Public speaking: some guidelines

Submitted by martin on 22 June, 2007 - 12:11

Public speaking: some guidelines

You can drop some of these rules when you become practised and confident at public speaking.

1. Keep it brief. Limit yourself strictly to two or three points. The most common failing is trying to say too much.

2. Even if it is just a speech or question from the floor in a public meeting, write down what your two or three points are. If it is a prepared speech, write it out; memorise it as far as you can, but have your notes to refer to.

3. Decide in advance, and write down, what the final sentence of your speech will be.

4. If you tend to put lots of "you know" or "like" or "I mean" or "sort of" or "do you know what I mean?" into your speeches, as many people do when nervous, make a special point of writing the speech down before you make it, and memorise it or at least practise reading it through aloud.

5. Stand up (unless it is a very tiny meeting).

6. Stand still. Preferably stand behind a table or a chair, and put your hands on it. Keep hand movements very limited.

7. Speak loudly and clearly and not too fast. The second most common failing is speaking too fast.

8. Look at the audience. Fix on different people at different points in the speech.

9. Announce what the speech is about in the first sentence. E.g. "I am speaking against motion 53 because I oppose the boycott of Israel".

10. Never start your speech by apologising - "I haven't had much time to prepare", or "I don't know much about this", or "X has already said pretty much all I wanted to say", etc.

11. Give signposts. Say what you are going to say, say it, and then tell the audience what you've just said. E.g. "I oppose the boycott of Israel for three reasons. One: it is a cheap substitute for serious action to help the Palestinians... Two: it will strengthen the Israeli right... Three: it will spill over into boycott and harassment of Jews... So, in conclusion: A boycott is a cheap substitute. It will strengthen the Israeli right. And in practice it will become an anti-Jewish movement. So oppose the boycott!"

12. Structure your argument in groups of three. E.g. "By endorsing Gordon Brown our union Executive has endorsed the war in Iraq. It has endorsed privatisation of the Health Service and schools. And it has endorsed cuts in real wages for public sector workers".

13. If you lose your thread, or your place in your notes, repeat what you have just said until you find your thread again.