Here is an email I received from a friend who was speaking at a high school reunion:
I have to do the welcome speech at the reunion and I'm a horrible public speaker. Do you have any advice for me? Should I be short & sweet or should I try to be funny & long winded?
Here, in part, is my response:
"I’d recommend short and sweet … don’t worry about trying to be funny. Just be yourself and be sincere. And here are some more specific tips:
**Focus on the one message you want to convey (Looking forward to a great event – or – it’s nice to reconnect with everyone after 20 years – or – as the economy tightens, it’s nice to know that we can still rely on our friends… or whatever the message is). And only include details/stories/points that relate to that message and support it. So, for example, if you have a nice story about one of the math teachers, but it doesn’t relate to your message, don’t include it.
**Prep for the logistics of the room – will you have a microphone? When will you speak? Where will the audience be – seated/standing?
**Practice – especially your opening. What will be your first few sentences? And also the closing – how will you end? You want to start and end strongly and with confidence instead of using lots of ums and ahs… Audiotape yourself or even videotape yourself. Public speaking is just a skill and that means you can improve!
**For your delivery, you can harness the power of your voice to communicate effectively. Speak loudly enough and slowly enough (use pauses) so everyone can hear.
**Other delivery tips: make eye contact, be aware of your non-verbal communication, like gestures; movement (no pacing) and your facial expressions (a smile is great). Be sure your non-verbal communications match your words.
The biggest piece of advice I can give - be yourself and have fun!"
These tips can apply not only to speaking at a high school reunion, but also to presenting at an conference, speaking at a deparment meeting or any other occasion you have to communicate your ideas and thoughts to an audience.
Gilda Bonanno's blog www.gildabonanno.blogspot.com