For many, giving a speech to a crowd is intimidating and an opportunity they run from. An estimated 73% of people have a fear of public speaking. However, with time and practice you can become a persuasive speaker that can win over any audience. Here are four tips to help you engage your audience and make your next speech one that people won’t forget:
- Body Language: Your body language should match the content of your speech. Your body language will depend on whether you’re reading from notes or a pre-written speech or whether you’re speaking from memory. You’ll want to engage with the audience more if you’re reading from notes, since your eyes will be focused more on the paper than the crowd. Think about how your facial expressions, hand movements, and where your body or eyes can match and emphasize what you’re saying. The more engaged your body is with your speech, the more engaged your audience will be with what you’re saying.
- Be Mindful of Your Tone and Cadence: For public speaking, how you say something matters just as much as what you’re saying. No one likes listening to someone speak in a monotonous tone, and just like your body language, your tone should match the content of your speech. Shark Tank pitches are a great example of how important tone can be – entrepreneurs may be excited about their product but if they give a pitch that is flat, the Sharks are not interested in making an offer. You can also use pacing in your speech to keep the audience engaged – if you’re delivering a punch line or an important quote, you don’t want to rush it. On the flip side, if the story you’re telling is about something chaotic or you want it to have high energy, you’ll want to pick the pace up to match the quality of the story’s details. Where appropriate, try mixing up the tone and cadence of your speech; this will help keep your audience’s attention that sticking to one cadence or tone.
- Use the Stage: Depending on where you’re speaking, you’ll need to decide before whether you will remain stationary during your speech or walk during it. If you remain behind the podium, your facial expressions will be key to keeping your audience’s attention. If you remain stationary but don’t have a podium in front of you, you’ll rely on using your hands and your head to make eye contact with your audience at notable points. Try not to shift your weight or move the rest of your body around since this will be distracting. If you choose to walk during your speech, you’ll want to pick three spots on the stage as your “stopping points” during your walk. Stop when you want the audience to listen to an important point you’re making or a line you want them to remember. Stopping at different points also allows sections of your audience to feel like you’re speaking to them directly and not just the whole room. Comedians do a great job of walking during their sets – they walk to fill in the details and stop moving when they deliver the punch line. If you choose to walk, you’ll definitely want to practice ahead of time since the timing on your walk will need to match up with the content of your speech.
- Allow the Audience to Actively Participate: People are more likely to pay attention and remember what you say if you include them. This can be anything from calling on a volunteer or mentioning someone specific in your speech. You’ll see this most often in award acceptance speeches where someone thanks people by name, but you can engage the audience even in a class or work presentation. Asking your audience a question or asking for a show of hands is a great way to have them participate.
In the end, you want your speech to reflect your personality and style – if you’re a funny person, include a joke. If you’re more soft-spoken, use that to your advantage and craft your speech so that your audience hangs onto every word. Public speaking is a wonderful outlet for creativity, expressing your thoughts, and growing your confidence. Try using some of these tips the next time you’re asked to give a speech.
Have more questions about public speaking or want more tips? NeW is here to help! You can email firstname.lastname@example.org to get in touch with a staff member who would be happy to help.
Julia Canzano is the Campus Program and Events Associate at the Network of enlightened Women. This blog is part of the NeW 2022 Professional Development Week Blog Series.