1. Understand your audience as well as you can.
This includes the expected size of the audience, as well as their age, gender, educational background, and socioeconomic status. It’s also important to know their level of knowledge about the topic you’re presenting. Finally, consider how the audience views you and what they will likely expect to gain from your presentation.For example, will you be presenting to people who are relatively new to the topic, or are you speaking at a professional event where people will have some familiarity? You’ll need to adjust your material to fit their needs. You want to avoid talking over people’s heads, but you also want to avoid giving them a lot of information they already know.
Similarly, your presentation will differ depending on how the audience views you. If they see you as an expert on the topic, your speech should convey that knowledge and authority.
2. Select and practice most befitting tone for your speech.
You can think about the tone of your speech as the mood of the speech. It will be determined by the audience, occasion, topic, and purpose of your speech. You’ll also want to consider your personality, as you’ll want to use a tone that’s natural for you.
If your topic is serious in nature, you may use a grave tone. Alternatively, you might choose a humorous tone for a speech delivered at a celebratory dinner.
Generally you can use a conversational tone for any speech, regardless of the topic or size of the audience. Most important is to be authentic!
Keep in mind that you don’t need to use the same tone for your entire speech. For example, your presentation may start out serious but end with a fun, interactive segment. In this case, you’d want to adjust your tone as the presentation progressed.
3. Slow down the pace and use appropriate pauses to enable your audience to understand and assimilate.
As a public speaker, you should never feel the need to rush through a presentation. Because anxiety tends to make people speak much faster than they normally would, you should be aware of your rate of speech. Make a conscious point of speaking slowly. If your speech is happening at a more manageable rate, it will be easier for you to feel like you’re in control.
Speaking slowly does not mean speaking in a monotone. Just because you’re taking your time doesn’t mean you need to be boring. The best public speakers will keep a steady speaking pace and use that extra time to inject more expression into their act.
4. Use emphasis on the keyword to enhance the clarity of the speech.
Even if you have gone over every word of your speech with a fine-toothed comb, there are going to be lines that are most important to the central idea you’re discussing. In the case of these especially important lines, it’s crucial you bring added attention to them somehow. This can be done by saying them more slowly, more loudly, or repeating the same line twice. Your audience will immediately pick up on this and will take extra care to remember that point.
A good example of this is through the repetition of “I have a dream” in Martin Luther King “I Have a Dream” speech.
5. Use emotions with discretion while delivering the speech.
Although you may feel very anxious going into a speech, it may actually make things easier if you allow yourself the ability to connect emotionally with the topic and express yourself. Raising and lowering your voice to denote certain feelings can do a ton to engage an audience. As a general rule, people like to feel like they’re being spoken to by a red-blooded human being. Acting like a robot may seem like a safe route if you’re nervous about speaking, but you’ll get a lot farther if you’re candid with your audience.
6. Interact with your audience cordially.
Speeches can be memorized with enough time and practice, but a truly gifted orator will use parts of his speech as an opportunity to communicate directly to the audience. If an audience member has a question, it would be a wasted opportunity not to answer it. The audience will be impressed by your willingness to play off the books and interact seemingly spontaneously.
An audience won’t interact with a speaker unless some stakes have already been raised. You have to get an audience interested in what you’re talking about if you want them to respond actively.
Trying to engage the audience yourself is always a risk. You can’t control what an audience member will say, and you’ll need to improvise a response to whatever they say. Worse still, getting no response from an audience will embarrass you as a presenter. Avoid putting the audience on the spot or asking too many questions.
Let the audience know if you’ll have a question and answer session at the end of your speech. Avoid taking questions or comments while you’re talking, as this could derail your message.
7. Express emotions with your facial expressions.
If you’re nervous, your face will freeze up. Words alone only go so far in communication. The best speeches are emotionally hard-hitting, and it’s intensified when the same feelings are being mirrored by the speaker. Whether rehearsed or not, matching facial expressions will lend your speech with a great air of authenticity. Don’t force it, however. While you certainly want to make yourself animated, you don’t want to appear unnatural. You want your expression to match your tone and words.
8. Sticking to the allotted time is critical.
While great speakers will keep their speaking pace relaxed and take cares not to speed up, you should respect the time of your audience. There is no need to have a half-hour speech where all of the same points could be covered in 20 minutes. It’s much easier to revise the speech itself than to try to speed through sections of your speech
9. Offer heartfelt thanks of your audience after the speech.
Even if you’re the one who is performing, your audience members are taking time out of their schedules to hear you speak about your topic. For this, they deserve some gratitude. Telling a crowd how much you appreciate lending their time to you will end your speech on a positive note of warmth.
Thanks for reading.