Some things in life are okay to wing. Most things aren’t. But for public speaking? Winging is forbidden. Concealed behind every impressively stellar five minute speech is a tremendous number of hours of preparation. Practice before a speech is the one thing that brings everything together, the one thing that turns black words on white paper into an astronomical revolution of a speech. You may have composed the absolute most golden speech, but without preparation, the gold will fade to a pathetic yellow. Practice is the step that doesn’t deserve to be overstepped or overlooked. And on your journey of preparing for a public speaking speech, there are a few stones that cannot be left unturned. These unmissable practices diverge the difference between an enchanting speech and a dull one.
Know your audience. Before drafting your speech, before even brainstorming, it cannot be emphasized enough just how important it is that you grasp a basic understanding of your audience and your environment. Once you know that key piece of information, the door will be unlocked as to in what direction you should drive your speech. You won’t be telling a speech meant for intelligent businessmen to Kindergarteners who barely know what “business” means, will you? Firmly understand what your purpose for your audience is. To influence? To motivate? To inspire? To entertain? Or to teach?
Incorporate tone changes, hand gestures, and facial expressions into your speech. These intricate and minor details seem irrelevant, but they will naturally enhance the depth and quality of your speech. The audience will have a clear realization of how passionate you are about your presentation, and their attention will be fully captured. Your hand gestures and facial expressions may not only aid in emphasizing points, but they are also a mirror reflecting your personality. They set you apart and crown you with uniqueness.
Experience your own presentation. There are two routes to go about this. A perfectly common yet effective method is to stand in front of a mirror and speak as if there was an audience in front of you. In such a position, you are free to examine and adjust the visuals of your performance. Even more superior, you can record yourself presenting the speech on your phone camera. Capturing every word and every movement, then playing the video back, builds the sturdiest bridge towards improvement. You aren’t limited to only seeing yourself, but you are also given the choice to listen to your voice. When practicing blindly, it’s difficult to handpick out mistakes and awkward segments, but when watching a video, the veil is removed.
Revise according to opinions and comments of a small audience. Before hurling yourself in front of the real deal, perhaps consider easing yourself into the deep end. Speak in front of people, preferably adults or someone more socially experienced than you, to not only practice performing in front of a real audience but also collect opinions. Teachers, older siblings, and parents are the most suggested practice audiences for your speech because they can offer insights and revelations. When you’re limiting your practice realm to solely in front of a mirror or in front of your phone camera, you’re enclosing yourself in your opinions only. But when you expand your horizons and broaden the spectrum, it’s likely you will receive impacting suggestions or pointers to further improve your speech. Their opinions could be a vicarious reflection of the real big audience, so it’s always wiser to play the safe card and catch any mistakes or sections worth improving.
Fix any bad habits. You know what they say. Good habits are hard to form but uneasy to break. Bad habits are suspiciously easy to form but tremendously difficult to shatter. Especially in a situation as nerve-wracking as presenting a speech, your locked up bad habits can easily sneak and scramble out. You may indulge in these bad habits accidentally or unconsciously while presenting, so during your practice era, you must not overlook securely smashing those habits to pieces. Debatably, the most dangerously distracting bad habit is fidgeting. When you’re endlessly tapping your foot, clicking a pen, twirling your hair, or tugging at your shirt, it’s impossible for the audience to ignore. Tiny movements such as these draw the audience’s attention and tolerance away from you, and it’s a dead giveaway that you’re nervous. Another disheartening habit is playing your eyes incorrectly. Always looking at the floor, darting your eyes around the room. Without eye contact, you are stranded from the audience. You have no connection to the audience. Even worse, the audience might get a sense that you don’t care enough about your speech if you are unable to even look them in the eye. Rambling is yet another troubling habit. After certain sentences in your speech, it is inevitable that you must pause to either set a barrier between this sentence and the next or to let your previous words sink in. If you mindlessly or even mindfully ramble without any pauses between sentences or paragraphs, it will make it countless times harder for the audience to fully comprehend what you are saying. You are leaving no room for emotion or suspicion, which automatically steers your speech onto a road of boringness. In preparation for your speech, never neglect to jerk yourself away from these threatening bad habits, and never hesitate from fixing them.
Allow your personality to pierce through. This is my personal greatest and strongest suggestion to any speaker striving to improve their speech. The audience is here to learn something from you. They are here to listen to you. You. It would be a shame to cover up the real you with statistics and pointless sentences and a blank expression. No one would be entertained, no one would be impressed. Not even you. Do you know how many people on this Earth give speeches every year? Every day? An infinite number that is impossible to track. If you don’t add your personality into your presentation, your speech will blend right into the tasteless mixture with everyone else’s speech. It will be just a speech. But you have the ability and the option to strive for more. Once you add salt to a dish, your taste buds awaken. Once you add personality to a speech, the audience awakens. They will be magnetically engaged. When practicing and writing your speech, remember to add the most unforgettable ingredient: your personality.
It’s much too easy to overlook the era of preparation and practicing when it boils down to public speaking. All we can think about is the climax, the actual giving of the speech. No matter what, the one thing to print into your memory is that there is no climax without the preparation. There is no speech without practice. And as draining or as boring as it may appear to be, every minute of preparation will add up to the most glorious speech.