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Total Guide to Public Speaking - Part 1

Being asked to make a presentation can be daunting and scary and as a result, such invitations are all too often turned down. Have a read of our guide to help you feel comfortable enough to accept and start making great presentations!

Planning your presentation or speech

Someone once said:

“A speech is like having a baby – easy to conceive hard to deliver.” To be invited to stand up and give a speech is an honour. However many people cannot help but feel a moment of trepidation and others just cold harsh fear. It is said that speaking in public is one of the top ten fears we have along with flying and ending up in a pit full of creepy crawlies.

To make a successful presentation or speech you need to put a lot of energy into the preparation. If you prepare well and above all allow yourself enough time you will enjoy the process and look forward to the delivery.

The first step - The plan

Like any key task it is more likely to be successful if you take time to plan. This includes deciding on your objective for the speech, the structure, the audience and the timing. So first ask yourself what is the purpose of your presentation. You may think your purpose is obvious, but is it? Is the purpose of your speech to excite your listeners? Is it to encourage them to buy from you? Or maybe it’s to motivate them to sell more for you? Is it to educate or to entertain?

So think about your purpose and jot down your objective (or objectives) for making your speech.

Next consider these three questions and list your answers.

1) Who are you speaking to?

2) How long do you have?

3) What do you want the audience to do as a result of hearing you?

Your answers will give you a framework into which you will place your speech or presentation.

Once you are happy with the purpose you need to consider the structure. Unlike when we read a book an audience cannot go back and check the beginning of the sentence should they lose concentration, so guiding them through a clear structure helps them to concentrate.

A speech planned for fifteen minutes can be timed like this:

Introduction - 3 minutes
Main part of speech - 10 minutes
Ending - 2 minutes

This gives your speech some structure and helps the audience know where you are going and when you are finishing. If you are talking for 30 minutes you can have a little more time to introduce your speech (5 minutes) and to summarise it (5 minutes) leaving you with just 20 minutes for your key points.

Imagine you have three key topics to cover in the 20 minute slot. Each one is like a new paragraph in a book. When we look at delivering the speech you will use pauses to signal each stage of the structure.

Three topic areas

The easiest way to create the structure is by using three main topic areas. The brain copes well with threes. Hence ‘Three Blind Mice’, ‘Three Billy Goats Gruff’, ‘Three Musketeers’, ‘Three Little Maids Are We’. This helps you too. Because your brain is so comfortable with threes it makes it much easier to remember your key points. You won’t need copious notes by your side and you won’t have to memorise chunks of speech. This approach makes delivery of your speech a real breeze.

What are your three key topic areas? List them. You may want to change them later but this gives a good starting point. These then are your key messages.

We now need to brainstorm some content. Your brain doesn’t work well with long linear lists so it is often better to use a visual map or spider diagram.

Capturing your wild thoughts on a visual map allows your imagination to soar. This is a brain storming exercise and you should not at this stage try to select the final material. By using a large sheet of A4 paper in landscape mode and some coloured pens (the brain likes colour) you will be able to make your own mind map. Each map will be personal to you, so feel free to branch out in your own style. The principle is the same when you are gathering material for your speech. Remember to research among your staff or fellow business people for ideas, thoughts and anecdotes which will be helpful to you. All you need to do then is to add them to your topic branches.

 

If you are familiar with right and left brain theory, this approach will make complete sense. The theory is that the right side of the brain handles creativity and ideas and the left side is logical and analytical. If you try to think of new ideas and thoughts, and at the same time order and structure them, the two ‘sides’ are competing and neither side achieves its goal. Visualising will keep the creative part imaginatively building your content.

In next month’s article we will let the logical and analytical part of your brain have its turn and put all these ideas into a framework for delivery.

Charlotte Mannion is the author of the Useful Guide to Public Speaking published by Pansophix and How to Give the Perfect Wedding Speech.

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