Preparing For Public Speaking Gigs

Speech after preparing for public speaking

Many people are afraid to speak in public, yet many anxieties related to speaking can be overcome through preparation and practice. If you speak on a topic relevant to your audience and attempt to connect with them during delivery, you can turn your planning and rehearsals into a great speech.

When preparing for public speaking, your mind may race ahead to what you might do wrong or might not come off as planned. We have tips to help you write, prepare, practice, and implement a strong speech, so you should not struggle to capture and keep your audience’s attention.

What Are Some Tips For Giving A Good Public Speech?

Looking for main tips to help you become a better public speaker? Here are some top tips. Note that some suggestions are for the planning stages, while others help you perfect your communication skills.

1. Know Expectations

Knowing what is expected of you is multifaceted and can range from finding out where the venue is to determining how long you should speak to understanding the main points you are expected to cover. Ask questions about the speaking engagement prior to planning.

2. Recognize the Audience

Knowing who will be listening is one key to capturing the audience’s attention. Determining what the audience wants to hear or learn will help you hone in on the important points you should cover. Also, knowing the lens through which the audience views the world and the situation you are tasked with covering is important.

3. Visual Aids

While visual aids are very powerful in offering tangibles to accompany your speech, you can overdo it. A PowerPoint that shows graphs, images, etc., can help bring a point home, while props like product samples might be better for other speeches. A word of caution – you can overdo visual aids by having too many or using the wrong ones. With visuals, sometimes less truly is more.

Preparing for public speaking means preparing visual aids

4. Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact is a great way for a great public speaker to relate to the audience. Don’t bury your face in notecards or focus on a piece of paper while speaking. If you are relying upon notes, be certain to look up regularly during the speech.

5. Practice

Don’t be tempted to skimp on practice even if you think you know the topic like the back of your hand. At the bare minimum, you should practice 3-5 times in front of a mirror. Even better advice is to record yourself and watch the video for feedback. Practicing in front of an audience is the best way to hone your public speaking skills. Be certain to be reflective and open to feedback.

Your practice should include the body language you will use and incorporate your visual aids.

6. Request Feedback

As mentioned in the portion on practice, ask people for feedback and listen to their suggestions. When someone gives advice, pay attention and reflect on if these are changes worth making to ensure your speech is more robust to the audience members.

Plan for getting and learning from feedback

7. Pause for Effect

Public speakers often talk way too fast. Pausing periodically during a speech is an excellent way to slow things down. Pausing can also be very powerful if used at the right time in a speech. When making a major point, consider inserting a pause.

8. Repeat Powerful Thoughts

Sometimes it pays to say the same thing over again. If you have compelling thoughts, quotes, or catchphrases you plan to use, repeat them to hammer a point home.

9. Anticipate Questions

If you are allocating time for Q & A, anticipate questions that might arise. If you don’t have answers, offering to get back to the individual is okay. Don’t feel pressured to handle a question you don’t know the answer to. Above all else, don’t be tempted to fake an answer. Nothing can destroy credibility faster.

10. Be Kind to Yourself

Remember not to be too hard on yourself, especially if it is your first time speaking publicly. It is perfectly okay to be nervous. It is also okay, even common, to struggle through your first few public events. Presentation skills typically grow the more you use them. Be patient and kind to yourself.

What Are Some Good Ways To Overcome A Fear Of Public Speaking?

Do you experience stage fright? If you get nervous about public speaking, here are some tips.

  • First, it can be helpful to take deep breaths before you start.
  • Another important tactic is to focus on your topic and speech rather than the audience. While you may need to look at the audience, you don’t have to focus on them.
  • The use of humor is another great way to help you overcome fear. Why? Because when you use humor, it naturally relaxes you (and the audience). Consider telling a personal story if you have one that fits nicely into your speech. This is a tactic that helps you to create a connection with those listening.
  • Knowing your topic well is another way to help you relax. This is useful because if you are well prepared, you are less likely to get as nervous. 
Take deep breaths to overcome anxiety

What Should You Know Before Preparing For Public Speaking Gigs?

Successful public speakers ask themselves some critical questions prior to planning.

  • What are the venue logistics? This is crucial for many reasons. Of course, the obvious is that you want to know where you need to be, what time you should be there, and where to park.

    Likewise, getting familiar with the place you will be speaking is another important aspect of feeling confident. This includes ensuring the technology works so you can handle everything during your speech. Is the venue conducive to using PowerPoint or some other type of technology?
  •  What is the topic and time frame? Understanding the key points you are tasked with discussing gives you a place to start as you carve out your framework. Knowing how long you should speak will let you know how many main ideas you need or how much detail you can provide.
  •  Who comprises the audience? Knowing the audience is another crucial aspect of the art of public speaking. How else can you be expected to engage the audience at a speaking engagement?
  • Will there be other speakers? If there are other speakers, you need to know what their topic(s) will entail to avoid repetition. For example, at commencement, the valedictorian and salutatorian should talk to be sure their main points are not too similar.

How Do You Prepare For A Speech?

As you prepare your speech, there are some easy things to do:

  • Make your outline. Bullet points should signal the main ideas you want or need to discuss.
  • Create a hook. Once you have the outline of the main points, decide how to engage the audience by telling a story or using a quote to capture their interest.
  • Manage transitions. Any good piece of writing or speech has transitions to get you from one idea to the next. If you have three main points in your speech, you must decide how to transition from one idea to the next.
  • Determine visual aids. Thinking back to the part on visual aids, decide if they will add to or detract from your speech. If you see value in them, determine what to use and how to manage them.
  • Pull it all together. When you pull it all together, consider if there is one main takeaway you want the audience to leave with. If so, ask yourself: is the point clear? Perhaps repeating an important idea is worth considering.
  • Practice! You are not done with preparation even when your speech is written. You need to practice until you feel comfortable with the content!
  • Check out the venue. Visit the venue ahead of time so you know the logistics of the layout. If you cannot visit in person, ask questions to avoid surprises on speech day.
Practice your speech even witout an audience

How Do You Manage Slides And Handouts?

Slides and handouts help to illustrate your point. On the other hand, sometimes integrating visual aids will add to your nervousness. The key to deciding if you should use visuals is to ask yourself if they will add to the presentation or detract from it. When you ask this question and are honest about the answer, you know if you should incorporate them.

Using a slideshow can be helpful, but be sure you understand the technology and either have an easy way to flip from slide to slide (such as a remote you have practiced using) or have assistance. Enlist assistance to handle handouts for you for two reasons: it saves time and allows you to keep focused on the task at hand, your speech.

If you use a slideshow, be sure you do not put too much information on each slide. Slides should only have images or key points. No one wants their intelligence insulted by having a speaker read from a slide on a PowerPoint.

Pam Berg

A former English teacher and currently an elementary principal in a rural school, Pam has honed her speaking skills in the classroom and before professional groups. Pam enjoys sharing her insights about public speaking almost as much as she enjoys running, which she does daily.

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