Your First Public Speech

Imagine you’re in a classroom. Who do you think speaks excellently? You may select those who look smart or those who often recite in class. You may think that these people are actually more confident than you think they are. Or perhaps, they are born speakers and you are not.
Well, it may surprise you that they’re probably thinking the same thing about you! They may also feel that you are a born speaker and envy you because they have fears in public speaking. Some may have special interests in public speaking, but most people do not know anything about it.
Then again, you may actually be a good speaker without realizing it. It pays to find out by actually doing it and by seeing yourself doing it. You may be just like this student during his first speech in class.
He needed to prepare a long speech. Two weeks before, he had started writing his speech. He could not sleep at night. In fact, the night before his speech, he did not sleep at all. However, when he finally did his speech and saw it on video, he realized that it was not as bad as he expected it to be. He did not experience the usual symptoms of speech anxiety, such as going blank while speaking, or speaking very softly and hearing chuckles in the audience. Through the video, he discovered that he has actually improved in public speaking.
If no video of your speech is available yet, you can watch yourself speak formally in front of a mirror.

Preparing Yourself to Speak
Here are the basic rules of public speaking:
  • Gain an understanding of who you are. Discover your own knowledge, capabilities, biases and potentials.
  • Gain an understanding of your audience. Ponder upon what the audience wants to hear, what provokes their interest, what they believe in and what they want to know.
  • Gain an understanding of the situation. Consider how the setting of the place and other unforeseen factors could affect the way you deliver your speech.
  • Anticipate response from the audience. Make sure you have a clear purpose in mind so that the audience will respond in the way you want them to.
  • Search for other sources of information. There might be more materials available for you to make your speech more colorful.
  • Come up with an argument that is reasonable. Make sure that the purpose of your speech is supported by clear and reliable data to formulate a sound argument.
  • Add structure to your message. Organize your ideas so that the audience will not have a hard time following and digesting your ideas.
  • Talk directly to your audience. Make sure the language you are using is one that your audience is comfortable with. Consider the occasion in delivering your speech.
  • Gain self-confidence through practice. It is only through practice can you effectively present your speech. Master the flow of your presentation by repeatedly rehearsing it. That way, you can have command over your speech.

Becoming a Good Public Speaker
You have probably heard professors give boring and monotonous lectures. Dull presentations clearly point that a lot of people do not give much importance to good speeches. These speakers may even be unaware that they are boring or ineffective because they lack knowledge about the basic characteristics of a good speech. Hence, to prevent this pitfall, you must remember some basic principles.

1. Respect the variety of the audience.
Good speakers do not look down on their audience. They consider the audience as equals. They know that the listeners have different backgrounds; hence communicating to each of them effectively would also entail different methods.
Before actually organizing a speech, you have to take into consideration your audience. Consider such things as age, gender, and cultural backgrounds. What do they know about your topic? What are their beliefs and values? By looking at these factors, you can choose a topic that suits them and style your speech in the way you feel would be most effective.
The whole experience can be more enjoyable if you prepare well for the individual and cultural differences of your audience. For example, will both male and female listeners appreciate the information you will prepare? Would your Hispanic audience be comfortable with the language you’re using as much as the Native Americans would? Would some of your comments offend the senior citizens while addressing the younger generation? The more you know about the audience, the better the chances that you will capture their attention and the more you can make your speech fit their situations. They would feel comfortable listening to you and you would have a better interaction with them.

2. Know as much as possible about listening.
Successful communication does not only depend on good speakers; it depends on good listeners as well. It is a two-way process. If the speaker prepares a very polished speech, it would be useless if the audience does not listen. Know also how to “listen” to the gesticulated reactions of your audience. How comfortable or uneasy they look speaks volumes in terms of their interest or comprehension.

3. Organize carefully to improve understanding and recall.
The best presentations are those with interconnected ideas that flow smoothly from one idea to the next. It is effective because the listeners will be able to follow your arguments and will not get confused along the way.
Three parts of a well-organized speech:
  • Introduction: Capture the attention of your audience, boost their interest, and give them a background of your topic.
  • Body: Start with your main ideas. Keep them organized and support them with visual and verbal aids as much as possible.
  • Conclusion: Provide a recap of all your points and join them together in a way that will create an impact on your listeners, making them remember your points.

4. Use language effectively.
Keep it short. The simpler the language you use, the more powerful and interesting your speech will be. Too many words expressing a single idea will only confuse the audience and will make your argument weak. By keeping it short but accurate, your audience will remember what you will say and they will appreciate it.

5. Sound natural and enthusiastic.
The problem with first timers is they either memorize the speech verbatim or rely on too many flashcards for their notes. These can make the speaker sound unnatural. Talk normally to people so they would listen more to you. By being natural and enthusiastic, it would be like discussing a favorite subject with your friends. Basically, avoid putting up a “speaking disguise” when you talk. Treat it like an ordinary conversation with your usual companions.

6. Use high-quality visual aids.
A simple text containing key phrases and pictures is an example of a visual aid. Usually, visual aids (Chapter 10) can be anything that supplements your speech. It will greatly help your listeners to follow the flow of your ideas and to understand them at a faster rate. It also gives credibility to your speech, which makes you feel more relaxed and confident throughout. However, avoid making poor visuals because they become more of a distraction than support. Treat visual preparations with equal importance as the speech preparation itself.

7. Give only ethical speeches.
Accuracy is very important. It would be difficult for your audience to make informed choices if the information you give is false or vague. Research to ensure credibility and clarity. Avoid plagiarism, falsification and exaggeration of your information. Also, when trying to persuade, do not manipulate, deceive, force, or pressure. Develop good arguments through sound logic and concrete evidence. This is ethical persuasion. Once information is falsified, it becomes unethical because it prevents listeners from making informed choices.
Basically, good speakers aim to change the beliefs, values, or attitudes of the audience through clean persuasion.