You perform numerous speeches in front of an audience. You make eye contact with them and notice they are paying attention to you and can hear you throughout your speech. You adjust accordingly if they become bored. You interwine imagery with story telling. You speak slowly and deliberately, allowing time to pause without filling this space with verbal gaffes. Your words are lively and entertaining. You may have some nervousness, but it is minor and does not affect your speech. If this describes your public speaking ability, then you are an intermediate speaker. Congratulations!
It is time to become an advanced speaker. If intermediate speakers are paid thousands of dollars for a speech, advanced speakers are sometimes paid millions. It often takes years to reach this level of eloquence. Should you enter this arena, your speaking skills will be on par with John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, among others.
Advanced Tip #1: Preparation is key
Most people attribute the John F. Kennedy’s, the Martin Luther King’s and the Hillary Clinton’s of the world to having naturally born God-like talent. This becomes apparent with their booming voice, the natural grace of their movements and the articulation of their words. There is nothing natural, however, about success or speaking in public. It is planned, coordinated and rehearsed. Before any public performance, the person will practice their art on a daily basis, even if they never admit it to others. You must be like that public figure and constantly practice too. If you rehearse the general points of what you are going to say in your speech and deliver it with the drama and the confidence it deserves, people will think you also have that God-like ability they don’t have.
Before I give a speech, I usually rehearse the general things I am going to say in my mind. I practice mentally, not in front of a mirror. I also say a version of the speech out loud. This is my style of rehearing a speech and you should find the style that works for you. Remember this: if you are not lying awake at night in your bed reciting a version of your speech, then you have not done enough practice!
Advanced Tip #2: Use the podium at times, but it is not there to be a crutch
Beginning and intermediate speakers are not required to stray from the podium, even if they are given the option to do so. Advanced speakers, however, do not have this option: they stray from the podium. Unless you are giving a speech that requires you to be at the podium (and in many speeches this may be the case), then you should abandon the podium and begin to walk slowly around the room. This is what separates an intermediate speaker from an advanced speaker. Walking around allows you to connect with every audience member, make eye contact with them and use your hands for dramatic effect. It also shows the audience that you are solidly in command. For any speech you give, you should ask the organizer if they want you to stay at the podium, or if you are given free reign of the room. If you are given free reign, ask for a wireless mike.
Advanced Tip #3: Never write a speech
Beginners read from their speech. Intermediate speakers glance at their speech. Advanced speakers have no speech. As an advanced speaker, you should never write a speech you are going to make. This also includes using power points and outlines. Even though this notion at first might terrify you, there are several reasons for this. First, you often become attached to your written speech or power point, using it like a crutch as most speakers do with the podium. You hang onto every word you write, thinking these words are the only thing you are allowed to say. Second, you take this attitude with you when you give your speech and you read or glance at your paper. If you tell yourself beforehand that you are not going to read or glance at your speech but want it as a security blanket “just in case”, you are lying to yourself. You will break that promise and you will read or glance at it.
What I normally do before my speech is write the points I want to make on a piece of paper for practice use only. This usually takes up thirty (30) words or less. When I finally do make my speech, I speak from the heart, implementing the points I want to make along the way. Instead of using a powerpoint, I may bolster my speech with photos. Pictures project a thousand words into the audience’s mind. A powerpoint projects none, except for the words that are already there.
If you have not followed these guidelines in the past, then have no fear, because 99% of public speakers haven’t either. My job is to put you in that top 1%. If you feel you do not have what it takes to deliver a speech without paper, that is nonsense. Joan of Arc was not only noted for her brilliant military tactics—this illiterate peasant girl from Domrémy also delivered powerful and memorable speeches to her soldiers. It was not her sword that won Orleans for the French during the Hundred Years War: it was the power of her heart and the eloquence of her speeches.
Remember this: the heart may often be equated with love, but its real use is for giving a dynamic speech that will endure the test of time. How much better off would we be if people used their heads for love and used their hearts for rallying their fellow human being? Use your heart when you give a speech and never your head. If you take these tips into account and use them when you give your speeches, then you should pat yourself on the back. And as people gaze at you, wondering how you have that God-like ability they feel they lack, you will enter the realm of great men and women who have left their mark on the world by utilizing the power of language. Even though we are not immortal, our words and speeches are.
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.