Top 5 Tips for Giving a Speech

Whether it’s about something as vital as ending a war or something as forgettable as introducing your boss at an awards ceremony, most of us will have to give a speech at one time or another. 

Here are the top five ways to excel at speechmaking:

1. Know Your Material Thoroughly – Whether you wrote the speech yourself or had someone write it for you, it’s important that you are intimately familiar with the speech’s contents. If you aren’t, there are plenty of ways to embarrass yourself, including mispronouncing words or names, or forgetting vital words! (How would “Read my lips: No new taxes” have gone over if the first President Bush skipped over the “no” in that sentence?)  And when you are familiar with your speech, you will be more likely to sound like you are speaking from the heart rather than reading woodenly from note cards.

2. Talk, Don’t Lecture – In other words, “give” a speech to the audience, don’t “read” it to them like they’re children in pre-school story hour.  Let your own personality shine through the words. People see through you when you’re trying to act like someone you are not. That’s why a stodgy CEO shouldn’t try to turn into an instant comedian once on stage, and a bubbly 22-year-old shouldn’t try to give her speech as if she were a serious schoolmarm. Dress appropriately, too. Imagine how confused the audience would be if the President dressed in a clown suit for his next State of the Union Address?

3. Engage Your Audience – Their speech was written for a specific audience, but many public speakers get so nervous that they try to ignore the audience, or perhaps imagine them in their underwear. Resist that urge! The best speakers acknowledge the audience by making eye contact or speaking directly to them, and they keep the audience’s attention and interest by varying speech patterns, gesturing, or moving around the stage.

4. Be Prepared to React to Audience Participation – Uh oh. You thought this speech would kill, but the audience is yawning, leaving in droves, or even picking up tomatoes. In this worst case speech-giving scenario, you must be adept at rolling with the (I hope not literal) punches.  If the audience is responding negatively, be ready to change tactics, leave part of the speech out, speak extemporaneously or even open the floor to your audience to hear their views.

5. End with a Call to Action – William Wallace’s most stirring speeches ended with a cry for “Freedom!” Maybe your speech won’t be quite stirring enough to urge your audience into battle against a better-armed foe, but a strong call to action at the end of your speech will sum up what you’ve said, and stick in your listeners’ minds.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Download a free copy of the PR Checklist – a 24 point list of Press Release Dos and Don’ts here:

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