An overwhelming number of people list public speaking as their biggest fear, and one of the world’s most common nightmares is to dream about having to give a speech unprepared. In the United States, more than 27 million people list public speaking as their biggest fear, rivaling such perpetual sources of fear as spiders and death. What is it about public speaking that causes so much anxiety? Surely, part of the problem is the fear that comes from having to perform in front of a judgmental audience, but another part of the fear derives from uncertainty over how to prepare for a public speaking engagement.
The good news is that public speaking anxiety can be significantly reduced with a bit of preparation work.
You’ve probably noticed that many of the best speakers deliver speeches that are written out on a TelePrompTer for them. Politicians, for example, routinely use the services of professional speechwriters to ensure that they say exactly what they need to say. While most of us can’t afford to have our own paid speechwriter on staff, we can use the benefits of speechwriting tips and tricks to help prepare ourselves for a speech and to make our next public speaking experience much easier.
Let’s take a look at a few ways you can improve your speechwriting skills right away:
- Keep it simple. The first and most important thing you can do is to keep your speech and your language simple. A speech should be conversational, so you want to use normal, everyday words rather than overly complex or formal language. This will help you stay connected to your audience and develop rapport with them. After all, no one likes to feel confused or ignorant, and you want your audience to feel smart for listening to you.
- Open with something interesting. Your audience has choices. They don’t have to listen to you. They can daydream, leave the room, or play on their smartphones. Grab their attention by opening with something compelling to make them want to hear more. Shocking statistics, fascinating facts, and compelling anecdotes are all great ways to start a speech with something intriguing.
- Get to your point early on. In the nineteenth century, people would often sit through speeches that lasted two or even three hours, but today audiences need to be convinced upfront that a speech is worth their time. Indicate early on what your speech topic is and don’t go off on tangents. Respect the audience’s time.
- Use credible sources of information. One of the three pillars of public speaking is what Aristotle called ethos, or credibility. Your credibility as a speaker depends on your ability to show that you are trustworthy and reasonable. Cite credible sources of information to give your audience confidence that you know what you’re talking about.
- Organize your speech logically. A second pillar of public speaking is logos, or logic. Your speech should make strong and compelling arguments by moving logically from premises to conclusions and from one topic to the next. Logical organization makes a speech easier to understand and helps the audience to follow your main points.
- Use emotional examples sparingly. The final pillar of public speaking is pathos, or emotion. A great speech includes some well-chosen emotional appeals to give the audience something to connect to on an emotional level. Audiences often respond better—and better remember—stories than dry lists of facts. Just be careful not to overwhelm the speech with too many emotional examples since they can, if not used carefully, distract from your core message.
- Read your speech out loud. This might seem obvious, but a speech is meant to be spoken, so stop and read your speech out loud to see how it sounds. You want to make sure that it sounds as good as it reads, since your audience will experience the speech aurally not by reading it.
Remember, public speaking doesn’t have to be scary as long as you have a solid speech to work from. With a little care and our list of helpful speechwriting tips, you’ll be in a terrific position to write and deliver a terrific speech that will get you noticed and get your point across clearly and concisely.