How to prepare for your first speech in public?

by Eric Daniels
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Many people’s greatest fear in life is public speaking. To stand up in front of a crowded room and risk saying something. To be judged by all in a single moment. To put yourself out there and take a risk. The idea alone can cause some people to be covered in sweat. The fear of standing up there and saying something stupid, or falling over, or forgetting what you were planning to say. All of these things can make the fear of public speaking crippling to many. Yet it is this same fear that makes delivering a powerful speech so satisfying. If you are planning your first public speech, follow our tips to ensure you are ready.

Whether your speech is for a family wedding or work, they all require the same things to be a success. Preparation and confidence. The first step to make sure you are confident on stage is to be confident in how you look. Some people will argue that what you choose to wear doesn’t matter, that how your hair looks don’t matter. It does. If you look good, you feel good and you have the confidence to deliver a great speech. So many people say they just want to focus on the content and then when the time comes they can’t stop pulling at their shirt or moving their hair because they are subconsciously self-conscious about how it looks. Have confidence in how you look and you will display confidence to the audience. 

There are some habits that many first-time public speakers have that can let an audience know how nervous you are. Pacing is common where a person will step forward and backward out of nervousness. It is off-putting for the audience. The other dead giveaway is the hands. People will either put their hands in their pockets or fiddle with something. Fiddling with a pen or your face or your clothes are big red flags in public speaking. Sticking those hands in your pockets (hopefully) stops them from fiddling but this is not good either. Speaking with your hands in your pockets looks awful. If you are new to public speaking practice with your hands by your sides. Do nothing with them. If you are more experienced you can start to use them as a tool to add emphasis to certain points. 

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The real key to a great speech is preparation. Practice, practice, and practice until you know every word. Never rely on the audience for any part of your speech. If you are including a joke, don’t imagine there will be laughter if there isn’t it will catch you off guard. Prepare for all eventualities and don’t worry. 

In terms of content, it obviously depends on what type of speech you are giving but a general approach to public speaking is to break the ice with something interesting or funny, then to tell them what the speech is about. Then tell them. Finish by repeating what you just told them. A speech like that is easy to understand and appreciated by an audience.

The most important thing to realize when giving any speech is that the majority of the audience wants you to succeed. While there is always someone in the audience delighted by a fail or who will laugh at you falling most will smile as you smile and be happy when you do a great job. Look for faces in the audience who are willing you on to do well and make eye contact with them throughout the speech. Their belief in you will lead you to a great speech.

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