I’ve trained many CEOs on how to improve their speaking abilities for their on-stage debut in front of hundreds of their peers. Here’s the best practices I’ve gleaned from many, many rehearsals and general sessions.
Don’t skip these tips if you don’t give speeches in your job – you never know when you’ll need to give a toast at a wedding, announce exciting news at a family event, or speak at a funeral. I know these tips work; I’ve used them myself many times.
- Write it down. Putting your remarks on paper is the best way to get started. Add personal stories to make your points come to life. Remember the audience wants to know, “What’s in it for me?”
- Read out loud. Speaking your remarks will give you a new perspective. Videotape yourself and time it. You will probably need to cut your remarks and do some editing.
- Practice! Read your remarks out loud (on stage if possible) at least 3-5 more times.
- Fix. Replace words that you consistently have trouble saying.
- Know key messages. If you are working without a script or partipating in a panel, know your key messages so you can always make your point.
- Fine-tune. Once you are familiar with your remarks, work on the your pace of speaking (slow down), hand gestures, and pausing at the end of sentences. Pauses are very effective to let the audience know that you are changing topics.
- If you mess up, move on. Once you are in front of your audience, realize that they don’t know what you were planning on saying. So if you skip something during the speech or mess up, move on.
- Relax. Breathe. Drink. Be sure to pause and take a drink when your mouth gets dry. I suggest water or tea, not alcohol, for obvious reasons. (You are speaking, not slurring 🙂 )
- Stay on time. Avoid ad-libbing too much; you’ll run over your time. A great presentation is one that ends on time; it affords less opportunity for criticism.