Many people fear speaking in front of other people. They may get nervous, start shaking and forget what they were going to say. Often the fear comes from the person believing he’s not a good public speaker and that people will think he has nothing valuable to say. Learning the characteristics of a good speech helps in crafting a better speech, which diminishes the fears associated with public speaking.
Audience members zone out if the speech doesn’t grab their interest. To fight this, craft an attention-getting opening. Share a startling fact or a quote from a respected person to start your speech. “The Civil War was an exciting time in America’s history. Though it was over 130 years ago, it’s still important to learn about the Civil War” is boring. “Our city’s population is around 600,000 people. Imagine if all those people died, shot to death, from disease or through other horrible means. That’s how many lives were lost in the Civil War” gains an audience’s attention.
Your speech should be easy to follow. It should have clear points that transition from one to the next. This helps the listeners avoid getting lost. A speech on the music of the Beatles might be best organized chronologically, starting from their first album and going to their last, instead of jumping from an album from the late '60s to the early '60s to the mid-'60s and then the early '60s again. Make an outline to organize your key points in the most logical order.
Knowing Your Audience
Your speech should connect with the audience. When a presidential candidate talks to senior citizens of a small town, his speech is tailored to their interests, concerns and needs, such as health care and Social Security. The same is true for your speech. A doctor’s speech to medical students, as opposed to non-medical students, will be very different, because medical students are familiar with terminology and practices that non-medical students are not.
While the introduction gets the audience members' attention and introduces them to what you’ll be speaking about, the conclusion wraps things up. It reviews the key points and leaves a lasting impression on the audience, urging them to take action and continue to think about your speech. An example of a strong conclusion: “Drug abuse will continue to harm our children, unless we provide more education and supervision. If we don’t stop our kids from trying drugs, the next one that dies may be yours.”
Body language can become distracting during a speech. Because speakers are often nervous, many scratch their heads multiple times, rock back and forth on their heels and clasp their hands together and then separate them repeatedly. However, body language can be used to your advantage by, for example, motioning with your hands to transition to a new point.
- Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images