In Texas (where I live) there is a statewide academic competition called UIL and, despite participating in it for the better part of six years, I still haven’t a clue as to what it stands for. But I compete in a lot of events, especially speech and debate. Specifically, Policy Debate and Informational Speaking. Both of these events include writing speeches on a time crunch. I have mastered at least novice public speaking after plenty and plenty trial and error. Here are some tips I’ve picked up.
Disclaimer: Giving speeches is very subjective and this is what has worked out for me. If it doesn’t work out for you continue exploring different methods, you’ll find something!
–Have a decent idea about what you’re talking about. Most likely you’re reading this because you need to speak in front of the class and didn’t suddenly join policy debate. Most likely you know what you’re topic is and you’ll have done research on it. KNOW MORE THAN WHAT YOU PUT IN YOUR SPEECH. Know details and dates and anecdotes. If you’re discussing owning a tiger as a pet you should not only know about laws and regulations of owning a tiger but also know other things about tigers, like how big they get and how much food they require. This also helps if you are asked questions at the end. Even though it may not seem like it, people can tell when you know what you’re talking about.
–Know your audience. Who are you talking to? Are you persuading them or informing them? Are they college professors or classmates? If you know who you’re talking to it is easier to cater your language to those people. You don’t need to say “tigers are abused maliciously and without regard to any subset of decency” when talking to your tenth grade classmates.
–UMs and AND SOs. These are called filler words. It is second nature to use them. All languages have them and conversationally there is nothing wrong with them. However if you’re standing in front of people grading you it makes you sound unsure and not confidence. This won’t be an easy habit to break so don’t feel bad if you don’t get it right away. Start by acknowledging when you use filler words. Then think as you speak. Instead of using a filler word, pause for a second. I know it feels like you’re pausing forever but you’re not. No one really notices tbh.
–Write out your speech verbatim then condense into an outline. When writing out a speech for a class or something, you need to know what you want to say about each idea (before you write anything out you should already have facts and information). Putting it on paper makes it easier to say later when presenting. Practice a few time reading it aloud. Use inflection and tone to move the speech along. When you’ve read through it a few times condense it back down to an outline. NEVER EVER READ A SPEECH WORD FOR WORD UNLESS YOU’RE THE PRESIDENT AND YOUR SPEECHES ARE WRITTEN FOR YOU (or your teacher says it’s cool). If you read a speech in high school/college generally you’re monotone and boring and it is 10000000% obvious that you’re reading from a script.
–Practice with the outline. The more you practice the better you sound and the less you use filler words!!!!!!!
~ACTUAL SPEECH TIME~
–IT IS OKAY TO BE NERVOUS. There are so many people who will tell you that nerves are terrible and will screw you up. At times that is the case. However take a deep breath and put things in perspective. Most likely you are not the only one making a speech and everyone else is just as worried about messing up as you. Acknowledge the fact you’re nervous. Take deep breaths and consciously think about slowing your heart rate down. I always look at the back wall when making a speech that doesn’t need to be persuasive. The wall doesn’t give a crap if your face is red or your stutter a bit. It’s a wall.
If it is persuasive then practice on friends and family. Make sweeping eye contact (not actual eye contact but it looks like it). And sometimes you just gotta suck it up and talk.
–MOVE. Don’t stand still. If you stand still you’ll become monotone and boring and you don’t want that. Talk with your hands. Sway a bit. Make a grand gesture when making a big point. Talk as though you were talking to a friend. If you were talking about how harmful tigers being held as pets is to a friend you would be getting worked up. You’d be moving and gesturing. Channel that in your speech.
–INFLECT. Remember how we don’t want to be monotone? When saying “Tigers being held as pets are, more often than not, a death sentence” don’t say it as though you’re telling your mom you’re going to Target. Emphasise the strong emotional words. (i.e. death sentence). Don’t scream it, but make it harsh and forceful.
–stand up straight. You’ll look professional and studies show certain postures help foster confidence.
–don’t make it obvious if you mess up. 99% people won’t notice/care.
–but it’s okay if you do
–you won’t ever be perfect all the time
–it is a skill and you’ll learn.
Julian Treasure: How to speak so that people want to listen (this one is less about public speaking but still a good watch!)
I hope you found this helpful. If you’re looking for presentation tips this is a really great post about it. If you need anymore advice feel free to message me!