5 Public Speaking Tips for a Successful Speech

Hey, you! I’m going to take a guess and say you have a speech coming up. I know many valid fears come along with public speaking. Whether it be two people or 200, it is not an easy thing to speak in front of an audience. The good news is, no matter how important the presentation, how emotional the topic is, or how big the audience, you have what it takes to deliver (yes, you!). My goal here is to take any nerves you may have and turn them into excitement and confidence. These public speaking tips have you covered.

For example, you need to stop picturing the dream you had where you had to give your speech in your underwear. I swear, it’s not going to happen. Oh, and don’t rely on picturing the audience in their underwear, either. Again, not going to happen! Instead, start picturing yourself absolutely nailing this thing.

While it may come easier to some than others, public speaking is something that can be practiced almost to perfection (there’s no such thing as “perfect” when it comes to this type of thing). Today, I plan to give you a few off-the-beaten-path tips on how to catch an audience’s attention, spark emotions, and leave the next speaker straight out of luck.

01. Designate a home for the late-night ideas

Sometimes, you don’t decide when you want to speech-write. Sometimes, speech writing decides for you. In my experience, my best speech ideas have popped into my mind while I’m showering, trying to fall asleep, reading a book, and so on. Instead of starting a speech by sitting down and staring at a blank document for hours, open a note on your phone or start a new page in your journal where you can jot down all your random ideas whenever they come to you.

I had the privilege of giving a Maid of Honor speech at my sister’s wedding. I was anxious, overwhelmed, and felt lost when I sat down to write the speech. Luckily, I had a random-stream-of-thoughts note on my phone that seriously saved me from having a meltdown. This note (that I started three years ago) was filled with ideas for the speech and little anecdotes about my sister that I wanted to remember to share. Starting is the toughest part. If you start casually, writing things down as they come to you, you will have a solid foundation for your speech before you even sit down to write it. 

public speaking, speech

[Photo by Mikhail Nilov on Pexels]

02. Know your audience (fine, if you really need to picture them in underwear, go for it)

Understanding who you are delivering your speech to is one of the most important aspects of public speaking. A speech to the CEO of your company to pitch your groundbreaking communications plan is going to have a very different vibe than the speech you gave to pitch a girls’ weekend getaway to your besties. 

Use of language and word choice is your superpower when it comes to tailoring a message to an audience. You know what message you want to get across, all you have to do is say it in a way that will resonate with the people in front of you. Things to think about when deciding how to speak in an audience-friendly way:

  • What level of professionalism is expected of me?
  • What do the audience and I have in common? How can I relate to them?
  • To what extent is the audience familiar with this topic? How can I explain this topic in words they understand?
  • Why are these audience members here? What do they want to know?
  • How can I give the audience the most bang for their buck? What do I need to express, and how can I do it efficiently? 

If you take an audience-centered approach, you are setting yourself up for success. You are speaking to people who value what you have to say. If you prepare with them in mind, you will impress them with every word. However, it should be noted that no matter the audience, using your voice and adding some personality is always a positive thing. 

03. Remember when you learned about ethos, pathos, and logos? I barely do either, so let's refresh 

Once you understand who your audience is, you have to know what it takes to keep them interested. People become interested in a speech when it sounds less like a lecture and more like a story. You need to tell them a good, juicy story. So, how do you turn any topic into a good juicy story? You use ethos, pathos, and logos. Sorry. 

Let’s start with ethos. Ethos is what makes you credible as a speaker. For your audience to want to listen to what you have to say, they need to know that you know what you’re talking about. Sometimes, your credibility goes unsaid. For example, I started my maid of honor speech by saying I’m the bride’s little sister, but nobody was going to ask to see my birth certificate for proof. So, in some cases, you are off the hook. However, if you are giving a talk to an audience who is supposed to learn something from you, you need to explain why they should believe it. 

A good way to do this is to include a personal anecdote in your speech. People like to hear about other people’s experiences. It connects us as human beings. If you have an impressive, funny, relatable, or surprising anecdote that can get the audience to warm up to you while also showcasing your experience and credibility, you are off to an incredible start. 

As for logos and ethos, you should sprinkle a bit of both throughout your speech. Logos appeals to the audience’s logic. You want to be saying things in simple terms that make sense to your audience. Avoid over-technical terms and long-drawn-out explanations of complicated things. We want to keep things short and sweet. 

Ethos is the holy grail for impressive speech writing. Ethos appeals to the audience’s emotions. If you want people to think about your speech for days, months, or even years, you need to spark emotional power. First, you should brainstorm what emotional message can be encompassed in your speech. Once you have an idea, try to think of a few ways that message makes you feel. Write down a few key emotional words that pop into your mind when you are thinking about your message.

Your goal now is to use the message and words to create an emotional experience for your audience. Take them on a rollercoaster. Tell them about the good, the bad, the ugly, and the pretty. And, if you find yourself getting emotional while speaking, let it happen. If you show the audience that you can be vulnerable with your emotions, they know that they can be vulnerable with theirs. Once everyone is in their feels, the emotional connection will be remarkable and memorable. 

public speaking tips, speech, public speaking

[Photo by Pavel Danilyuk on Pexels]

04. Practice, but don't memorize 

Practice, practice, practice. Practicing allows you to be the most confident in your abilities to deliver. Tell your speech to your parents, sibling, significant other, best friend, reflection in the mirror, neighbor, and definitely your pet. The more experience you get speaking out loud to an audience, the more comfortable you will be at the big moment.

My biggest advice, though, is to be careful not to try to memorize your words. Memorizing words is different than knowing what you want to say. If you have a moment where your mind drifts off, it is much harder to bring it back to a memorized essay. However, if you know your message like the back of your hand, you will be able to snap back into it so quickly that the audience won’t even notice the slip. 

Practicing does not just involve speaking the speech out loud. Practice your body language as well. A huge part of public speaking is using your hands, stance, and expressions to deliver your story. Practice moving around the room, using hand expressions, fluctuating your voice, and giving facial cues. 

05. Bring all your confidence 

If you bring all your confidence with you, it will radiate to the audience. Put on an outfit that makes you feel like all eyes should be on you. Tell yourself that you are going to do amazing up there. You know your stuff, and you have what it takes to deliver a killer speech. 

Remind yourself that if you mess up, it is okay. You can laugh at yourself. The people on the other end of the speech have been in your shoes. They have had the same public speaking butterflies you have now. You are the only one who knows exactly what you want to say. So, if you deviate from the plan slightly, nobody is going to even notice. 

Walk in there like you own the place. Volunteer to go first. Let everyone know that you have control over your speech, your speech doesn’t have control over you. Talk loudly and with pride. Your confidence will carry you to the finish line. 

Featured Image via Andrea Piacwuadio of Pexels. Design by Her Campus Media.

Article was originally posted August 16, 2022.