Preparing for Your Speech

05.03.2018 |

Episode #6 of the course Conquer fear of public speaking by Dr. Paul Harrison


Whether you’re giving a keynote to a political assembly or presenting a paper in class, the pre-speech routine will help you feel more physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared to speak in public or to camera. Let’s put some of these practices into context so you can form a winning strategy for all your talks!


Writing and Memorization

A thought-provoking opening that poses a question or problem (which you will answer) will get the audience’s attention. Consider how to reel your audience in with your opening, then tell them what you’re going to be talking about. If in doubt, follow this with the thrust of your argument, then summarize what you’ve told them. Audiences like things wrapped up nicely.

Try to end on a rousing note, whether it’s with a call to action or something uplifting. You get bonus points for authenticity, which audiences respond to more strongly.

Unless you’re using a prompt device (and even if you are), it’s worth learning your opening and ending by heart and really nailing those two areas. If you struggle with memorizing, try to learn it one paragraph at a time and keep the opening lines on flash cards for reference. You can use mnemonic systems (which link concepts, numbers, and words to help memorization) to remember key opening words, and strategic use of repetition will also be useful. Remember, you don’t have to be exact: Your audience doesn’t know exactly how you meant to say something. Just try to hit your major points in order every time as you rehearse.


Mirror Rehearsal

Mirror rehearsal is where you simply practice giving your talk to yourself. Warm up as described previously and give your talk to yourself. Take note of your body language. Are you upright and open, as covered in Lesson 4? Remember, have an open chest, your shoulders slightly back, a natural curve to the spine, and keep your head up and over your trunk so you can’t feel the weight of the skull on your neck. Practice this while staying as fluid and relaxed as possible. I know it seems a lot to remember, but you’ll nail it over time!

With the advent of camera phones and tablets, we can record our rehearsals ahead of time, and this is invaluable! We’re our own worst critics, so watching back a recording of our practice will highlight where we’re going wrong and give us the opportunity to fix things before we practice in front of our test audience. Also, remember to take note of things you do well! It’s not just about negative critique. Take heart in your strengths and learn to make the most of them (a second opinion can be very helpful if we’re finding it hard to judge).


Live Rehearsal

Okay, so you’ve rehearsed in front of the mirror and your camera—now it’s time to practice in front of … actual people! Choose a small number of friends or family whom you’re comfortable giving your speech to, and go for it! Remember to warm up your body and voice, and enact your breathing, pause, and gesture plans.

Take your time, don’t rush, and speak slowly and methodically. Perfect the process and don’t worry too much about time. Take any feedback objectively, and remember, one opinion may not require action, but consensus usually means we need to consider the point. Also, questions raised by others could be valuable when assessing your content. If you can, record your practices and your actual performance, as this will be invaluable when doing assessment later.

Don’t miss the next lesson, where we’ll take the next crucial step: practicing speeches!


Recommended book

Do You Talk Funny?: 7 Comedy Habits to Become a Better (and Funnier) Public Speaker by David Nihill


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