If you are in a position of leadership, the likelihood is that you’ll be required to give a speech before a large group. In all cases, the following basic steps will ensure success:

  1. Preparation.  The old Boy Scout motto is a good idea for most situations, not just speeches. By preparing for your speech, you’ll be sure to address all the major points you’ll need to cover. Many people consider themselves skilled at speaking cold, or without any preparation. However, when speaking cold, an orator is liable to stray from the main point and actually forget to include some important information. This is especially true of those who are new to public speaking.
  2. Notes.  You’re not required to make a detailed outline, but it probably won’t hurt to carry a basic sketch of your main points on a notecard in case you do lose your train of thought.
  3. Practice.  The mirror is good for more than just checking for gray hairs. Make sure that you are keeping your head up and not focusing solely on those notes, maintaining an assertive posture and sticking to a self-predetermined time limit.
  4. Delivery.  Take a few minutes to relax before delivering your speech. Nervousness can cause a speaker to mumble or rush through words, both of which will detract from your credibility. Also, try to make eye contact with some audience members while speaking. Connecting with your audience is an important means of gauging their reaction.
  5. Embrace spontaneity.  Know your facts and be prepared to take questions from your audience, or modify your speech if you sense that a particular point is not hitting home. As long as you are well-versed in your subject matter, you should easily be able to make small deviations from your outline.

Tip : A long speech does not necessarily a good speech make. Often, audiences get impatient listening to a speaker, no matter how good, talk about the same subject for an extended period of time. The quicker a case can be made, sometimes the quicker you can win the favor of an audience.

Who Are You Talking To?

In addition to the preceding step-by-step tips, make sure that you tailor your speech to the crowd you’re addressing. For example, Sandra works for an Internet company and needs to speak to two groups in the same day. Sandra needs to explain the importance of the online world to a group of first-graders, then to a group of senior citizens. Although both of Sandra’s speeches will likely contain much of the same information, she’ll tailor each speech to make the most sense to the group she’s addressing. She might stress the incredible educational resources to the first-graders, while highlighting the merits of e-mail for keeping in touch with far-flung friends and family to the senior audience.

Caution : The president and presenters at the Oscars have the benefit of a teleprompter when speech-making. Most of us do not. Don’t type up your entire speech and read it to your audience word by word. As mentioned above, brief notes of key points should be enough to help you through your speech.