Being yourself is easier said than done – especially when you stand before a sea of waiting eyes and bated breaths, bright lights bearing down and heart palpably in your chest. But, if you look back upon those speeches in your lifetime that have made some tangible impact in your memory (and maybe even in your psyche) you’re likely to realise the element that is most crucial for a successful speech. That element is authenticity.
Speaking with truth and passion is the key to winning the hearts and minds of your audience. So, here are some simple tips to help you find your authentic self, thereby conveying your message most effectively.
It may feel like a massive deal at the time but being on stage is just a moment in time and your audience (and yes even your judges if you have them) is composed of regular humans, like those you might talk to in a park or café. Sure, it might feel like the tide of people before you are as judgmental as a wrathful god or as hypercritical as the most interrogative hotshot attorney, but they are there to listen and take what you have to say on board.
There really is no logical reason why you shouldn’t behave in the manner that you normally would in everyday life – in a composed, cordial, and very real and unrehearsed fashion. Certainly, there will be a lot of preparation that would have gone into your script, but the delivery needs to sound spontaneous and natural. It needs to sound like your thoughts are flipping and bubbling, smoothly and freshly from your mind and onto your tongue.
How can you achieve this? You need to talk about something that you are truly passionate about. If you are debating you need to find your passion for your particular side of the argument. Actually, it’s not about impressing people. It’s about saying something that actually means something to you. Giving a speech is akin to giving a performance. The best actors become the sum of their character’s motives and passions. Similarly, you have to become the very essence of your message, of your speech. Yes, you will be performing, but, remember that the best performances come from a place of truth.
What I am saying here (to go all Zen) is that you need to be in the moment. Taking several deep slow breaths before stepping on stage really should be a part of any speaker’s routine. Breathing helps to quieten a racing mind and slow the heart rate. Remember to smile. Think of something genuinely funny and you won’t have a problem (a “plastic smile” is never the best look). Remember, if your nerves surface or you do take a little blunder that you can always employ humour. A little joke can be your best friend. That being said, do remember to always respect yourself and your ideals. When delivering a speech, it is generally not the time for too much self-deprecation.
Another way to get in the zone is to listen to your favourite song or an episode of your favourite TV show (on your phone or tablet etc.) before your speech. It may sound corny (like listening to Eye of the Tiger in Rocky Balboa fashion) but it can take you right out of your headspace and give you a more relaxed perspective.
The most important advice that I can give relates to your intention. Hold this in the cornerstone of your mind and heart when delivering your speech. This is how you will retain focus. You have chosen to give a speech for a reason. It may be to enact change, it may be to win a competition, but, clearly, there is something you have set out to achieve and there is a core message that you need to express.
Keep your eye on the prize and ride this energy to the finish line. You’ll be enjoying the elation of an accomplished delivery and be on your way to becoming a seasoned speaker before you know it.