Introduction to Public Speaking

The article below is courtesy of Victor Finkel and the Monash Association of Debaters. Please credit should you choose to republish the material.

A fear of public speaking is one of the greatest challenges many people face in being successful in education, employment and social settings.  Conversely, confident public speakers often find it easier to have their talent recognized in education, at work and in all manner of contexts.
The good news is that public speaking is a skill that can be worked on and improved, just like any other.  This chapter aims to highlight a couple of simple things that can help you in your public speaking.
1) Have a message
The easiest way to be more confident in public speaking is to know what you want to talk about.  Whether speaking on a set topic or on something that you have chosen, try and come up with a single sentence that describes your main contention.  Using a sentence like this makes it easier for the audience to understand what you will be talking about, and will make it much easier for you to make sure that your speech does what you want it to.
2) Structure your speech
A clear structure for a speech makes it much easier for an audience to follow. In debate we like to talk about the „Rule of 3s.‟  One application of the rule of three is to try and have 3 points in a speech.  I don‟t know why, but it seems like a magic number that is very easy for most people to follow. Another is to say everything 3 times. First, introduce the points that you are going to make.  Secondly, make each point in turn.  Thirdly, summarize the points that you have made.  In this way people will clearly remember the main messages of what you have to say.
Signposting is another trick that makes it easier for your audience to follow where one point ends and the next begins.  Signposting is literally telling the audience “My next argument is” or “Moving to the next point.”
3) Relax
It’s important to remember to relax!  Have a positive mindset – in nearly all the public speaking you will ever do, the people watching will want you to succeed.  Particularly in the practice sessions we do at MAD, everyone wants to see you do your best.
Don’t feel the need to apologise if you make a mistake.  It‟s natural to make mistakes, and everyone does.  Just refocus on the speech and move on!
One final tip is to take the time to relax and build confidence before you speak.  Once you stand up, take a deep breath and count to three before you start speaking.
4) Add some variety
Aim for a little variety in the way that you speak.  In some ways learning to speak in public can be just like acting.  Try to think what the appropriate emotion is before you make a point.  For example, if talking about the horrors of war, I should try to sound outraged, or maybe even distressed.  If talking about the potential for renewable energy to save the world, I should try to sound excited.  And if making complex points about the mechanics of financial regulation, I probably shouldn’t sound too emotional at all!
Another useful way to add variety is to have a short pause between points.  This breaks up the rhythm of the speech and gives audience members a chance to catch up – meaning they are fresh and ready for your next point.
The final thing to remember is that you already possess the speaking skills you need.
In the right context, you can be funny, clever, persuasive and heartfelt.  Try and remember what it feels like when you speak like that, and apply it to your public speaking.
5) Practice!
The best way to develop your public speaking skills is to practice!  There are many great ways to practice.  Take the opportunity to speak whenever it presents itself. MAD presents a number of opportunities, ranging from general public speaking to debating.
Other great ways to practice by yourself include:
  writing short speeches and reading them aloud
o  reducing the written speech to keywords, and then speaking from that
  reading opinion articles out loud
  practicing speaking into a mirror!


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