In Part I of “The Art of Public Speaking,” we talked about knowing your audience and the purpose of your speech. In Part II, we’re focusing on delivery.

It’s All in the Presentation

Dress to impress. Be polite and punctual. Make eye contact with the entire room. Speak slowly and clearly. Project across the space. These are the fundamentals to delivering a good speech– but what about the content you’re actually delivering?

As we talked about in Part I, most speeches are given extemporaneously, where the speaker has rehearsed and planned out their presentation ahead of time but leaves the exact wording (and other small nuances) up to the moment of delivery. This might include having visual cues or reminders during the speech to keep on track. If this is the case, remember not to write down your entire speech on your notecards! Short and sweet is the best way to go, no matter how nervous you may be. Write down just one or two key words per main point so you don’t get confused or lost. These are meant to jog your memory, not act as a script.

What You Should NOT Do

Avoid ambiguous terms that can have multiple meanings. Consider the connotations of your language as well. For example– if you want to present a person in a positive light, describe them as “assertive,” not “bossy.” Avoid generalizations whenever possible. The more specific you are, the lesser the risk of confusion. It also shows off your confidence in a topic.

Avoid verbiage, hedges, tag questions, and disclaimers. All of these make speakers sound unsure of themselves and their claims. Don’t end sentences with tag questions such as “you know?” or “right?” Try not to fill gaps between points with useless verbiage such as “like” or “um.” Don’t backpedal to weaken your arguments with phrases like “but that’s just me” or hedges (“kind of,” “seemingly,” “almost,” etc.). Be assertive and firm with your claims– your research should be thorough enough that all your points are concrete and reputable.

What You SHOULD Do

Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself! Reiteration and redundancy are important parts of public speaking. Repeating your main points as you introduce new evidence and explaining an assertion multiple different ways ensures your claims stick in listeners’ minds. Visual aids and demonstrations also help with this, giving the audience multiple different ways to take in and process the information. When listening to a speech live, there’s no rewind button to go back and ponder a past statement; make sure you’re moving through the information in a logical manner that’s easy to comprehend.

Another way to emphasize your main points is through vocal variations– adjusting your volume, pitch, rate, and rhythm as you speak. A speech delivered in monotone is not only boring but difficult to listen to. Show your audience what’s most important about your words through vocal variations and visual aids, whether that’s through a (very limited!) amount of text or simple diagram. Just make sure you’re not pulling attention away from the speech itself.

We hope this blog post has given you some useful tips and a little more confidence for your next time speaking to a group of people, large or small! For more public speaking pointers, check out Part I.

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