Why Speech Preparation Matters
I have listened to well over 400 speeches since I joined toastmasters and what I have learned is that speech preparation matters. It is what separates the average speech from a great speech. It is obvious who has prepared their speech and who is just winging it. A well prepared speech challenges the listener to take on a new viewpoint or embrace an old one.
How Do You Know A Speech Has Been Well Prepared?
A well-prepared speech shares a number of common characteristics.
It Speaks to Its Audience
The first rule of speech preparation is to know who your audience is. Not only do you need to know your audience, you need to understand them. These are some of the questions you should ask yourself during your speech preparation stage.
- What do your audience care about?
- What do they expect from your speech?
- Will they embrace your sense of humor?
- Do they want a more serious approach from their speaker?
- Will your speech topic meet their expectations?
As you can see you need to understand your audience before you can deliver a speech that they will care about. Time taken to research your audience often can be the difference between success and failure.
The Speaker Is Relaxed
When listening to a speech I do not want to be distracted by a nervous speaker. The key to appearing relaxed is to be comfortable with your topic and know what comes next. This allows you to concentrate more on the audience and tailor your speech flow to their reaction. The only way you can do this is by rehearsing your speech beforehand. I would suggest recording it on your phone while you practice and review for anything you might do or say that your audience may find distracting.
There are also a number of breathing exercises and techniques that you can use before making a speech. The key is to try a few and see what works best for you. I will often shake my hands and do some breathing exercises before a speech and find it helps calm me.
I have found the optimum amount of rehearsal is that sweet spot between over rehearsal when the speech starts to sound wooden and just the right amount of practice when you still have a passion for your subject and it shows.
The Speech Has A Clear Message
When preparing your speech you need to ask yourself what is the purpose of your speech? What are you trying to achieve? What exactly is your message? Every speech needs to have a defined purpose. It is impossible to share a message with your audience that you have not clarified in your own mind first.
Not only do you need to have a clear message you need to craft a speech that delivers your message clearly. The language you use has to resonate with your audience. Keep your language simple and easy to understand. When painting visual pictures make sure they support your message.
Create a speech structure that delivers your message with impact. Start your speech in such a way that immediately clarifies why you are talking to your audience. Finish in a way that reinforces your message. The entire speech structure should be designed in such a way as to support your message.
You Need To Form An Emotional Connection With Your Audience
When delivering a speech you are effectively selling an idea or concept. This means you need to establish an emotional connection with your audience. You need to make your audience care about your message.
The Audience Knows What To Do Next
The most important question to ask yourself when preparing a speech is what do you want them to do next. What action are you trying to inspire or encourage your audience to take next? Have you clearly laid out why your audience should take the action and have you made it easy for them to do it.
The Devil Is In The Detail
“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.”
Speech preparation is all about planning and practice. You need to leave nothing to chance, think about your location and any technology you will be using. Make sure you are familiar with any visual props or presentation software you will be using. If you are going to an unfamiliar venue, check it out beforehand and at the very least make sure you arrive early so you can familiarize yourself with the location. Dress appropriately for the occasion; remember if you are dressed appropriately you will feel more confident and this will relax your audience. Before your speech visualize yourself giving a successful speech, you will be surprised how much confidence this will give you.
Finally ask for feedback after every speech from anyone willing to give it. Be clear you want honest feedback as you want to learn to do it better. If possible record the speech and use this to identify areas your can improve on. Remember the more prepared you are the more successful you will be.