How to make a speech? Frequently asked questions
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How to make a speech? Frequently asked questions

There’s an FAQ section in every area, and public speaking is no exception. I’m often asked how to make a speech or what making a speech is like. Obviously, making a good speech depends on the general background (audience, attitude, room, etc.).

So, how to make a speech? Making a good speech depends on the general background of the situation (audience, attitude, room, etc.). If you make your speech passionately and emotionally, you’ll be able to make an exciting presentation even on a most boring topic

If the question is “how to make a speech” you have to remember the rule of thumb – whatever you’re doing when making a speech will come back at you. This means that if you’re bored to death and don’t feel like making a speech, the listeners won’t be eager to listen to you either.

In today’s blog post, I’ll answer the most frequently asked questions.

Why are people afraid of making a speech?

The reasons are different, but most of them lead, to a greater or lesser extent, to the fear of failure or the fear of attention. However, in most cases, stage fright is a fear of our imagination or a fear acquired in the past. Public speakers tend to exaggerate things, flaws included.

Making a speech and being afraid of the attention

Example: one of the biggest concerns is the fear of attention, and thinking „They’re looking at me!“ is the reason for it. But if you think about it more thoroughly, the fact that you are being watched during your presentation is, after all, the greatest compliment the audience can make. This is especially true these days – we’re so addicted to our mobile devices that we can’t go for 10 minutes without grabbing our phone!

Typically, your audience is a group of people who, listening to an exciting story, will set their devices aside and listen only to you. Anyway, what’s worse making a speech – being watched or not being watched at all? My point exactly!

In addition, the fear of failure („What if something goes wrong?“) and the fear of the audience („What do they think of me?“) are the main reasons for stage fright. Most of these fears can be controlled through proper preparation or by changing your mindset.

Also, check out these blog posts (click the link):

What can I do to get rid of stage fright?

“There are only two types of speakers in the world. 1. The nervous and 2. Liars.” – Mark Twain

Story: I have a relative who’s had a driving license for about 12 years now, and he’s never driven a car on his own after graduation. A few months ago, he gave driving another try, and it was just as shocking as it was back then when he was learning how to drive. It turned out that compared to 12 years ago, he didn’t get any better, and the experience was as bad as it was back then.

Just as a driver’s license doesn’t make you a decent driver, familiarising yourself with the materials on the topic doesn’t make you a good speaker. To cope with stage fright and become a better public speaker, you need experience. And you can only get experience by going on stage. The more speeches you make, the more relevant situations you experience and the better you cope with them.

More detailed answers on how to make a speech even if you’re afraid of public speaking can be found here:

What are the main tips you should use to always make a good speech?

How to make a speech? Frequently asked questions

It’s worth keeping in mind that you’re not the most important person in the room. What matters the most is your listeners, their interests, needs, and expectations. As long as you focus on your own worries and fears, you are on the wrong path.

If you want to know how to make a speech, then remember this: if we dig deeper, today, you don’t have to do much to be different from other public speakers.

  • First, keep contact with your listeners (and avoid gawking at the slideshows on the wall);
  • Second, use simple and comprehensible language;
  • Finally, if you make an obvious slip that’s hard to notice, don’t think much of it, just make a joke about yourself, and your listeners will forgive you. As long as you are friendly and cool, the audience will be eager to listen to you.

If you use at least these three tips, you’re already better than most of the people you’ve ever seen making a speech.

Recommended books

I also published a blog post about 33 tips on how to improve your presentation skills. Be sure to check it out and you’ll know what to do!

How to prepare for making a speech?

  • Do your homework on the topic – It’s best if you know the topic or if you are really interested in it.
  • Analyze your audience – Who are your listeners? What do they expect from you? Why are they attending?
  • Think about a clear objective of your presentation and word it in two to three sentences – If you can’t summarise the objective of your speech in two sentences, the object of your presentation must be a bit confusing for you. The clearer the objective of making a speech, the easier it is for the listeners to understand it.
  • Making a speech requires practice – The more you practice, the more confident you become.

More detailed answers on how to prepare a speech can be found here:

How to practice making a speech?

In addition to analyzing your audience, preparing a structure of your speech, and thinking through the preparation process, you need to rehearse your presentation at home. This is especially true for short presentations.

When it comes to longer presentations, you should certainly practice making an introduction and a summary, as well as go through the parts of your presentation you feel most uncertain about.

Some of the main things to keep in mind:

  1. At first, practice in an empty room. If possible, in the room where you’ll be making your speech;
  2. Practice only standing upright;
  3. Practice using slides and explaining their contents;
  4. Make using notes smoother;
  5. Mind your body language and think about how to use it effectively;
  6. Put the camera on and record your presentation;
  7. If you have a limited amount of time, use a stopwatch when rehearsing;
  8. Practice on your own a few times, then do the same with a friend;
  9. Think through the answers to possible questions in advance;
  10. Repeat. Again. And then again.

Read more about it here.

What are the most common mistakes when making a speech?

Poor preparation or no preparation at all

Whether you don’t feel like it or there’s no time (doesn’t really matter), but as soon as the speaker appears on stage, it becomes clear that they have no idea why they are here or what they need to do.

It was last week that I was watching a speaker ask instead of making an introduction, „Erm… how much time do we have today? “ The listeners seemed overwhelmed, probably thinking, „If you don’t know, how much time you have, what do you know? “

Starting off with an apology

This approach never draws attention or even a fraction of interest. Forget the usual „Hello, my name is…“ and get started with a bang! Start in a way that will make the audience follow you from the very first moments and want to know what’s going on.

Starting with a speech before reaching the stage

The audience will have to look around to see where the mysterious voice comes from. Equally important, many people may not realize you’ve started your speech. So, start only when you’re on stage.

The introduction doesn’t catch the interest

One of the main objectives of making an introduction is to awaken interest. If your introduction doesn’t lead anywhere and poses the question „Is this really gonna last for two hours?“, you must’ve started in a wrong way.

No eye contact with the audience

Your eyes rest on a window, a rear wall, a ceiling, a floor and, of course, a wall with PowerPoint slides. In the latter case, some speakers also turn their backs to the audience, which creates two parallel universes – you in the front and the audience in the room.

The Death-by-Powerpoint approach

The main idea here is „the more slides, the better. The more text on a slide, the better – nobody can understand anything, and there might be no questions“. The result? You screw your presentation with PowerPoint.

Reading from the paper in a monotone

The attention of the audience will disappear in a flash, and their thoughts will be running wildly. If you don’t add emotion, personality, and shine to your presentation, you’re better off at home.

Talking too fast

The objection is clear: „I must finish my speech!“ And you will. The result? Well, at least you’ll kill your audience with your speech.

Not enough pauses

As a result, your speech can be summarised as „You seemed kind of interesting, but since you never let me think things over, I have my own things to do now“.

Dry speech with no good examples

One sentence full of bureaucratic words follows another, and it seems like someone’s reading a law. This is like milking the bull: you may handle it, but the result might not be satisfying.

Use of fillers and awkward gestures

This creates a situation where your listeners will count and put down the weird things you do, out of plain boredom. And exchange their notes during a break.

Poor Q&A round

Instead of saying, „I don’t know the answer“, it’s usually something like, „This is a good question, but, unfortunately, there’s no more time left blah-blah-blah…“

Taking more time than scheduled

Unfortunately, in the eyes of the audience, this is one of the deadliest sins. So, if you see that you’re running out of time, replan on the spot.

Saying „that’s all“ instead of a proper summary

Some speakers even go like, „Erm… I guess that’s all“. But this is not a summary! The objective of a summary is to tell the audience the most important things you want them to remember after your presentation.

What should be considered before making a speech?

Ask yourself, „What do I want the listeners to do or think about differently after I finish my presentation?“ If you’re not able to wrap up your story and its purpose in two sentences, it’s likely that you find the topic somewhat confusing.

How to make a speech which is perfect for all of us? Remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect presentation.

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” Dale Carnegie

Well… at least not for the speaker. How so? As a speaker, you pay attention to, say, everything you left unsaid. You know where you slipped or felt uncertain. Not to mention that you’re trying to make something out of nothing. And, of course, the issue of low self-esteem remains.

After making a speech, we all know exactly how it was supposed to be made. But if you ask the listeners about what went wrong, you might hear you did well and get a pat on the shoulder.

How much can you read from the paper when making a speech?

Making a speech doesn’t mean you can’t use notes. Just remember to keep contact with the audience when reading from paper. Writing a text, avoid long sentences and complex specialized terms. If a sentence is too long, you’ll be out of the breath of in the middle of it, which is why you’ll have to breathe deeply. This, however, ruins the flow of your presentation.

Keep eye contact, use your body language, and make your speech emotional and memorable even when reading from paper. Feel free to use gestures, make meaningful pauses, involve the audience… you’re the one to do it.

The less contact you keep with the audience, the greater the chance that your presentation won’t be interesting to them. When reading from paper in a boring way, the audience will think, „When is it finally over?“ Making a speech this way, you’re wasting everybody’s time and could’ve just as well stayed home.

Keep eye contact with the audience, and you’ll get feedback on how you’re doing. Not to mention that if you’re speaking naturally and emotionally when reading from paper, it’s much more enjoyable to listen to your presentation.

How important are presentations on screen?

Depends on your presentation. I don’t see any particular reason for using slides for making a short speech. When it comes to longer speeches, slides can be used only if they add value to your speech. In either case, you don’t have to use them – there are thousands of great speeches out there made without PowerPoint.

When preparing illustration tools (boards, slides, etc.), think about how you can engage the various senses of your listeners. So, tell stories, show pictures, involve the audience and, if necessary, show slides.

However, always remember that you are the main speaker, not the slides on the wall. Unfortunately, we can quite often see the opposite, in which the main speaker is on the wall, and an actual speaker is just a reading tool. This kind of presentation is called „a lecture for the blind”, and the only question your listeners ask yourself at this moment is, „Why didn’t he send the presentation by email?“

What to do if everything goes catastrophically wrong when I’m making a speech?

Here, I must emphasize that the speaker and the audience perceive time differently during the presentation. If something goes wrong during the presentation, a 5-second pause will seem like an eternity to you.

One of the worst things to do when preparing for a presentation is taking incomprehensible (or non-existent) notes. Yes, you took them at home and they made sense; say, you briefly wrote „Using notes“ and it was clear what you meant at the time, but on stage, you have a look at these two words… and there’s nothing. You’re thinking, „What did I mean?“

If, despite the notes, everything should go wrong, take an imaginary step back. This means that if nothing comes to mind, recap the thought you were talking about at the beginning (or during) your speech. This way, you give your brain something to do and get out of the vicious circle called „What was I supposed to talk about?“ much easier.

One more good tip – if you’re desperately stuck, ask the audience a question. For example: „Well, I’ve been talking for 15 minutes now, so here’s my tricky question: what’s the one, most important thing you can single out?“

This way, the audience will be involved at this point, and, at the same time, you’ll be able to drive away from the annoying question, „What was I supposed to talk about?“

Conclusion: How to make a speech which is good?

Obviously, making a good speech depends on the general background (audience, attitude, room, etc.). However, you have to remember the rule of thumb – whatever you’re doing when making a speech will come back at you. This means that if you’re bored to death and don’t feel like making a speech, the listeners won’t be eager to listen to you either.

However, if you show with all your being that you want your message to hit home, if you make your speech passionately and emotionally, you’ll be able to make an exciting presentation even on a most boring topic. All the above-mentioned points on how to make a good speech are an excellent guide to show you the right direction.

So, what are your main ides how to make a speech? Let me know.

Related questions

Related questions

What is an impromptu speech? An impromptu speech is a speech which is given without any thorough preparation. It is five- to eight-minute speech with a characteristically short preparation time of a couple of minutes. (full article here)

What is the elevator pitch? An elevator pitch is a well-thought, meaningful, and repeatedly practiced brief (about 30-60 seconds long) overview of who you are, what you offer, and how your partner can benefit from it (full article here).

What is a persuasive speech? The main objective of a persuasive speech is to make your listeners do what you want them to do. For example, „buy my product“, „vote for me“, „believe what I’m talking about“, and so on. (full article here)

What is audience analysis? Audience analysis gives you the opportunity to get as much information about the background of your listeners as possible. Using this information, you can prepare your message so that it builds on the interests, needs, and expectations of your listeners. (full article here).

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Who is Janek Tuttar?

My name is Janek Tuttar, and I am the founder and author of Speak and Conquer website.

I have been teaching public speaking at Estonian Entrepreneurship University of Applied Sciences

Here, I am sharing the wisdom of how to cope in different public speaking situations.

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Janek Tuttar

Hi! My name is Janek Tuttar, and I am the founder and author of SpeakAndConquer.com.

I have been teaching and blogging about public speaking since spring 2007. Here, I am sharing the wisdom of how to cope in different public speaking situations.

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