CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – FEBRUARY 5, 2021
Think of the last line of Socrates’s famous speech, given after he was condemned to death: “But it is now time to depart—for me to die, for you to live. But which of us is going to a better state is unknown to everyone but God.” Now, I wasn’t a literature major, but I am a connoisseur of witty banter and comments. I took that comment as the ultimate example of a witty closing comment (pun intended).
Think About Cadence, and Don’t Be Afraid of Silence
The perfect example of cadence? Martin Luther King, Jr., in “I Have a Dream.” The intonation, the inflection of his words, the rhythm, and the power of a carefully placed pause. Don’t be afraid of silence—it can be more powerful than any word. I have another trick here: I write notes to myself. “Pause,” written in capital letters, or underlining words to emphasize. I read lines over and over again until the cadence feels right.
Use Repetition as a Golden Thread
Repetition can tie your message together. Think of Winston Churchill’s “Blood, Toil, Sweat, and Tears,” where this great orator would weave a phrase through both the beginning and end of a speech. I wouldn’t use this strategy all the time, but it’s a good trick to have in your back pocket.
Relax and Have Fun
I have to remind myself to do this. So at the top of my notes for a speech, I write two words: “Breathe. Relax.” When your adrenaline is pumping and the spotlight is on you, what seems like common sense may slip our mind. A reminder really helps.
Know Your Style
Do you need notes? How much practice do you need until you feel comfortable? How much scaffolding do you need so you are comfortable in the moment? Should you print out your whole speech to have on hand in case panic strikes (yes, this happens.)?
Know yourself and give yourself whatever support you need to be the best “you.” I practice my speech and record it so I can listen, reflect, and refine. I also make sure to time my speeches so I know what content to cut and what needs additional work.
Keep Your Print Large
Twelve-point font is not always helpful under the spotlights, in front of a crowd, and when your heart is thumping like the Energizer Bunny on Red Bull. If you decide to print out your speech and notes, do so with a larger font size that you can easily read when you glance down. Also, highlight the important pieces of your speech so if you go off on a tangent, you make sure to hook back into those key points.