“Saying a few words” – tips for public speaking

A few weeks ago, I was invited to “say a few words” at a meeting chaired by Seb Berry, a former LibDem councillor, with Nigel Farrage, the UKIP leader as the main speaker.

The event was on Friday and over the weekend I compiled a short list of a few tips I’ve picked up on public speaking.

  • Make notes and practise what you are going to say beforehand – lots.  But don’t  read it word for word, it may end up like a monotone. It takes practise to read a speech aloud well, and for most people the precise words used don’t matter that much.
     
  • It is worth being word perfect on the start of your speech and the end. Knowing exactly what you are about to say helps with any nerves you will be feeling: and practising the end enables you to finish without petering out.
     
  • Also, you may find you need to make last minute changes.  On Friday, we were asked to make our speeches shorter then originally planned: a speech which took seven minutes at home now needed to be reduced to no more then 4 minutes.    I changed the order round: not have been possible if it had been written out word for word.  (Even David Cameron made a note on his speech for the 2011 Lord Mayor’s banquet moments before he gave it.)
     
  • Allow for spontenaety.  On Friday the Now Show, the Radio 4 comedy program, talked about the campaign against HS2.  So I included a mention in my speech.
     
  • Knowing how to project your voice without a microphone can save you stress.  There will often be one available, but on Friday it was be broken.  Being able to speak without one – the venue was the size of a school hall, so not massive – made life a whole lot easier for the organisers and me.
     
  • Remember the audience is on your side.  They want the speaker to do well, and they will forgive a few mistakes and fluffed up lines.

Final thought: if you are a blogger, you’ll be thinking about your topic anyway. So why not practise bits of it for a speech, even if you haven’t got one planned?

Often at events like this, speakers compare what we are going to say.  One event I spoke at before, two of us would have covered the same aspics of the topic: I rewrote my speech from scratch in the ten minutes before I was due to give it.  The mini practises were what enabled me to make a reasonable speech.

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