Tips for Speaking
“Guidelines for Excellence”
- Respond in a timely manner when contacted by organizations.
- Contact the booking company or organization for postponement or cancellation of any speaking engagements.
- Show up on-time to all speaking engagements and dress appropriately.
- Mention Toastmasters somewhere in your presentation and direct audiences to the District 15 Toastmasters Website (District15Speaks.org) for more information whenever possible. Free Toastmasters promotional materials are available at the Toastmasters.org store. (You pay shipping.)
- Provide the organization with a feedback form to be completed and collected at the end of your presentation. This will provide an evaluation for improvement or “testimonial” for future speaking opportunities. Please forward a copy to the Bureau Chair so it may also be used to promote the Bureau.
Notes about compensation
- You are free to charge for any speaking engagements which are not gained through the Bureau. The bureau is not involved in these appearances, nor does it have jurisdiction over fees charged for such appearances.
- The main message of your presentation should be to educate, coach, train, entertain, etc. There should be no hard sales pitch within your speech. However, you may mention your products or services at the end of your presentation or within it – if it ties in to your presentation. After your presentation, you may pass out your business cards and make yourself available for additional questions.
- Section IV of the Bureau’s (optional) speaking contract addresses product sales. Sales require the preapproval of the client, and we require this contract to be used to protect the Bureau and District 15 from product liability.
- The Bureau speaking contract is for free presentations only. For this reason, we do not recommend you use it for non-Bureau speaking engagements. There are many sample speaking contracts/agreements available online to help you develop your own, and we recommend you require a retainer for your services.
Speaking Tips from the Pros
- It’s not about what you understand, necessarily, but what you’re truly passionate about. Understanding a subject is a minimal standard for speaking. Any average speaker can memorize facts or statistics and spew them out like a busted fire hydrant. What transforms a speech into something tremendous is the ability to passionately believe in the idea, product, or thought you’re speaking about. People will feel it if you do. You can’t manufacture passion.
- Always give the audience something to take home. Always provide something specific the audience can do almost immediately. No matter how inspiring your message, every audience appreciates learning a tangible way they can actually apply what they’ve learned to their own lives. Inspiration is great, but application is everything: never be afraid to say, “Tonight, think of an employee who is really struggling – and then tomorrow, do (this) and (this) to try to rescue them.”
- Pacing and pauses. Rushing your speech may leave you with filler time that you’ll scramble to fill. Slow down your delivery a little so your audience can receive and hang on to every last word. Also, when you get stuck or forget your train of thought, instead of filling the void with “ums” and “uhs,” purposefully silence yourself until you regain your train of thought. Instead of looking amateurish, you’ll appear professional, collected and confident. A pause of two to three seconds and your audience will assume you’ve lost your place; a pause of five seconds and they’ll assume it’s intentional; and a pause of ten seconds will really get (and hold) their attention. When you speak again, your audience will assume you’re a confident and accomplished speaker.
- Don’t make excuses. Now let’s look at a few things you should stop Due to insecurity, many speakers open with an excuse: “I didn’t get much time to prepare” or “I’m not very good at this.” Excuses won’t make your audience cut you any slack, but they’ll make people think, “Then why are you wasting my time?” Do what you need to do to ensure you don’t need to make excuses.
- Important notes about slides… Don’t rely on slides as a crutch. You want your audience to be focused on YOU. If you have your entire speech written on slides, why should your audience listen to you? If you must use slides, keep the text minimal (“titles” of your main point and the pieces that make up the point), make the fonts between 60 and 80 points, and – whatever you do – don’t read them. Your slides should accentuate your points. They should never be the point.
- Q&As… While Q&As give a speaker the opportunity to engage and interact with the audience, most audiences (and many speakers) are afraid of Q&As. It can be daunting to ask their question in front of an audience, and you may not see a single raised hand with many audiences. However, people aren’t afraid to talk to you one-on-one. If Q&As make you uncomfortable, have the event organizer tell the audience that you’ll take questions after your speech. If you choose to have Q&As at the end of your speech, give the audience a heads-up at the beginning of your talk. Still, you may need a few questions of your own to “kick start” the session. Remember, too, to repeat audience questions. Not everyone will hear questions other audience members ask. Repeating the questions is courteous, and it provides you with more time to think of a great answer.
- Always repeat yourself. Your audience probably hears about half of what you say, and they filter that through their own perspectives. So create a structure that allows you to repeat and reinforce key points. First explain a point, then give examples of how that point can be applied, and at the end provide audience action steps they can take based on that point. Since no one can remember everything you say, what you repeat has a much greater chance of being remembered – and being acted upon. So repeat away!
- Be yourself. Most aspiring speakers make the mistake of trying to be someone they’re not when they’re onstage. Professional speakers, however, always aspire to be the ultimate versions of themselves. When you act like someone you’re not, people can see right through you. The more you act you act like yourself, the more confident you’ll seem, and the more the audience will be able to relate to you. If you’re not a comedian (and most of us aren’t), remember that you don’t need to tell jokes to make an audience laugh. Just use topical humor relevant to your subject.
- Smile and Bring the Energy! Smile while you speak, even when your topic is serious and it feels weird to do so. This may be hard to pull off for most people, but smiling while speaking will add tremendously to your stage appeal. Also, just by moving around on stage, having confidence when you speak and engaging with the audience makes a huge impact. If you have energy, the audience will give it back.
- Admire people who are better than you and learn from them. There’s benefit in having a mentor for almost every facet of life, and public speaking is no different. If you don’t have direct access to a professional speaker in person, watch your favorite speakers on the Internet. Be sure to make note not only on their content, but also things internal to their presentation like posture, nonverbal tendencies, pace, motion, and eye contact. Or, in the words of Dananjaya Hettiarachchi, “You must find someone who wants to help you grow as a speaker.”
- Make practice a priority. Mark Twain once brilliantly stated, “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Practice is essential to delivering a strong, sincere, and succinct message to your audience. Start out by just reading your speech out loud from a piece of paper or computer document. After you’ve mastered that, incorporate a timer. Got that down? Practice in front of one person, then 3, then 10. Record yourself, too. It will help you discover parts of the speech where you hurry, or aspects of your speech that aren’t crystal clear.
- Use video to increase your comfort on stage. Record yourself giving a speech, and then watch it back to see how you did. The more you do this, the better you’ll get at it. Try this yourself, or invite a few friends or colleagues to watch you “rehearse” live. Have them give you constructive feedback that you can work on.
Further resources for speaking tips available on the Books and Articles page.