Tips for Giving a Killer Speech – Part One

Does public speaking make you sweaty-palmed and anxious? These techniques can calm your nerves and help you deliver a more powerful speech.

William Shakespeare once told us, “Brevity is the soul of wit.” The always colorful Dorothy Parker adapted Shakespeare’s aphorism and taught us that “brevity is the soul of lingerie.” My humble contribution to the power of getting to the point is that “brevity is essential in public speaking.”

Whether you’re talking about the length of a speech or the number of points you plan to cover, one of the most important qualities of an effective speech is that it’s relatively short. As proof, think about Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Both are powerful and brief.

But a speech’s length is only one factor you need to consider when you’re preparing to give a speech at an event. Here are some other techniques you can use to make your speech memorable.

1. Deliver a performance, rather than a speech. 

A speech is primarily about the words that you speak, but a performance is so much more. It’s inflection, gesture, tension, resolution and suspense. Don’t believe me? Go see a one-man (or woman) play, and you’ll instantly understand what I mean. Performers work hard at capturing and keeping an audience’s attention, and words are only one tool in their arsenals. Don’t stop crafting your performance once you’ve written the text of your speech.

2. Use the power of eye contact. 

Bill Clinton was a master of eye contact—watch any of his speeches, and you’ll see the master at work. Your audience is made up of individuals, and you should make an effort to make eye contact with each of them. Eye contact makes a person feel personally engaged in a speech, and engaged listeners are much more likely to be persuaded.

3. Don’t hide behind the lectern. 

The lectern is a crutch—a structure built to conceal knocking knees and shaking hands. It’s a barrier between you and your audience, and you must step out from behind it. Not only will your movement keep folks from falling asleep, but they’ll perceive you as more open and accessible if you’re out in the open rather than hiding behind a big wooden barrier.

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