You have a lot going on. Your calendar is full. Your email box is full. Your staff members are popping their heads into your open door to get a steer. And, yes, you did agree to give those remarks for that event tomorrow. It might not be your favorite topic. It might not be an issue that will rouse a crowd to its feet. But it matters to this audience and it’s important to the members of your organization who labored to make your appearance happen. Here are three things you can do to personalize and energize a speech in a short period of time.
- Think of a personal story related to this topic to kick off the remarks. No need to dig around on the internet for something interesting. Your own stories are powerful. Have you spoken to a person affected by this topic in a good or bad way, dealt with the issue first hand, been to that country? Do this step at the beginning of the planning process so your staff can include it in the text. Ask your team to remove unnecessary details from the story.
- Ahead of the event, read through your prepared remarks one or two times out loud and underline or highlight the words you choose to emphasize. Note where you want to pause or vary your voice. Vocal variety will make it sound like you are speaking naturally, not reading. Remove insider jargon from the text. You can mark up a paper draft all the way to the last minute. To facilitate this, make sure your team prepares your remarks double spaced with font no smaller than 18 points. I have found it is best to use numbered pages in a three ring binder so they are easy to turn and hard to scramble. Staff should ensure your sentences and paragraphs don’t cross pages. One doesn’t want to pause mid-sentence to turn a page!
- When you finish, if appropriate, recognize the event’s organizers by name, thank your staff for their hard work and commitment, and thank the audience for their dedication to this topic. Pronounce all names out loud ahead of time. Recognizing other people’s efforts and priorities goes a long way toward earning the loyalty of everyone involved and enhancing your image as a leader.
I prefer to give a speech from bullet points and expand on them naturally. But I can only do that if it is a topic in my area of expertise, if I have time to work on it myself, and if people and world events are not dependent on the precision of my words. Even if you regularly give speeches prepared by someone else, remember that every time you address an audience, you put your professional and organizational reputation in the spotlight. Take these easy steps to show you care enough to give it your best.
Mrs. Smith founded Spokesmith, a public speaking coaching firm. Her expertise is built on a career in diplomacy and her extensive study of public speaking, executive presence, and body language.