1) Many people think a speech is like an essay. This is not so. In an essay for example, it is not appropriate to write “in conclusion”. In a speech it is very important to signal when you are changing topics and especially when you are concluding.
2) Some people read their speech, either by holding it or by looking down most of the time and then glancing up. This is not very effective because they are missing essential eye contact. Instead, a speaker should learn the first and last parts off by heart and practice READY, AIM, FIRE by looking down in silence when they need to and then looking up and “firing” the words at someone in the audience.
3) Sophisticated words belong to an essay or paper. In a speech simple words are much more effective and easier to say and for the audience to remember. The words with images, smells sounds and textures carry much more meaning than polysyllabic words that are difficult to pronounce.
4) Repetition in a piece of writing is often melo-dramatic and over the top. In a speech, repetition is very effective if deliberate and it helps the audience hear the idea and keep it.
5) One of the biggest mistakes made in presentations is overuse or miss use of Power Point. Only have points up you need. Use blanks in between to draw attention back to you.
6) The pace that most people deliver their speeches is too fast. The listeners cannot take all that much in. Give them time to digest the material. Deliver at about 120 words per minute.
7) Most listeners become bored not because the content is boring, but because the voice of the speaker drones on and on. One of the key things in a speech is to vary the voice. The more the better.
8) Gestures are a tricky aspect of speaking. Most people err by putting hands on the lectern, or in pockets or behind the back. Keep your hands by your sides and let them come up naturally.
9) Humour in a speech is also tricky. Many people tell a joke straight off. This is risky as it can fall flat. You have not yet established rapport or warmed them to you. Tell an appropriate joke in the middle or once you have them in you palm.
10) Some people forget they are speaking to a living audience. You need to connect with your audience, not just by using “you” and “we”, but also by telling stories they can associate with and making comments that apply to them.
Judith Field is the director of Direct Speech