Giving a speech can seem like an intimidating process, especially if you’ve never given one, or you’ve never taken a class on the art of speech giving.
Giving a good speech is all about preparation, confidence and personality. You want to captivate, entertain and inform your audience, even though you’re probably not talking about the most exciting subject. Well, we’re going to teach you exactly how to do this!
First of all, how is giving a speech different from giving a presentation?
There are some blatant similarities between speeches and presentations. Like the fact that during both, you’re addressing an audience of people who are all facing you with blank and probably uninterested expressions. They both involve heavy preparation, and they’re both completely terrifying — let’s be honest.
But the differences between the two are pretty important. First, a presentation involves visuals: whether that’s a powerpoint, pamphlets for the listeners to follow along, graphs, charts — you name it. Speeches are normally just a speaker and an audience.
Speeches also tend to be more formal and serious than presentations. Speeches usually revolve around bigger ideas, goals and issues within a company or organization. And presentations tend to be about more specific data-related topics, like company growth, sales numbers, team performances, etc.
Speeches are also normally given in front of more people than presentations. A speech may be given to an entire company, while a presentation may be given in front of the company’s board of advisors or in front of a specific team within the company.
Plus, there's more back-and-forth in presentations than speeches as well. Presentations leave room for questions and answers, while speeches likely won’t.
7 tips to help you give your best speech
We’re here to help you prepare to give the best speech possible — just follow these seven tips:
1. Decide exactly what you want your message to be.
This is super important! What do you want the lasting impression to be? What do you need the audience to understand before they leave the room? You also want to establish a tone. Is your overall message positive? Inspirational? Hopeful? Determined? You should maintain this throughout the speech.
2. Find out who your audience will be.
Knowing and understanding your audience is key. This will also help you determine the tone of your speech. And how much explanation will be necessary for certain subjects. If you’re giving a speech to a room of marketing professionals, you won’t have to go into as much detail when explaining SEO, for example, as you would if you were giving a speech to a room of engineers.
3. Write down all of the ideas you want to convey.
You can basically word vomit this part. Get out every idea you have that you think will be crucial to your speech. Don’t worry about categorizing them yet — sometimes it’s easiest to write down all of your ideas first and organize them after. And speaking of organizing...
4. Organize your ideas into an outline.
Your outline will determine the flow of your speech. You probably want to start light, introduce heavier information (if you have it) toward the middle, and end on a positive or reflective note that outlines your thoughts for the future.
5. Actually write your speech.
And make sure to do so in a way that will be easy for you to read and will sound natural when spoken aloud. You want to be the perfect mix of professional and conversational while giving your speech.
6. Practice reading your speech aloud and record yourself.
Watching yourself deliver the speech will help you decide what areas you need to work on. You don’t want to spend your entire speech reading directly from a piece of paper, but that doesn’t mean you need to memorize your entire speech either! Try bolding the main points you want to convey in each section so you can easily look down and maintain your train of thought.
7. Don’t forget to cite your sources.
If you give any information at all that you sourced from somewhere else, don’t forget to cite it. You never want to plagiarize and you want your audience to know where you’re getting your information. Let them know you and your sources are credible.
We’ve rounded up a few frequently asked questions involving giving the perfect speech.
How can I give a speech that’s effective?
Be passionate about the message you are trying to deliver. Make sure you’re fully prepared, so you can focus on connecting with the audience, rather than remembering what you’re supposed to be saying. Add a little humor if possible to keep things interesting. And try not to get off track. Make sure your speech always relates back to your main message — that way your audience won’t be confused about the point you are trying to get across.
How should I greet my audience when I begin?
Everyone knows how important first impressions are, and your first impression with your audience is no exception. You should start by thanking your audience for being there to hear you speak, and, if applicable, thanking the company or organization who invited you to speak as well.
You should also thank whoever it is that introduced you. Then you should obviously introduce your subject. Start your speech as you would a paper: introduce the topic and give a little hint as to what you’re going to be talking about for the rest of your time on stage.
You also want to captivate the audience at this point — you could connect your subject to a current event, a pop culture reference, or something to that effect. Engage with them and be conversational!
What is the person called who is giving the speech?
The person who gives the speech is referred to as the “orator.”
How do I make sure my speech will be memorable?
Don’t try to be impressive and use big words people might not understand. Be yourself and speak in a way that all your audience members will be able to comprehend.
Include details and examples to make your points. Tell stories when applicable. Engage with your audience members — ask them questions. Have them interact at certain points during your speech. Try to do something other than stand in front of a group of people and speak monotonously for an hour. Most importantly: add your personality to your speech. Be yourself and connect with the people you are speaking to.
While giving a speech can be incredibly stressful, just remember that if you prepare properly you will be fine. Try to take deep breaths and remind yourself that you are ready and you are qualified to do this. Confidence will give your speech the extra edge it might need.