So you want to be a public speaker? Cool! Here are just a few tips from me.
When someone from an organisations contacts me and asks if I would be interested in coming along and speaking to their group about my life with a disability, it is always a very humbling experience. The next thing is the question, what on earth am I going to talk about this time?
One of the things that is paramount to me is that I have a rough idea of just who I am speaking too.
I don’t have to know all the people in the audience by name or have solid background on the company they work for, but I like to know why they have come to listen to me on this particular day.
There is no sense in talking about disability education reform to a group of young cub scouts, but it is much more effective to discuss such a subject to the Minister of Disability Issues. You wouldn’t discuss sexuality and how it pertains to disability to a religious group, but your ideas can be far better communicated and understood if you are talking at a youth conference.
It all starts with a phone call usually, then I request a bit of information about the event itself, and then I go to work on preparing a speech that will not only best suit that audience, but more importantly, talks about something that I am very passionate about and interested in.
As a public speaker, you should never gamble with the idea that one speech you’ve written will forever be the one to use when speaking to an audience.
In the past year I’ve been a guest speaker at seven different engagements, and for each one, I wrote a separate speech and prepared a separate presentation. It is part of my preparation, I like to start from scratch, and almost always the key idea I plan on changes as I go about the writing process. Also, in my opinion, if you are going to be delivering a presentation to go with your speech, always do the presentation first because it will help you to spark ideas.
Most speeches I do always touch on similar ideas, but the way you get from introducing yourself and who you are on stage, to ending with those powerful few messages that people will take away, can be different every time.
Use passion in your delivery, speak from the heart, and always keep an active eye on the body language that your audience is showing.
The more speaking engagements you do, the better you will become at time management, and this is a key aspect of being an effective public speaker. Early on I used to always try and cram too much into a single speech, but what you really want to do is talk about two or three things, and leave the audience feeling like they need to know more about what you talked about afterwards.
Most importantly, you really need to believe in what you are saying. It will make the whole process, from that first line in the speech, through to the end when you are taking questions, so much easier and you will feel due reward as well.