5 Tips for Making an Effective Speech

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Entrepreneurs, business owners, executives and community volunteers are frequently called on to make presentations, speeches, or other public speaking engagements where you need to communicate your message clearly and thoroughly, and impress your audience while you're at it!

  • You're being honored by a professional organization
  • Your business has won an award
  • Your nonprofit is introducing a new service
  • You've been asked to introduce the keynote speaker or an award recipient
  • You're making a presentation to the board

Whether you've written your speech yourself, hired a professional communications expert or speechwriter, or your speech was written by a colleague: it's your job to deliver the speech in a persuasive manner. Not everyone is comfortable making public presentations: but everyone can improve their speech delivery skills.

5 Tips to Improve Your Speech Delivery Skills

  1. Know your audience:
    You're probably already familiar with who will be in your audience: colleagues, the press, community members. But before your speech take some time to speak to several members of the audience. Not only will this calm your nerves, but it will make a warmer, friendlier more receptive audience for your speech.
  2. Make speech notes:
    Some experienced public speakers read directly from their written speech: you've seen the teleprompters that celebrities, politicians and conference presenters use. Others speak from notes or outlines that are carefully numbered, highlighted and give cues, such as look at audience now, pause here, laugh out loud. Other polished presenters plan their presentations in their head, and deliver their speeches extemporaneously from memory. Find out which system works for you and use it: even if you're an experienced speaker, notes are are good to have as a back-up plan.
  3. Practice, practice, then practice again:
    Rehearsing your speech before you present it to a live audience is a good method to become more comfortable with your topic, and work out any rough spots or unclear messages. You can practice in front of a mirror, in front of friends, colleagues or family, or video yourself; practice is a sure-fire way to make sure you're prepared and ready to deliver your speech. Rehearsal also offers the opportunity to time your speech: what looks like a 10 minute speech on paper make turn into a 20 minutes speech when presented before a live audience.
  4. Arrive early to walk through the equipment:
    Will you be speaking from a podium? Is there a fixed mic, or a microphone attached to your lapel? Do you have a projector and slides,  who will be operating the slides? Some speakers bring their own equipment, others use equipment that is provided for them. Don't let your speech be side-tracked by equipment problems. If you're bringing your own equipment, make sure you also have extra batteries, extension cords, and anything else your AV equipment requires. If the site is providing your AV equipment, find out what equipment will be used before your presentation so your slides are compatible, schedule an orientation session to become familiar with their equipment and find out whether you or someone assigned to assist you will be operating the equipment.
  5. Be your authentic self:
    If you're not naturally a funny person, don't try to be a comic in your speech. If you're enthusiastic about your topic, know your facts, and speak with conviction the audience will find you authentic and credible.

As you become a more experienced public speaker, your presentation skills will change and you will become a more confident and effective presenter: even if you never actually enjoy making public presentations.

Public speaking and executive communications - speeches, shareholder presentations, funding proposals, board presentations, sales proposals, introductions, acceptance speeches - are timely, critical opportunities to communicate your message in a clear, understandable voice that delivers results. Strategic messaging and speech writing are an opportunity that can make – or break – your business.

For More Public Speaking Tips:
Small Business Trends: 13 Tips for Delivering a Memorable Keynote Speech
Six Minutes: Speaking and Presentation Skills