Did you know that Winston Churchill would take one hour to prepare for one minute of his speech? Public speaking is not a creative process. It’s a grueling, although ultimately rewarding work, so, brace yourself. It’s all worth it in the end.
These are the stages you will need to go through before you will get on stage (or on camera) and deliver your magnificent monologue.
- Determine the idea
- Research – a lot
- Choose 3-4 supporting ideas
- Edit meticulously
- Rehearse every day
What’s the Idea?
Your audience does not care about dry facts – they can also read Wikipedia. They came to you to discover your unique vision. So, ask yourself – what are you passionate about? Is there a topic which makes you tick?
Then encapsulate that topic into a short thesis statement. It should be clear, and it should be punchy. It should dictate the direction your speech is going. Do not deviate from it no matter what – treat it like a lighthouse during the storm.
Research as much as you can. Do not think whether what you are reading is useful – this you will do at later stages. Collect facts, statistics, and interesting anecdotes. Do not forget to define the terms and leave out acronyms – those may lead to an upsurge of unprompted questions.
At the end, you should have an outline of 3-4 ideas to support your overarching thesis statement. Going beyond that would be simply ineffective: working memory can only contain up to 4 things at a time. Now it’s time to connect the dots and omit the redundant.
Now it’s time to cut most of your research. This is difficult and painful, but without this stage your speech will be dull and unnecessary complicated. Remember: the facts and stories you choose to include are there to prop your main idea; they are not the centerpiece of attention per se.
Statistics can drive your point home. Too much statistics can turn your speech into a technical report. With human attention span getting shorter every year, this is a dangerous path to follow.
Practice can help you become more relaxed and confident. You will learn to avoid filler words, nervous shaking or awkward gestures. What is more, you will train the right emotion, as pathos (the emotional persuasion) is just as important as logos (the evidence) and ethos (the credentials).
You will also grow more comfortable using the supplementary technology such as a full HD recording or a presentation tool. Even if you are the tech-savvy type, sometimes things just don’t work the same way. So many public speeches failed because the slides would get jumbled or the mike broken.
Things to Consider
Every public speech is different and requires an individual approach. I would advise you to use the SOAPSTONE abbreviation, so that you do not miss anything. Let’s go over each letter one by one.
You will need to introduce yourself at some point. It is best not to do it in the first sentence, as this is just boring and predictable. Briefly mention your name and credentials, but only after you hook the audience’s attention.
You should make sure you understand what you are getting yourself into, as in a webinar presentation should be different from a public speech in your local park. Even in terms of clothing a web conference requires much less dressing up.
Will you present to a group of scholars or first-year students? Read your script one more time and answer honestly: is the language you are using appropriate for your intended audience? Simplified ideas are just as annoying for high-brow scholars as arcane terms for an outsider.
Your idea should always have a purpose attached to it. Do you want to inform or entertain? Perhaps, you want to inspire your audience to take a particular course of action? Sometimes the intents may overlap, but try to emphasize one of them.
In the ideal world, you would opt for a familiar subject rather than delve into the realm of the unknown. If you realize that you are on unfamiliar ground, you should carve out more time for research.
It can be passionate or calm, serious or sarcastic. You should choose your tone very carefully, as it can completely transform the underlying message.
Did you know that the fear of public speaking is actually classified as a type of SAD? If you think you have it, I would recommend you adopt a more philosophical worldview.
Imagine the worst that could happen. Most likely you will get out of it alive. That means you will have a chance to try again and correct your mistakes.
No matter how much you prepare, you will never be 100 % safe. Your Internet may go out, there might be hecklers among the audience, or you can simply be having a bad day. Take life as it comes. In any case, every failed attempt brings you closer to your ideal public speech.
If you take all the above advice into account, you can have a clear conscience no matter what happens. It all is temporary, and tomorrow will be a new better day.