In our last article, we discussed the topic of speaking in public and learning how to prepare for a public speech, focussing on what to do in the month leading up to the big day.
Now a few weeks have passed, and it’s the week before your big speech. Its nearly crunch time and your nerves are probably kicking in let’s look at how to make sure that .
You will already have gathered your data, thought about what message you want to get across and started to structure your presentation so that it contains all the important information you need it to. We discussed this in the first article of this series.
In this article, we revisit those topics of strategy, structure and your building your own confidence to learn how to make this next week a productive use of time and make sure you feel really prepared.
By now you should know what kind of environment you will be stepping into, the platform you will be speaking on and the material that you want to cover in your speech.
So, what’s your strategy now? Well just like before, you should think about how you want to tackle the speech and what you need to achieve in the next 7 days.
Start by writing your goals down and working through them one by one until you are confident that you have covered all aspects.
Make sure that your content will comfortably fill the time allowed. You want to make sure that you neither dragging out your speech or trying to cram too much in.
The best way to get clear on this is to practice your speech out loud. You will probably run slightly long on the day but make sure that your speech runs to about the same length of time as you have been allowed. People tend to run longer as they adlib when speaking live and also have to allow for interruptions and questions.
For your audience to take anything away from your speech they need to feel that you are authentic. Reading from a script stops you making eye contact with your audience and makes you look disengaged so you need to start memorising your speech so that you won’t need to read it.
Most speakers use cue cards to help them stay on the ‘straight and narrow’ so that they follow their prepared structure and to remind them of their place if they get lost. You should prepare these at this point.
If you have a podium at your disposal, you can discretely put them on it. If you speak standing up its fine to hold them in your hand so that you can easily refer to them if you need to.
Get some sleep
This may seem like obvious advice but remember to switch off and get enough sleep each night. Don’t stay up until the early hours trying to memorise your speech. Your audience will feel your energy when you present. You need to be well-rested for your big day.
So, you will have the bulk of your speech prepared by now, if not all of it.
With a week to go, rather than changing the structure of your speech, start to scrutinise it and make sure it all flows in the following ways:
Cement your ideas and reason for speaking in the first part of your speech and draw the audience in with your hook.
Us the midsection to let the audience see you, why you care about the subject and what you want them to take away from it.
Close your speech with your conclusions, and don’t forget to support your speech with solid facts.
People often use a problem as a hook to grab their audience’s attention up front.
While it is important to engage your audience and give them something to think about, your content shouldn’t leave things open to assumption.
If you provided a question at the beginning eg. How can we go paperless by 2021? Answer it with your strategies for the next month/quarter/year etc.
Audiences will always have questions and it can be important to allow them time to ask them.
Anticipate questions or gaps in your speech through practising in front of other people and getting them to ask you questions at the end.
Note them down and prepare for answers before the speech. You can also include these in handouts to be given out after the presentation.
By this stage, you should be quite confident with your material and only have a few things left to fine-tune, provided that your nerves are not getting the better of you.
The trick isn’t to get your nerves to go away that’s pretty much impossible. All great speakers still feel nerves when they speak but they manage to manage them so that they still appear relaxed and confident, even when they don’t fully feel it.
So, this week start working on a few techniques that will help you stay relaxed, calm and focused.
Breathing exercises are key in preparation for something like this. Practice deep breaths and timed breathing each day and before each practice run.
On the day you will find it much easier to focus on something you have spent time training for as it won’t be new territory anymore.
Practice your speech while adopting a confident stance, feet shoulder-width apart and shoulders open to allow you to breathe more easily.
Try not to stand awkwardly, shifting from foot to foot or folding your arms. Use your hands to gesture and practice your speech by moving around the stage.
You will start to feel confident when you look more confident.
Over the next 7 days, practice your material, get plenty of rest and stick to your strategy.
Use your support system of colleagues and friends to help you with your timing and to tell you what works well. It’s always good to practice in front of people.
Next time we will cover some great tips for the day of the speech, help you with some relaxation techniques and try to make sure you learn how to enjoy the experience.