It’s a whole different experience when we get to know we are to present a speech. To some, it’s another great time they can’t wait to get into. To another, it can be a task they wish will pass over them. No matter where you belong, it is necessary that you understand how to prepare a speech, so you can deliver excellently.
Like any other activity, public speaking requires preparation. Your level of preparation determines the success of your speech delivery. To make your speech effective, you must understand how to prepare a speech. This is not so much a difficult thing to do anyway, but it requires some skill especially when it has to do with official matters.
One way to bring down the anxiety that comes with presenting a speech and to avoid regret after your speech is to prepare so well ahead for it. You certainly know you have to prepare but how do you go about preparing for a speech?
If I’m to give a very simple answer to how to prepare a speech, I would say, know your audience and understand your topic. In other words, prepare to satisfy the purpose of the speech and communicate understandably to your peculiar audience. However, you’ll agree that my answer still comes with some questions in mind. Questions like how do I prepare to satisfy the purpose of my speech and how do I communicate effectively to my audience? Well, these and many more will be covered as I take you through in this post on how to prepare a speech.
Questions to Ask Before You Prepare a Speech
As soon as you are aware that you have a speech to present, preparation towards the success of the speech begins immediately. The first stage of preparing for a speech that would achieve its purpose is to get an answer to some questions.
So, let’s start this journey on questions to ask before you prepare a speech. These questions are not arranged in any particular order, but they are all necessary to give clues to how to prepare a speech that achieves its aim.
- Who Are Your Audience
One of the questions to ask and get answers to before you prepare that great speech is about your audience.
Who are those that will be staring at you while you give your speech? Knowing your audience is one of the most important steps in how to prepare a speech that satisfies its purpose. are they people going through hard times or prospects of your company’s product?
At what event are you to present this speech? What is their common ideology? Don’t trivialize their culture too. What is acceptable in one culture can be taboo in another culture. Who are your listeners?
What is their background? What do they believe? What are your common interests and enemies? What is their age range? How to prepare a speech for your students will be different from preparing a speech for the company’s partners.
Understand their knowledge. How experienced are they? Are they new to the topic to be considered, or are they versed? Avoid using high terminologies if they are new to the subject of your speech; while the use of appropriate registers is expected among those in the same field of expertise.
Are you speaking to those who can hear your voice or to the deaf who needs sign language? Answering these questions will help in your speech preparation and your provision of visual aids.
Knowing your audience helps you to prepare your speech in such a way that will appeal to them.
- How Much Time Do You Have to Present Your Speech
As unimportant as this might sound, it’s also very important in the preparation of an effective speech. The time you have to present a speech will determine so much about how to prepare a speech. You wouldn’t want to prepare an hour’s speech like you are preparing for one minute speech. From this, you can determine how long and how many examples you will sight during your speech.
Five minutes for the introduction of an hour speech is fine. It would be a disaster to prepare a 5-minutes introduction where you only have 5-minutes for your speech. If you do that, you’ll just be through with your introduction when you should be through with the entire speech. This is why it is important to keep in mind how long your speech will be and prepare for the time allotted.
So, settle the question of your speech duration even before you begin to prepare for that great speech.
- What Is/Are the Purpose Of The Speech
If the purpose of a thing is not known, abuse is inevitable. You can’t hit the target if you don’t know what target there is to hit.
Why will you be presenting that speech you want to prepare for? What is the purpose of your speech? You certainly don’t want to give a speech just because you feel like giving a speech. Your answer will help you tailor your preparation towards achieving that purpose.
Are you giving a speech to entertain, inform, or ‘call to action’? Be clear about what you want to achieve with the speech you are about to prepare for.
- Through What Means Will You Be Presenting
This is the 21st century! Everything does not always happen physically. How to prepare a speech for virtual audiences will be different from preparing a speech for a board meeting in the board room on Monday morning. Bear in mind how your speech will be presented.
Will you be presenting through radio, TV, or on the stage right before the crowd? Settle this question and bear in mind your means of presentation as you prepare.
How to Write a Speech
- Research Your Topic
Before we can even talk about how to prepare a speech, the topic of your speech must be in place. You have to have a topic that will lead you to fulfill the purpose of the speech.
Either you’re preparing a speech as a student or preparing a speech as a president, understanding your topic is paramount to effective delivery.
You might have been given a topic to center your speech on, or perhaps choose a relevant topic that you can relate to. However, you should properly research your topic.
You must know your topic very well so you can present with a level of authority and confidence. More than what you already know, find out what you don’t know yet about your subject matter.
Do some research about your topic. Browse the internet to know what others have to say about it. While you read other’s ideas, ideas will pop-up in your mind too; which will help in your speech preparation.
Don’t hesitate to consult your library for help if needed. Fix an appointment if you have to talk to an expert in the subject of your speech, for some clarifications. It’s also fine to brainstorm with friends or colleagues on your topic. They might say some things that are important for your speech to be a success. Do all you can, to have a good knowledge of your topic.
Few cautions to bear in mind. One, how credible is the source of your information. If your information is wrong, your speech will be faulty. Secondly, be careful to rely only on updated information, as outdated information will hurt your speech. Thirdly, if, you’ll have to copy anything from anyone, quote them with their names, or don’t do it word for word; if you don’t want to be charged for plagiarism.
If you’ve done all you need to do to gather related knowledge, bring your points together. Arrange and re-arrange relevant points until they all fit into a consistent, progressive, and meaningful thought pattern.
Avoid the temptation of squeezing in stuff that may not be necessary. Focus on only the relevant points. Now you’re ready to get your speech on paper.
- Your Introduction Is Important!
You’ve got your topic. You know what the speech is aimed to do. You have gotten good knowledge of your subject. Now it’s time to get down to your table with your writing materials. But you know what? Your introduction is very important!
You gain or lose the interest of your audience from your introduction. The first impression matters so much. You cannot afford to play with it. No matter what your speech centers on, the introduction of your speech sets the tone and gives your audience the idea of its importance and why they should give you’re their undivided attention.
It is very important to note that one of the ways to set the stage for your speech is to begin from a common view. You’ll lose your audience and make them raise their defense if you begin your speech with what they do not agree to. Well, maybe that’s not true in all cases. However, let your audience know that you share their interest and your speech is for their good. This is important for effective presentation and public speaking.
Get your audience hooked. Get them interested in your speech from your introduction. Give them a need to be focused and glued to you through the time of your speech. This can be done by asking a question you know they desperately need an answer for, which will be answered by the speech you’re presenting. “We all desire a better life at retirement.” That can be a great hook when addressing retirees.
State clearly the importance of your speech. Write about two statements to present what the speech is focusing at. The key is to get them informed about your topic and keep them expectant at the same time.
- The Body of Your Speech
Some believe that first impression matters most; another would say the last impression lasts longer. The question is, where do we put the in-between? The truth is, every part of your speech is important and must be given careful attention in your preparation.
Now that you have gotten down the perfect introduction, it is time to get to the main point of your speech. This is where your main idea is presented. It is the central part of your speech.
Your introduction comes first at the point of delivering your speech; but in writing, it is advisable to write the body of your speech first. The body will inform you of what you’ll introduce and what your conclusion will be.
Depending on the kind of speech you’re preparing for. For an expository speech, the body of the speech should satisfy the audience’s expectations. For a speech that is aimed to spur your audience into action, the body should help them connect emotionally and prompt them into taking corresponding actions. Whatever the case may be, be sure that your speech is organized sequentially and logically.
Make your content clear, organized, and intentional. An unorganized speech would make your audience less interested and distracted. Keep your speech in a logical sequence that will help them remember your points at a later time.
As you move from one point to another, let your audience know when you’re transiting and how it leads to the next point. Use words such as: ‘As a result’, Therefore, However, Consequently, and so on.
Crown your effort with understandable content. The hard work invested in your research and preparing your speech would not be appreciated and considered ‘not-credible’ if your thoughts are not properly presented.
It’s also very important to repeat your point often and strategically. You may use synonyms and related words to say your main point again and again. Repetition helps people to know what your main point is and to keep them at heart.
After you might have written your content, read and ask yourself if your points are arranged progressively and if they ‘fit together’ properly. Be sure, your points agree and aligns, following a flowing thought pattern.
NOTE: In the case where you intend to use visual aids, note down when to use and which to use at the particular point of need.
- Concluding Your Speech
Presenting a speech is like presenting a drama or song. The rule is to arrest your audience’s attention in the introduction, present your thoughts in an organized manner, and conclude in such a way to make you linger longer in the heart of your audience.
The purpose of a conclusion is to remind your audience of your main points. Make it a summary of what you want your listeners to put in mind. Maybe another way to put it is that the purpose of your conclusion is to remind your audience of the purpose of your speech.
If you’re speaking to inform, make your conclusion a ‘nutshell’ of all you’ve said. In a case where you’re to motivate them into action, state the expected actions clearly and without any ambiguity. If you can, conclude with a rhyme that can be understood by everyone. It has a way of staying longer with them.
Like I earlier said, every part of your speech is important and must be handled professionally. If your conclusion is not strong enough, your listener might lose your main points. The way to ‘keep them in line’ is to conclude with what is expected from them.
NOTE: It is worthy to mention that a good note is not done “once and for all”. You may have to write and re-write and re-write until you hit that perfection you want.
I’m sure you’ll want to give your best to your speech preparation, as your personality can be deduced from your presentation.
How to Rehearse A Speech
You’re now no more a novice when it comes to how to prepare a speech. However, it is necessary that you rehearse your speech for effective delivery. How to prepare for a speech is not limited to just the speech, it extends to your presentation.
Rehearsing is often ignored, but what makes a speech powerful is how familiar you are with your speech before the presentation. Sometimes, what makes a speech ineffective is the failure to properly get familiar with your speech. When it comes to effective speech delivery, the old saying, “practice makes perfect” is very true.
You’ve written that great speech to be presented, don’t just keep it in your file hoping to pull it out a few minutes to the presentation. Rehearse your speech over and over again. Rehearse it so much that if someone was to read it to you and miss a sentence, you would notice.
In fact, when you don’t practice your speech well ahead of time, you’ll probably be speaking like the points were written for you. Consequently, you lose credibility in the sight of the crowd. You might even be perceived as unserious and unprepared. Therefore, rehearsing your speech before a presentation is of the utmost importance to the success of your delivery.
The major reasons why you have to practice your speech are to find errors of omission and commission and make necessary adjustments and corrections. Correcting yourself before your audience many times, while giving your speech, can make you lose the respect every public speaker need.
If you’re the ‘shaky-type’, rehearsing your speech would build your confidence for an ovation -worthy delivery. Here are the best steps to rehearse your speech.
- Rehearse In Front of a Mirror. As important as it is to use gestures while presenting your speech, it must be used moderately and professionally. Practicing in front of a mirror will help you see how your audience will see you.
You may need to make some adjustments in your facial expression so as to appear as you want to be seen.
Public speaking experts advised us to memorize the first few sentences of your speech at the time of practice. This will enable you to have eye contact with your audience from the beginning and help to give the impression that you’re confident and not timid.
- Record Your Voice. It’s amazing that we don’t always sound the way we think we are sounding. Most likely you have listened to yourself been recorded and wondered ‘was that me?’ Recording your voice while you practice your speech will help you to hear how you sound, so you can change to how you should sound.
However, be careful not to sound unnatural. Be yourself, but be the best version of yourself. Adjust your tone, and your volume if and when needed.
- Time Yourself. Set your stopwatch while you rehearse your speech. Keep track of the time your speech will last. Be sure to be some seconds earlier than the allotted time.
Depending on the type of speech you’re giving. If you’ll have to entertain questions to be answered during or at the end of your speech, plan ahead for the time to be spent on questions and answers.
- Practice with Your Visual Aids. If you are intending to use any visual aid, get them ready and rehearse with them. This will help you realize and plan ahead for any difficulties that might arise from using your aids.
Using them in your practice will also help you know when and how to use them effectively without causing distraction. Aids are meant to facilitate speech, but if not well handled, they can be a great distraction.
- Rehearse with Your Clothes-On. Sometimes I get my clothes stained while rehearsing for speech. This might sound somehow to you. It is important to me that I know how fitting my clothing is, especially when I’m wearing something new for the speech. Don’t be caught unprepared or unfit.
Tips on How To Deliver A Speech Effectively
- Relax and Relax. A larger percentage of people get anxious when it is time to present their speech. This is normal. Even those who don’t have ‘stage fright’ feel some level of anxiety at the point of delivery. So find a way to relax. Get yourself calm.
Walk confidently, not hurriedly; although not sluggishly too. When you get to the stage, pause, look into the crowd, and breathe deep and quietly. Then, start your speech.
If you’re anxious, your audience can sense it even before you say a word. They’ll assume you’re not capable to talk about your topic. Don’t allow that to happen. Let your first impression set the stage for that penetrating speech to be delivered.
Depending on the occasion of the speech, one way to get yourself relaxed is to bring up a short joke that is relevant to the purpose of your speech.
- Don’t just read your speech, present it. Don’t get to the platform just to read that stuff you’ve labored so hard to put together. Present it. Body language is a universal language. Use body language and gestures to emphasize your points.
The crowd’s attention is better kept when you put some life into your speech delivery. Remember, action speaks louder than words. To your speech, add gestures. One rule to bear in mind- Don’t overdo it!
- Eye contact is important. Focusing on your note as you read your speech is boring. Look into the people’s eyes. This makes your audience feel you’re talking to them particularly.
Get them involved by looking into the audience as often as you can. The more eye contact you have, the better for your delivery. However, don’t focus on just a few people. Doing so can make the rest of your audience feel left out of the ‘show’. And focusing on a few people too can make them uncomfortable.
This also shows you’re bold and confident; as timid folks always try to avoid eye contact. Show that you’re not timid. Look into the crowd.
- Stand upright. Be the man on the podium. Stand up and rightly. Be confident, bold, and unashamed.
Avoid leaning on the lectern. Doing so will make you look weak. Nobody wants to sit there listening to a weak man. The lectern is meant for your note, not for you. Use the space on the podium when necessary.
Your posture and movement on stage is a major part of your speech. Use them to your advantage. The rule – don’t overdo it!
- Be creative with your voice. Let your voice rise and fall appropriately. Avoid the temptation of speaking too fast or too slow. Be sure you’re audible enough and yet not shouting at your listeners.
Add natural pauses when needed. Sound natural and interesting. Don’t hold your breath. Doing so can make you sound very unnatural and anxious. Breathe naturally.
How well you control your breath can also determine how well you’ll be understood by your crowd. Read your questions like it has a question mark in front of it. Exclaim when your speech has an exclamation mark. Let your audience feel your speech. Carry them along.
- People see you before listening to you. Your audience would have to accept you psychologically before your speech can be acceptable. Your first non-verbal impression and expression is your look.
Dress smartly. Dress for the event. If the dress code says “business casual”, follow the code. If you don’t dress appropriately, you may lose them before your speech begins.
Now you know how to prepare a speech and present it powerfully. Get down working with these proving steps. Write that ovation-worthy speech that fulfills its purpose and continues in the heart of your listener.
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