Tips on Making Speeches


Know your Audience
Determine in advance the size of the audience, who they are, their background, their knowledge of the topic, their opinions on the subject.

Remember, in the back of their minds, the audience will be asking, "What’s In It For Me?" It’s your task to answer that question.

Prepare Your Remarks
Clarify your goal – what are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to persuade people to agree with what the industry is doing, or will you ask them to take a specific action (i.e. start a recycling program that includes plastics)?

Select three main points, called "message points," you want your audience to remember.

Tell the audience why the material you are presenting is important to them.

Avoid Technical Language
Try not to use technical language, confusing numbers and industry slang. Use terms the audience can understand.

Prepare Audio/Visual Aids
Consider using slides, overheads and videos, as well as information packets and copies or summaries of your remarks.

Practice, Practice, Practice
It is crucial to practice your presentation out loud. Enough practice will allow you to deliver your speech without reading it word for word – with practice, you can use your text or notes simply to jog your memory. Unfortunately, when people read their speeches, most lose their audiences’ attention because they use a monotone and fail to maintain eye contact.

If using audio/visual materials, practice with them. Do not simply read the slides on the screen – your audience will automatically do that. Talk about the points they make.

Consider tape recording your practice session to see what improvements you can make. If you have access to videotape equipment, make and view a video of your speech.

Nervous? While you won’t get rid of the butterflies, you can get them to "fly in formation" if you know and rehearse your material.

Review Questions and Answers
Practice answers to both the difficult and the easy questions you are likely to get. Have someone else also think of questions and practice with you.

Arrive Early
Arrive early and try out the microphone, lights and any audio/visual equipment. Many presentations are ruined when the light bulb dies, so be sure to have an extra light bulb for the slide or overhead projector.

Keep Your Remarks Brief
Keep your remarks brief, and leave time for questions.

Briefly Summarize
At the end, briefly summarize your main points and restate your messages. If you want them to take action, tell them what you want them to do and offer to help them to do it.

Arranging Speaking Opportunities

  • Call a local group that you’d like to address, such as a Kiwanis club, Rotary club or Chamber of Commerce.
  • Most groups plan their meetings several months in advance and do not meet during the summer. But even if a group is booked, offer to be a backup speaker in case someone cancels.
  • Tell the program coordinator the topic you’d like to talk about and how it will relate to that specific audience.
  • Send the program coordinator a written introduction of yourself that he/she can use, including a speech title that will catch everyone’s interest.
  • Leave everyone with a handout on your company letterhead – your full remarks or a one-page summary. Be sure to include your phone number so people in the audience can call you with follow-up questions or invite you to speak to other organizations to which they belong.
  • Ask the organization if they plan to call the local media to cover the meeting. If a reporter attends, make yourself available to him/her before or after the meeting to answer individual questions and offer additional materials.

Speechmaking Basics

Often, how you look and sound has more impact on listeners than the actual words you speak:

  • Let your enthusiasm show. If you care about your message, so will the audience.
  • Use vocal variety. The fastest way to lose your audience is to speak in a monotone. Vary your pitch and volume.
  • Use natural gestures (avoid keeping elbows glued to your side, leaning on the lectern or using the "fig leaf" position).
  • Maintain eye contact with the audience throughout the presentation.
  • Use a catchy title for your speech and start off with something that will grab everyone’s attention. Be sure you have your opening memorized.
  • Use pauses to emphasize your important points. Pause after introducing a key idea or when making a transition to a new topic.
  • Use visuals as an aid, not a crutch.
  • Listen carefully to questions. Answer the questions in such a way as to emphasize the message points you want your audience to remember.
  • Again, leave them with a punchy ending – a dynamic quote can be an effective ending, or say something relating back to that catchy title.

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