Our guest article author, Tessie Barnett, works as lead writer for GigSalad, the marketplace for booking bands, performers, speakers and services for events, parties, and productions of all types and sizes.
In any business or relationship, good communication is essential. The more developed your skills are, the easier it is to connect, inspire, and exchange ideas. So a healthy, well-planned approach to public speaking will not only help your presentation, but it will also improve your articulation altogether. Whether you’re preparing a speech or simply wanting to refine your rhetoric, these tips will help you deliver your message in a strong, effective way.
Accept the Nervousness
If the thought of speaking in public puts you in panic mode, you are not alone. Public speaking is a common fear, and without proper management, can advance to crippling anxiety. But don’t let fear hold you back from doing great things. Many professional speakers tell tales of sweaty palms and shaky legs during their first public speaking gig, but they inevitably persevered. What you’re less likely to hear—but occurs nonetheless—is that some of the greatest speakers still battle the fear. Well-known figures like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Barbara Walters have all admitted to their fear of public speaking. But because they powered through it, they made a huge impact on the world.
Edward R. Murrow, author of Confessions of a Public Speaker, notes, “The best speakers know enough to be scared…the only difference between the pros and the novices is that the pros have trained the butterflies to fly in formation.” It’s normal to feel nervous. Standing in front of a crowd and making yourself vulnerable is a daring act. But if you’re waiting until the feeling subsides, you’ll likely miss some valuable opportunities. If you believe in your message, use the fear to motivate you. Accept the nervousness and let it drive you to research, to prepare, and to practice, practice, practice. A solid plan of action will help you deliver with confidence.
Sharpen Your Rhetoric
You know how important your message is; that’s why you’ve chosen to speak about it. But do you know how to communicate in a way that appeals to your listeners? Do you know how to motivate an audience? A great way to learn is to model after the experts. From the most celebrated, inspirational speeches in history, we’ve gathered four common compositional techniques that can help you captivate your audience. But keep one thing in mind: these techniques can be compared to a car’s steering wheel, brakes, and gas pedal. When used at the right time, you arrive at your intended destination. But when used hastily or all at once, you lose control.
Anamnesis: With an enormous amount of content accessible these days, it’s become more important than ever to think critically about information. You must gain your listeners’ trust before you can effectively guide them through your topic. A common way to show mastery of a subject is with a technique called anamnesis, which involves an historical account of the speaker’s topic. This approach is widely used by political figures and can be a powerful tool for persuasion. A great example of anamnesis comes from Calvin Coolidge’s 1925 Inaugural Address. After he gives a detailed account of America’s progression, Coolidge reveals his mission by stating, “If we wish to erect new structures, we must have a definite knowledge of the old foundations…If we examine carefully what we have done, we can determine the more accurately what we can do.”
Anaphora: In many of the most powerful speeches, speakers have emphasized a point by beginning several statements with the same word or phrase. This repetition is called anaphora, and is a great way to add rhythm to your presentation.
Martin Luther King, Jr. uses this method extensively throughout his famous 1963 speech, I Have a Dream. King repeats this famous line and many other phrases to accentuate his point. “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’”
Amplification: To show the magnitude of a certain set of statistics, many speakers arrange the order to reveal or highlight a progression. This is typically done in a sequence of increasing force and is often used to create an emotional response from the audience. An example of amplification can be heard in Malala Yousafzai’s Address to the United Nations Youth Assembly. Yousafzai states, “There are hundreds of Human rights activists and social workers who are not only speaking for human rights, but who are struggling to achieve their goals of education, peace and equality. Thousands of people have been killed by the terrorists and millions have been injured. I am just one of them.”
Antithesis: Notice how Malala Yousafzai’s use of amplification creates a stark contrast to her last line, “I am just one of them.” This is a great example of a technique called antithesis, as it places two ideas in opposition to each other. Another phrase that illustrates antithesis is in Neil Armstrong’s words as he steps onto the moon’s surface, making the first landing in history. Armstrong emphasizes two ideas by saying, “That’s one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.”
Practice, Practice, Practice
Once you’ve crafted your message with the right unifying techniques, you have to practice and practice a lot. Each line has importance. Each phrase has been carefully placed. You wouldn’t want your message to lose power because you’ve forgotten a point. Write your message down and segment into small blocks of text. Use word cues for each paragraph to recall the information. Once you’ve got your message down, record yourself presenting it. Review the video and make sure your voice is strong and clear, and your body movement is natural. Present your material to a few others for feedback. The more you practice, the more confident you’ll be during your presentation.
You already have the capacity to inspire your listeners. It’s simply a matter of preparation. With a positive approach, a well-crafted message, and a solid plan of action, you can communicate to your audience in powerful, effective ways.