This doesn’t mean research your content, we think that’s a given – you’re not likely to want to talk for an hour or so on something you don’t know about. What we do mean is research your audience. Before you start writing your speech – reach out and talk to some of the potential members of that audience. Pick up the phone, call them and ask them a few questions about your topic – find out what they know and how they think. This can be a great way to deliver a genuinely bespoke piece that really grabs attention from the outset.
If you can’t sum up your speech in a single line, it’s unlikely that an hour will make your points any clearer. You don’t need to deliver this as the first line you speak – but it’s a great idea to use it in your introduction, and come back it to again in your conclusion. Then everyone knows what to expect and your speech is all about illustrating that point.
Most professionals agree that you want to run through your finished speech at least 6 times before you deliver it in public. There’s something about this level of practice that moves your content from being “read” to being embodied. It’s when you know the material well enough to quickly recover from a minor mistake and move on – without impairing the audience’s experience.
It’s surprising how effective this is and many speakers who feel they lack talent – don’t. What they lack is practice – if the top speakers are practicing their speeches at least 6 times. If you’re not it’s likely that you’re going to find it hard going.
Asking others how you come across and what you did right (and as importantly what you did wrong) is a powerful way to improve quickly. It’s great if this can be a formal process with professional coaches or monitors giving formal evaluations. However, in most instances you’ll be looking to members of the audience for your feedback. Don’t be afraid to ask for it, and most importantly don’t forget to thank people for it either.
Well, not quite. But it is a great idea to get hold of a camera and video tape your speeches. We may be our own worst critics but seeing ourselves on screen can help us quickly pinpoint minor weaknesses. And of course if your performance was a resounding success – you can always use it to enhance your CV by releasing the material on You Tube.
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