Nothing ever terrified my father like speaking in public. It didn’t matter what the occasion demanded. Any words in front of a group brought on sheer terror. He prayed in church and served as mayor of our small town, but it didn’t matter. Having to speak to any group created real fear.
For this reason and the fact that I make my living “by the sweat of my jaws” has made me interested in public speaking.
Here are a few tips that I would give to anyone who speaks in public.
First, speak on only one topic and make sure you know what the topic is. Another way to put it is: determine the main thrust and don’t waver from it. Stay on point. If you feel the need to speak on another topic, wait until you get another opportunity to speak. You must know what you want to say and why you want to say it.
I believe that this is the most important step in public speaking. When you know what you are going to say and you are passionate about your topic, you are more likely to speak well.
Second, know how long you need to speak and prepare for it. Remember, shorter is always better than longer. As we say in preaching, “there are no bad short sermons!”
Third, know exactly how you will begin and how you will end. You should know the first words that you will speak. You particularly should practice the ending. The speech generally rises and falls on how well you do at the beginning and at the end.
Fourth, practice out loud in front of a mirror. It’s weird but it works. You need to hear yourself speaking. Public speaking is like anything else, the more you practice, the better you become.
Fifth, memorize as much as possible. Know where you are going. Never wing it. If you wing it, your audience is doomed. OK, maybe not doomed, just bored and frustrated.
I try to make sure that I have scripted the entire speech. I no longer memorize the entire message, but I do memorize the major points. The flow of the speech is important. You always need to know where you are going next.
Speaking in public is exhilirating and helpful to your audience. Do it well and you help people to learn and to grow.