Public speaking is a challenging task no matter the audience. It takes a lot of self-confidence, training, and willpower to become a natural public speaker who can win over audiences with ease and style.
An audience of students might be the toughest to talk to, even for experienced speakers. In part, this is because students are more likely to be unencumbered by the fetters of professional, cultural, or social inhibitions. They are likely to have active critical thinking skills, and maybe use unconventional approaches.
How can you rise to the challenge? Take a look at the steps you need to take to deliver a speech that will make an impression and influence your audience to take the desired action.
Learn how to manage your nervousness
Almost everyone gets butterflies in their stomach when talking to audiences. Try to focus on your presentation and its content, not your fears or audience perceptions. Do some breathing exercises to stay calm. You will be surprised at how quickly you gain composure as you get through the first couple of minutes.
Practice, practice, and practice again
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect. Public speaking is an acquired skill, no one is born with it (hence, ‘a natural public speaker’ is a misnomer). Hone your skills continuously, ask for feedback, learn from mistakes, and make incremental improvements with every speech.
Practice will also help you avoid making gaffes. Record yourself and play it back to hone your presentation.
Aim to have your own unique style
One thing you should absolutely need to be known for is your style. Your mannerisms, tone, sense of humor, and flow of narration must be unique to you.
Don’t let anyone say you are copycatting others. Whatever it is you are trying to put across, it has to be your message. It is not your job to amplify someone else. Students will be quick to spot that, and you will be lucky not to lose most of them by the end of your session.
Speak with clarity to get your message across
You need to use clear language.
‘If you can’t say it clearly, you don’t understand it yourself,’ said John Searle, a renowned American philosopher.
It’s hard to put it in any clearer words. After all, what matters is what your audience understands you to have said rather than what you have said.
Don’t pretend to be perfect
Even when you manage to deliver successful speeches on a regular basis, you are still human and can make mistakes. When you make one, be quick to acknowledge it right away. In fact, you can use it to your advantage by making a joke about your faux pas.
If you don’t have an answer to a question, do not bluff your way through. Just be honest and say you don’t know. Promise to find out and get back to them. Then make good on your promise.
Cut to the chase
Avoid lengthy introductions or detours. Brief diversions are fine as long as they keep your audience engaged, but don’t underestimate people’s short attention spans. Cut to the chase as quickly as you can.
Consider what you would want to take away from your speech if you were in the audience
When preparing your speech, put yourself in the shoes of your listener. Read your speech as if it were written by someone else. Does it keep you focused and interested? Does it leave you with specific takeaways? Or does it leave you struggling to make connections? If it is confusing for you, it will be more so for others.
While it is fine to use a quote or two, don’t abuse the practice of citing others, however authoritative. People come to listen to what you have to say rather than being impressed with your paraphrasing or memory skills. Use citations only if they add any value to your arguments.
Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them
This has become a mantra for many speakers. Structure your speech so as to make it centered on your key message and call to action.
What is it that you want your audience to do? Do you expect them to take some sort of action? Then a strong call to action has to be the lynchpin. Whatever it is, follow the golden rule of saying it in your introduction, elaborate on it through the main part of your speech, and wrap things up with a punchy statement with the same message.
Delivering a speech to students can be a tall order. It is challenging to establish trust and rapport with free-thinking students who won’t take anything for granted.
It takes a lot of practice, patience and perseverance to deliver a speech that will make you stand out, put the intended message across, and prompt your audience to take the desired action.
About the author:
Barbara Fielder has made a name for herself as a professional coach and a popular writer. Throughout her impressive career, she has helped thousands of students and professionals enhance their writing, strategic communications, and public speaking skills. Barbara has an equally impressive track record in reviewing and recommending the top writing services for ordering online essays, term papers, and dissertations.