Being organized can make a positive impact when giving a speech. If you’re disorganized and ill-prepared, your audience is likely to not pay attention and get very little from the information you provide. Conversely, a well-practiced and orderly speech will keep your audience interested and leave your audience members glad they took the time to hear your insights.
If you have a fear of speaking in front of people, I highly recommend taking a speech class or joining your local Toastmasters. If you’re simply looking for some pointers for creating a more organized presentation, try these 13 tips:
- You need to be providing an average of one piece of information (or more) for every minute of your speech for your audience to believe that you were worth their time. Think of really good stand-up comics — they are amazing at what they do and they deliver punch lines every 10 to 15 seconds. (Time a Jim Gaffigan routine and you’ll see what I mean. He averages a laugh almost every six seconds.) In a 30 minute speech, you’ll likely only get in 30 memorable pieces of information.
- At all points while you’re drafting your speech, consider your audience. You’re not trying to impress them, you’re there to help them. You’re a teacher, not a promoter. Think about what your audience will want to know, and then think of the best way to transfer these 30, 45, or 60 pieces of information. Provide examples, real world situations where they can use the knowledge you’re giving them. Although you’ll be nervous, the speech has very little to do with you and everything to do with the audience.
- Once you know what your audience wishes to learn and what points you want to teach them, organize the information in a way that makes learning the information easiest. You don’t have to be funny or the best speaker the audience has ever encountered, you just have to help them to learn information to the very best of your abilities.
- When you draft what you want to say, don’t write it out word for word. Outline the important points (those 30, 45, or 60 points mentioned previously) you wish to cover, your introduction and your conclusion, but stop there. If you write it out completely, you’ll sound like you’re reciting a speech instead of having a conversation with your audience.
- Bring an outline of your speech with you to set on a table or rest on the podium. If you’ve practiced sufficiently, you won’t need it, but you’ll feel more comfortable with it being there. Plus, if you actually forget, you won’t let down your audience because you’ll have it there.
- When most people are nervous, they will want to talk faster than they usually do. Fight this instinct with all your might. Either that, or prepare 35 minutes worth of content for a 30 minute speech. If you don’t speed up when you’re nervous, disregard this item.
- Practice, practice, practice. Give the talk to your spouse or a close friend. Give the talk to a video camera. You’ll feel more awkward giving the speech to someone you know well and a video camera than you will to a room full of strangers. If you can get to a point in your practice where you feel okay with giving the speech to your someone you’re close to and a video camera, you’ll rock it when it’s time to give the real presentation.
- Get out from behind the podium and make eye contact with your audience. Again, since your goal is to educate your audience, you want to be able to see their faces and make certain that they’re understanding what you’re trying to teach them.
- If you are not accustom to speaking publicly, identify at the beginning of your speech that you’ll be taking questions at the end of your speech. This way, you won’t get off track. Then, leave enough time at the end of your speech for questions.
- When answering questions at the end of your speech, rephrase questions at the beginning of your answer in case not everyone in the audience could hear the question (“Bob is wanting to know if X is the reason Y exists.”). You may be the only person in the room with access to a microphone.
- Be sincere. Don’t put into a speech information that you don’t know backward and forward. Knowing the topic extremely well will help reduce your fears because you’re already comfortable speaking about the subject. When there are questions at the end of your speech, you want to make sure that you’ll know the answer. Again, you’re there to teach.
- During your conclusion, let people know how they can get into touch with you after your speech. There will be additional questions and they might not develop until a few days after the audience has had time to sit with what you’ve told them.
- Also at the end of your speech, thank people for choosing to come and listen to you. Even if people don’t feel like they learned a lot in your presentation, they will remember you as someone who wanted to help and was generous. This positive attitude typically leads to more speaking gigs.
As long as you are a well-rehearsed authentic educator, it will be easy for you to stay organized throughout your presentation and deliver a valuable speech for your audience.