This is the second article in a series on how to give a great speech.
The first article covered all of the proper preparation that you can do to set yourself up for success. You can find it here. This article will cover the actual delivery of the speech. The final article, coming soon, will be all about how to evaluate the speech after the fact.
So, you’ve properly prepared, and now it’s about two hours before the big moment. Here are the steps that you can take to ensure that you’re feeling good.
Mind your inner-dinosaur
Humans are advanced creatures but we are still governed by some pretty primals instincts and needs. Prior to speaking, you should ensure that you are fed, hydrated, and relieved (in the bathroom sense). These things may seem trivial, and they are very easy to undervalue when you are sheparding from meeting to meeting or traveling to the event. Plan ahead. Know what you’re eating and drinking. Put it on your schedule. Be obstinate. Giving a speech when one of these three issues is not resolved is like trying to speak perfectly while a small voice in your head is saying, “I’m hungry I’m hungry I’m hungry feed me feed me feed me feed me.” If you do not satisfy these needs, your body will respond to stress with two hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. You do not want to be chock full of those hormones when you’re about to deliver a speech.
Don’t waste your opening line
It is tempting to do what 95% of people do. Open your speech by saying, “Thank you for having me, I am really excited to be here and share with you this morning.” The audience, expecting this line, will continue to operate on autopilot, check their phones, and not really engage with you until they feel that the content is being delivered. So, start with content. Create a striking, exciting opening paragraph that immediately draws them in. AND THEN, go back and do the pleasantries. The pleasantries are important, and I don’t want to understate the value of being a gracious person. BUT, grace isn’t always exciting. So, lead with exciting, then go to grace, and then begin to deliver the content in earnest.
Create Emotional Continuity
Would it be fair to say that you would prefer to not have whiplash? Cool. Your audience feels the same way. After that initial block, you should try to keep the energy and direction of the speech fairly continuous. Other people may advocate for adding twists and turns to keep things interesting. Interesting, maybe, but you also create a huge risk that you lose people all together because they can’t follow you on the journey that you’re trying to create. In a small group setting, we can stop to ask if everything is making sense. When you’re speaking to 500+, you have to roll through tot he finish line and only get the facial expressions of the audience to guide you. So, don’t leave yourself in the lurch by trying to be super fancy. Be linear, be clear, and build the energy.
Focus on the feeling, not on the details
As human beings, we have had millions of different experiences throughout out lifetimes. There is a very real chance that a great deal of my life has not resembled yours at all. And yet, from all of those experiences, they have left us with a very similar set of emotions: joy, anger, sadness, excitement, nervousness, jealousy etc.. So, if you’re trying to connect with the audience, go to the feeling, not the details. If you help people to understand how a victim in your speech felt, more than the gruesome details of what he/she experienced, you are much more likely to capture their attention.
Learn to love silence
Silence is one of the most widely feared aspects of public speaking. It represents a great unknown. But it is a deeply powerful tool for you, and if you learn to love and embrace it, it will make your speaking so much more powerful and impactful. If you tell a joke, give the audience time to understand it and react. If you make a really impactful point, let it hang in the air for a moment. This is not about creating fake drama, it’s giving the audience permission to react to what they are experiencing in real time. If you just bulldoze past all of those critical moments, you rob the opportunity for people to really feel what you’re saying.
And there you have it! Five things you can do to improve the delivery of your speech in a wonderful, impactful way. As I mentioned, if you’re just starting out on the process of writing your speech, check out the first article for some ideas. And then keep your eyes peeled for the final piece of the series!!