*Read Andrew’s public speaking article for beginners here.
You have done several speeches in front of people. You got up to the podium and read from your speech. You finished and the audience applauded you. You were very nervous and didn’t pay attention to much else. You are just glad it is over. If you’ve reached this level of public speaking, then you can say you are a beginner speaker. Congratulations!
The tips below are for people who want to become intermediate speakers. An intermediate speaker occasionally makes eye contact with the audience. They speak loudly, concisely and deliberately. The biggest difference between a beginner and intermediate speaker is that they are able to feel the audience’s pulse. These are the tips on how to get there.
Intermediate Tip #1: Brevity is the soul of wit!
I don’t cover speech size in my beginner’s article because my job for beginner’s is to have the confidence to give a speech, no matter how long the speech is or what they say in their speech. Now that you aren’t as afraid to get up in front of people, let’s discuss the content of your speech. I usually find that the more poignant you are, the better the speech is. The longer a speech, the greater the chance you will begin to lose people’s interest. Crowd interaction is important if you want to become an intermediate and advanced speaker. This is why I usually keep my speeches to an average of fifteen minutes. Some may be shorter, others may be longer. Remember this: people have short attention spans. It doesn’t matter who that person is, even if it is President Obama or Lady Gaga. The only difference is that people will show their boredom in different ways. Some will stare at the ceiling. Some will gaze at the floor. They are not looking at you. If you find yourself giving a lengthy speech and people are losing interest, it is time to change things up. The longer you speak, the more lackluster you will appear. People remember short, concise and fiery speeches: they seldom remember long, dry and dull ones.
Intermediate Tip #2: Use symbolism the crowd can appeal too
Using flowery imagery or symbolism can spice up your speech. This goal is to make your speech easier to remember and for the audience to be entertained. Whenever I begin speaking, I usually kick off my speech around a central theme. If I am speaking with a group of unemployed workers, I may use the American Dream. If I am speaking to corporate executives, the theme may center around perseverance and inspirational leadership. You have to research the crowd before you give your speech. Using images, audience involvement and personal stories in your speech work too. Remember this: you own the floor. The more people become engrossed with your speech, the more they will remember it and, more importantly, the more they will remember you.
Intermediate Tip #3: Be slow and deliberate when you talk: create drama when you speak
It is never what’s in the speech that counts: it is always how you say it. A person could have a 200 page speech on how they discovered cancer, but if it is technical, dry and worst of all—boring—people will doze off and tune the speaker out. On the other hand, that same person can get up in front of that same crowd, speak slowly and dramatically about how they discovered the cure and emphasize the stories he or she heard that compelled them to act. This is called personalizing your speech and it goes a long way to keeping your audience members engaged.
Remember: there are always two ways to say something. You can allow your mouth to speak faster than your mind or you can do the right thing by speaking slowly while your mind has the time to process what you are going to say next. People say “um”, “you know” and other verbal gaffes for a reason: they are speaking too fast and believe silent pauses are awkward. Quite the opposite: dramatic pauses are a great way to put the audience on edge! If you have the audience hang on your every word and speak as if your words are valuable, they will love this display of drama and become enthralled by it. In turn, speaking slowly also creates a kind of confidence that you project to the room. If confidence is a trait that is developed over time, so is timidity.
Intermediate Tip #4: Speak loudly!
Some people can project their voice throughout the whole room when they speak. They are not speaking ‘loudly’; they are speaking normally. If you are one of the few who have the gift of a loud and booming voice, this tip is not so much for you. For the rest of us, we must learn how to refine our voice and make sure we are heard by everyone. For the people who are quiet, you must practice speaking loudly before your speech. While practicing, try putting earplugs on and then speaking. If you cannot hear yourself or are barely audible, then you must speak louder. Remember this: people naturally become quieter when they speak in public. The best way to overcome this is to use your diaphram and lungs when projecting your words. People always say you should exercise regularly, but they fail to mention that exercising your diaphram and lungs are also crucial!
If you take these tips into account and practice them in your speeches, then you are well on your way to become an advanced speaker, which will be the subject of my next article.
Andrew Bruskin was president of The National Society of Collegiate Scholars’ National Leadership Council from 2007-2008 and has been president of its Alumni Advisory Board since 2010. He is chairman of the board of directors of Ecnaillá Groupe and will be working for a law firm in New York City upon graduating William & Mary Law School. For questions or comments, he can be reached at email@example.com and, of course, on Facebook.