal speaking time
Speaking times are usually set by organizers. Normally, a speaker always finds the time too short to present what is probably the most important topic of the whole event. However, a clear timeline is very important so that speakers can focus on the most important messages and not get lost in nirvana and with it the audience.
There is an art to concentrating on the essentials in a speech and not getting lost in the details. These may sometimes seem very important to the speaker, but the speech serves the audience.
Besides, there is only one thing worse than a bad and boring speech. This is a bad, boring and long speech.
Include non-verbal language
Nonverbal language is an integral part of a speech and has a powerful impact on an audience. It’s a good way to intensify contact with the audience and amplify emotions. Naturalness is the be-all and end-all here. The artificially perceived behavior of a speaker damages a speech more than it benefits it.
For example, with an Italian speaker, wild gestures appear authentic and are closely associated with the culture. However, who can imagine a Japanese man gesticulating wildly during a speech?
There is therefore no one-size-fits-all recipe for non-verbal language. Naturalness is probably the best way to describe the optimal way. I can only recommend watching various speeches on YouTube and focusing on non-verbal language. You will certainly notice interesting factors.
Before giving a speech, introduce yourself to the audience
The introduction before each speech is not only a stylistic device, but also very important to give the audience the right context. If you don’t introduce yourself to the audience, the audience will create their own context within the first few minutes of the speech.
This can then lead to a certain amount of confusion relatively easily, especially if the topic covered is controversial. Imagine you’re talking about politics and the audience thinks you’re conservative within the first few minutes, but you’re a socialist. The audience’s confusion as the speech progressed could reach greater proportions.
Also, people tend to give speakers with a certain track record more attention and more credibility. However, this is also a double-edged sword. If one adorns oneself with all achievements at the introduction, but does not convince during the speech, one can also be disqualified.
I think it’s important to show some familiarity with the subject here, but don’t overdo it. Sometimes you will be introduced by third parties, so you should check in advance how you should be introduced.
Pay attention to the use and volume of your voice
Our voice is one of the most important factors in a speech. You should be able to understand a speaker well. A voice that is too quiet quickly leads to a dissatisfied audience and screaming usually does not lead to more attention from the audience. The volume should therefore be balanced.
A speech that is too monotonous is also difficult for many listeners since the attention automatically decreases with a uniform sound pattern.
The voice is incredibly valuable as a stylistic device during a speech. Experiment with what suits you best and works best.
Avoid boredom during presentations
There are no boring topics, only boring speeches!
Imagine you are a screw manufacturer and you have the opportunity to give a presentation about the different types of screws you make.
screws? You know more about screws than anyone else in the room and there are certainly hundreds of interesting aspects and information that many listeners are unaware of. There are issues here such as manufacturing methods, different materials, errors, mistakes in using screws, etc.
If you present the topic with the necessary enthusiasm and professionalism, you will win over the audience. Add value to your audience during your presentation.
Have a plan B for everything!
Have you ever heard of Murphy’s Law?
Remember that anything that can go wrong during a presentation will go wrong. Prepare for the lights to go out, the power to go out, the audience to go to lunch, your voice to fail, the computer not to work, the transit system to collapse, etc.
In the run-up to a speech, think about what you can do if the worst comes to the worst. Have a printed version of your presentation with you, arrive early, explore the location of the presentation in advance, etc.
Provision cannot be made for every case of difficulty. Precautions about common difficulties, however, can save a speech. Such preparations also make you more flexible and safer with changes of any kind.
Speeches based on practical experience and case studies
Theory is always important and often conveys the basic knowledge of a topic. However, many listeners have difficulty processing purely theoretically based topics.
A practical relevance often helps to make a topic easier to understand for the audience. Remember Albert Einstein’s saying again.
Involve the audience in the speech
A good way to keep viewers interested is to involve them in the speech. An interaction between listeners and speakers can take on interesting dynamics. In this way, barriers can also be broken down. Participants may only partially identify with a Nobel Prize winner in astrophysics. However, if you are addressed directly and included, such hurdles can quickly fall.
- The most common and important method of interaction is the inclusion of question and answer sessions. In this way, the listeners become more active. Listeners feel included and heard. Being able to voice your opinion enhances the experience. Speakers can appear more human. Ambitious politicians shake thousands of hands, now you know why.
- Virtual or hybrid events also offer ideal conditions for involving the audience. However, you need the appropriate technology, with a chat for example.
- Audience involvement increases identification with the speaker, a brand, etc. It is therefore an important stylistic device. You don’t always have to have the same opinion.
- Feedback after speeches is always a good way to see the speech from the audience’s perspective and to improve.
Conclusion and summary
Here you have the opportunity to summarize the most important messages of the entire speech in a few words. In the case of longer speeches, this is a very effective means of reminding the audience of the most important points and consolidating them in their memories.
Wear appropriate clothing
Clothes make the man. Depending on the type of event, clothing should be chosen appropriately. Although politicians are not the ideal role models in many respects, they are usually perfectly dressed for the appropriate occasion.
Appropriate attire increases credibility. Think of historical authorities. The doctor in a white coat and the priest in a robe with a collar. These uniforms immediately created a sense of respect and increased credibility in those around them. Clothing still has the same effect today.
Remember to thank the audience
Don’t forget to thank the audience for attending the event and paying attention. This is a sign of decency and respect. It is also a stylistic device to narrow the gap between speaker and audience.