5 Preparation Tips for Public Speaking Engagements

Written by Elizabeth The

On March 23rd, the Speak Up! Series continued with a workshop on public speaking for speeches, presentations, and other speaking engagements. The discussion was led by Leigh Wall, former legal administrator turned apprentice truck and transport mechanic and now student recruiter for Vancouver Community College. After being asked to speak on behalf of VCC’s trades program, her opportunities in public speaking snowballed, including speaking at the We for She BC Conference in 2016. In her session, Leigh shared her tips on preparing for public speaking, combatting nerves, and getting personal.

Organize Your Ideas

To grab the attention of your audience from the get-go, nail your introduction with a powerful hook. This can come in the form of an alarming statistic or a thought-provoking phrase. As you craft together your speech, keep in mind the main purpose of your talk. What is the key message you want to get across? What do you want your audience to take away with them? Make sure to articulate your main intention and goal as you wrap up your speech in your conclusion and in your call to action. As for the content of your speech, write the way you would talk and keep the ideas simple and to the point (remember, less is more). 

Be Prepared

Preparation is the most important aspect to any form of public speaking you do. Practice, practice, and practice, over and over again, until you're bored. Recite your speech or presentation in front of a mirror, as this enables you to work out any kinks to your flow and see any habits in movements or words that you may need to correct. Deliver your speech or presentation to people you know in order to hear how it sounds to a group of people as well as get their constructive feedback. 

Be Honest

When it comes to dealing with nerves and flubs, try being honest about your emotions upfront. It makes you relatable to your audience and is a way of establishing your commitment and interest in speaking. Don’t worry about failing to meet your audience’s expectations, as they aren’t as critical of you as you think they are. In fact, they are rooting for you to succeed. Also, consider the fact that you’re the only one who knows what you’re going to say, so your audience won’t know what you didn’t say. That’s one worry you can dust off your shoulders! 

Pace Yourself

If you’re prone to nervousness in the form of fidgeting, utilize visual aids. It takes the pressure off, keeps you on track, gives you something to refer to, and serves as something people can look at. If you fear stumbling over your words, remind yourself to allow for pauses when speaking, as it gives you a moment to gather yourself and gives your audience time to take in your words and digest the information.

Get Personal

These days, we can get all the information we need from Google, so how do you differentiate yourself as a source of valuable information that can’t be derived from an internet search? The answer lies in personalization. Aim to humanize your message within the first 30 seconds of your speech. Getting personal sets you apart, gets you noticed, and allows you to connect with others. It’s the stories of people overcoming adversity and hard times in their lives that resonate. Remember that you have something of value to share and allow yourself the chance to open up and inspire others.

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