I don’t think I’ve written much about it here, if I have even written about it at all, but public speaking is one of the things I really, really like doing. Right now I’m helping to teach a public speaking course at the university. I’ve been doing this course for about 12 years and it is always one of the highlights of my year.
This post is going to contain some of the points I like to make during the course. Now this things will be the Todd’isms – those things that I think are important, but that aren’t said by every single Toastmaster out there. That makes these things tricky, I think some of them are crucial. As important as the core public speaking tips. While some of them are either less important or might be more advanced tips.
Here are some things that Toastmasters covers for beginning speakers:
- Form – salutation, Introduction, Body, Conclusion, Leaving the podium/lectern
- Related skills – Meeting leadership, evaluation, listening
- Speech Construction – Speak with Sincerity, Audience Analysis, Mind Mapping
- Vocal Variety – Pitch, Tone, Volume and Rate (I need to give an educational speech on this topic Tuesday)
- Body Language – Movement (or not), hand gestures, facial gestures, eye contact
- Other tips – controlling ahs and ums, nervousness, using notes, props and slides, etc
You’ll get those lessons and others in working on a Competent Communicator designation in Toastmasters or in taking a speechcraft such as the one I’m teaching. Here are some things that might not come up:
Emphasis on the end – Speaking in front of an audience is not the same as just reading an essay. It isn’t acting although it is a performance (hopefully an honest one – see later). It is its own thing and therefore different from other forms. One of the key differences is that people won’t remember what you said. At least not the words. You might get lucky or be a very skilled writer and weave in some memorable bon mots, but most likely not. A speech goes by too quickly. If they are busy reviewing what you say and committing it to memory they aren’t keeping up and you want them to keep up. They’ll remember the gist. They will remember the emotion. The exception is the end of the speech – the conclusion. You deliver your conclusion and then stop – the audience has time to commit it to memory. For that reason, your clearest, most concise and true statement of your purpose should be the last thing you say. Your whole speech is about leaving people with your last two sentences.
Repetition – Another method to be memorable is to use repetition. Express a thought more than once. Use different words or the exact same words. Come back to it again and again.
It is about you – There are three components in the speech: the audience, the subject and the speaker. All need emphasis during speech preparation and delivery. I like to focus on the last because the first two get pretty good treatment most of the time. A speech is given by a specific person on a specific subject to a specific audience and those things should be tied together. My way of approaching that is that every speech should reveal something about the speaker. It is that personal revelation that ties the speech to the audience and forms a relationship. I’m not saying that each speech should be an exercise in public soul-bearing. In fact I’m not a huge fan of such speeches. But at the very least it should be clear about why you are passionate about the material. (This can be made clear without being explicitly said too…) A technical presentation is naturally dry, but if you show your engagement with the material it livens it up. A speech on the horrors of some distant calamity can be an exercise in pathos, but if you talk about how it impacts you personally it becomes more real and present. I like to think that any subject is potentially boring, but any person is innately interesting.
OK – three things in and I’ve been writing for most of an hour. I’ll stop here. Below you can see another seven things I want to talk about. I’ll come back to them later.
Rule of triads –
Avoid the known