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Public Speaking: Five Tips for Giving a Great Speech

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Public speaking is something that can strike fear into even confident people. Studies have revealed that public speaking is one of the most common fears—even beating out death!

I recently gave a talk to over 100 interns and young professionals about my career path and how I advanced through networking. It was the first time I had spoken in front of an audience since college and it was by far the largest audience I’ve ever spoken to. I was extremely nervous leading up to the event, but as a result of my preparation, I delivered a clear, concise, and engaging speech.

Five Steps to the Public Speaking:

1. Understand and research the topic

You’ll sound a hundred percent more confident and authoritative if you you’re speaking on a topic that you have some knowledge about. Since I was asked to speak about my career path and networking, I didn’t have to do too much extra research. I did, however, research a few things like networking tips to get some additional ideas. If you’re speaking on something for a school assignment, you’ll probably have to do a lot of research. Finally, make sure to understand the parameters of the speech. Is there a time limit? Will you be using PowerPoint slides?

2. Outline

Do not write out your entire speech sentence by sentence. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, if you don’t have time to memorize it, you’ll end up reading straight from the piece of paper; which is not very engaging. If you do memorize it, your audience will be able to tell, and not in a good way. Speeches that are overly rehearsed sound inauthentic and boring. You want to be able to adjust your tone and delivery based off the mood of your audience. When I did my speech, I had a one page outline with a bulleted list of terms that jogged my memory and led me through my speech without being spelled out word for word. Because I didn’t write my speech out, it was a little different every time. That was okay, because I was hitting all of the important parts.

3. Seek input and edit

Don’t write your speech in a bubble. I sought input on my speech from my mom, my boyfriend, and my friends. They all had different, yet helpful pieces of information such as I was giving too much background information on myself and not enough on how to effectively network. This input made me tighten my speech and cut out some superfluous information. Constructive criticism is what made my speech much better.

4. Practice, practice, practice

Besides understanding your topic, practice is probably the most important part! I practiced in about half a dozen ways. I first practiced by just sitting in front of my computer, reading from my outline. I then practiced on the phone with my Mom. I also practiced in front of a mirror, because it exposed any weird physical quirks like if you play with your hair or use your hands too much. Finally, I recorded myself with my iPhone to hear if I was speaking too fast (I was). I remedied this by having a glass of water on hand and forced myself to take an occasional sip. Throughout all of these practice sessions I timed myself. Staying within the time limit of your speech is extremely important.

5. Treat yo’ self

About an hour before my speech, I bought myself some frozen yogurt, which is my ultimate treat. As silly as it sounds, it really did calm me down. If a sugary snack isn’t your style, there are lots of other ways to make yourself feel good. Maybe wear (or buy) a new outfit or get your hair done. Whatever it is, the goal is to assuage some of the nervousness and make yourself feel competent and confident.

Have you ever spoken in public? What did you do to prepare? Share these tips with us in the comments!

Ask Levo Mentor Jehmu Greene, Political Commentator on Fox News, her tips for staying calm and being prepared when public speaking.


#Tips #Communication #Advice #Speech #Skills Career Advice
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I am terrified at public speaking but I've gotten better over the years. I've definitely used some of these tips, like outlining your speech but I will remember some of these the next time I have to give a speech!

Practicing in the space (if I can) always helps me. I was in a monologue contest last semester, and I was shocked how different my performance was when I performed on the actual stage. When we speak, we really conform our style to the space we're in.


This is wonderful advice! I was a competitive debater for seven years, and I sometimes I forget that not everyone feels at home in front of a crowd. Another piece of advice would be to watch other speakers. Find some speeches and/or speakers you enjoyed listening to and figure out why. Do they have three main points? Is their introduction attention grabbing? If no one comes to mind, check out some TEDtalks or even look at high school debaters through the National Forensic's League!

Rebecca Isaacs
Rebecca Isaacs

When it comes to public speaking, I've always prepared well in advance - to ensure I know the subject - then I step away from it. I find if I over prepare or revisit it too many times, that's when the nerves set in. I find the less I think about it, the more calm I am when the time comes. I also ALWAYS tell myself that I have something I think is important to share with others - so this drives me to deliver the message and not worry about what everyone might be thinking at the time I'm giving the message. It also helps me to approach things a bit more informally, like talking with a friend (just a lot of them at once!).

Thanks for the tips. I especially agree about practice and targeting specific points in the speech for improvement and clarity. As terrifying as it is, having a friend videotape you is a good way to accomplish this.

Maggie Seaver
Maggie Seaver

These are tips that I desperately need! Being able to speak in front of an audience (no matter how large) is a vital skill that I have yet to master. Thank you for the advice!

Rodrigo Zarco
Rodrigo Zarco

I would argue that the treat should be for after your speech, so it becomes a reward for a job well done; alternatively if you effed up it now becomes a "consolation price" so to speak.

Something that really helps me, I find, is just having a nice conversation with somebody right before the speech; this sort of puts me in that "talking" mentality and it makes the words flow more naturally during the whole speech.
I think that the best speeches are the ones that sound like the person is talking to you, without too much of that formality crap, they are more engaging and entertaining overall.
Also frozen yogurt is delicious. Silly? Maybe ;)

I really agree with the "seek input and edit" point. I think it's easy to decide to skip this step because it can be time consuming, but it's so important.

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