Speeches can be terrifying, but they shouldn’t be. In this article, we will go through some tips to become a confident speaker, overcome your nerves and provide a step-by-step guide for how to write speeches and presentations.
It seems like a lot, but really we are just slicing a big job into lots of little manageable tasks. This is a great way to do tasks thoroughly, it will also help you deal with procrastination.
Now, before we get into the details, we need to know what the point of having to undergo public speaking is.
Why must we do public speaking?
Many students hate public speaking because they get nervous in front of a crowd. Unfortunately, in a social world based on communication learning to be a confident and effective communicator is a really important skill.
But public speaking is a learned skill: the more you do it, the better you get!
Clearly, there are some important reasons why you should learn how to write speeches and presentations and present them to a crowd.
1. Presenting improves your confidence and communication skills
This is a bit ironic because students get nervous when they have to do public speaking. But in reality, public speaking helps you build confidence in yourself.
Why is this?
As you continue to practice public speaking, your speaking skills improve. When your skills improve, you will inevitably get more comfortable speaking and presenting.
Over time, you not only gain confidence with speaking on stage, but you also build confidence in yourself.
You start believing in your words and are able to verbally communicate your message more effectively. So, it is not only useful on stage or at the front of a room, but in everyday life too!
2. Speechwriting develops your writing skills
Public speaking is not just about speaking, it is also about writing.
As you practice, you will learn how to write speeches and presentations more effectively. This is something that will translate to other areas of composition.
The skills that you develop here will, help you write other other text forms!
This is because when you write speeches or presentations, there are many things that you consider. For example structure, concision, rhetorical techniques and research.
In addition, when you write a speech, you are trying to identify a very narrow band of information and convey it precisely and concisely. For example, in a 3-minute speech, you need to condense your key thoughts into about 400 words, max! That’s pretty challenging.
These skills and ability for concision and brevity are all important for your creatives writing and essay writing and so much more!
3. Presenting improves your ability to calm yourself in stressful times
You might get nervous before it is your turn to speak. This is normal.
But, as you continue to do more speeches and presentations, you will know the best methods to calm yourself down.
Whether it is deep breaths or a small jittery dance… these calming techniques can be used in everyday life too!
When you get to exams, knowing and being able to apply these techniques will help fight of exam anxiety and stress.
Whenever you feel stressed or nervous, apply these techniques to calm down.
Planning and writing speeches: Step-by-step
Learning how to write speeches and presentations doesn’t have to be daunting. In these steps, we will make speech writing seem easy.
Matrix students are taught the Matrix method when they write speeches. Let’s take a look the formula.
Steps 1-3 above are about developing a strong understanding of your texts. When you write speeches that analyse texts, make sure that you do all 3 steps.
What we’re going to in this step-by-step guide is to slice these tasks down into individual components.
Planning is an integral step to learning how to write speeches and presentations.
It will help you figure out what you want to talk about, collate relevant evidence and structure your speech.
So, how do we do this?
1. Brainstorm ideas
Write down everything you know about the topic or question.
Don’t be selective and don’t start researching yet.
In this step, you are trying to get the ball rolling in your mind. You want to see what you already know about the topic/question and find possible ideas you can discuss.
Do some brief research about the topic or question given.
Here, you are attempting to get a general understanding of the topic/question to help you decide which topic/ideas you want to discuss.
If you are analysing a text, you should go over the text, identify their main themes and find general techniques that relate to the themes.
Remember, you should always take notes of your evidence and write down your thoughts.
3. Create a thesis
Now that you have a better understanding of the topic/question, you need to take a stance. This is basically your main argument in the speech.
Think about what you want to say about the topic.
Picking something that personally interests you will make your speech more engaging.
4. Decide on your topic and ideas
Once you know your thesis, you need to decide on which topic/ideas you want to write a speech about.
When you are selecting, think about ideas that:
Directly relate to the thesis
Has a good amount of evidence to support it
5. Plan your structure
Once you figured out your thesis and ideas, you need to scaffold your speech.
The most common speech structure is this:
Exordium – Introduces an issue. Creates a rapport with the audience.
Body – Gives more detailed information about the issue through their ideas/arguments. It usually brings the speech to a climax.
Peroration – Provides a call to action. The ending will usually end in a hopeful tone, inspiring the audience to take action and ‘fix the issue’.
Remember, audiences need to always be engaged in your speech. This structure does this because they present the information in a narrative form.
What this means is that the information slowly leads into each other. The problem is introduced, rises into a climax (the intensity of the issue) and then calms down with a resolution (call to action).
It is important that you realise a speech is NOT an essay.
Speeches DON’T need to be structured with an obvious introduction, 3 body paragraphs and a conclusion.
You can discuss different ideas in different and interesting ways. There are no formal ways to structure it. Just make sure that it follows a narrative structure.
6. Choose your evidence
The next step to learn how to write speeches and presentations is selecting the evidence!
You should already have a list of evidence from your planning stage.
However, you should always spend some more time to find more detailed and relevant evidence.
Some evidence you should look for are:
So, once you are happy with your list of evidence, you need to select the right ones to use in your speeches.
How do you do this?
Make sure that your evidence:
Directly relates to your ideas
Is strong – this means that they are credible, reliable and accurate or is a higher order technique.
Doesn’t contradict what you are saying.
Going into the right amount of detail: depth vs breadth
When you learn how to write speeches and presentations, you find that they are very different from essay writing.
Too often, students think that their speeches don’t need depth because they have a time limit of 4 minutes. So, they try to say as much as they know about the topic as possible. However, this is very wrong.
To write a good speech, you need to balance both depth and breadth.
A speech with depth is a speech that shows a very deep understanding and knowledge about something. Usually, it can go into detail and show how this detail relates to other things and components.
A speech with lots of breadth shows that you have a lot of knowledge about the topic. You are able to see how different components link to each other. However, the knowledge is very surface level.
When you learn how to write speeches and presentations, make sure that you provide enough information about your ideas/arguments to show that you have a deep understanding of it. But also remember, to interlink your ideas/arguments with each other to show your breadth of knowledge.
The marks, generally speaking, lie in the detail.
7. Write your introduction
You are now starting your first draft! This is Step 5 of the Matrix Method.
Imagine listening to someone starting their speech with a long-winded thesis that they just pulled from their essays.
Your speech is not an essay on legs!
In the first 3 seconds, you already bored everyone in the room. They will start thinking about what to eat for dinner, or their weekend. People will not listen to the rest of your speech.
Instead, when you learn how to write speeches and presentations, you need to think about engaging starters! Some things that will draw audiences in are:
Have you ever tried to steal something before?
When I was 6 years-old, I stole an orange ball from the shops.
Imagine living in a world where everyone just stole anything they wanted without any consequences.
“What if” scenarios
What if I just walked into the Apple store and stole an iPhone without getting in trouble?
Strong and powerful statements
People steal food. People steal goods. People steal knowledge.
“Steal a little and they’ll put you in jail, steal a lot and they’ll make you a king” – Bob Dylan
More than $13 billion worth of goods are stolen from shops every year. That is approximately $35 million per day!
Why were the jewel thieves hard to catch? They had a good ring leader.
Remember, audiences have a very short attention span. So, you need to make sure that your whole speech is very engaging.
Powerful and thought-provoking statements will immediately grab the audience’s attention and make them curious to hear more.
They need to be simplified but also have the depth of an essay. And, it needs to present the information in a storytelling form.
This way, audiences are hooked into your speeches and always want to hear more.
8. Discuss your examples
Usually, students learn how to write speeches and presentations, they tend to discuss examples the same way as they would write an essay.
“The repetition of the chants ‘Kill the pig. Cut her throat’ is first said when the boys kills the pig, and again when they kill Simon, symbolising the boy’s slow submission to savagery and emphasising human’s innate brutality.”
As you can see, the statement is very longwinded and boring.
When you discuss examples in your speech, you need to use shorter sentences, and rhetorical techniques.
This will make it more engaging to listen to.
So how do we fix this?
“‘Kill the pig. Cut her throat’. This is a line that is consistently repeated throughout the novel. We first see this chant when the boys kill the pig. However, it reappears when they kill Simon. Isn’t this terrifying? Golding uses this chant to symbolise the boys’ slow submission to savagery and emphasise human’s innate brutality”
Notice how the sentences are significantly shorter? This makes it easier to read and easier for the audience to understand.
Also, notice how first-person they’ve used plural pronouns and rhetorical questions? Do this and it will make your speech more engaging because it directly involves the audience.
9. Insert persuasive language
Remember, you want people to listen and engage with your speech and take in your information.
One way that you can do this is to use persuasive language also known as, rhetorical language.
This is one major differentiation between speeches and essays.
Let’s have a look at a list of some rhetorical techniques:
Repetition of the first letter/sound of a word
Ben burried the beans.
Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a sentence.
We will speak up. We will act.
A short recount / story
When I was 10, I accidentally fell off my bike…
Words that are deliberately chosen to evoke emotional reactions
The young boy was killed in cold blood.
Showing authority and credibility to convince an audience to believe in your argument. Eg. your status, experience…
I was a volunteer for the Cancer Council.
High modality words
Words that show high certainty
Must, will, have to, need…
Something that is funny
My mum said she needed a break. I gave her a KitKat.
I was melting from the heat.
Using logic to convince the audience to believe in your argument. Eg. facts, statistics, data…
According to the Cancer Council, nearly 1/3 Australians have skin cancer.
Comparing two subjects/objects by saying that one IS the other
Her cheeks were apple red.
Words that replace nouns in a sentence
We, I, us, them…
A play on words; uses words with similar sounds but have different meanings
Why did the banana go to the doctor? It wasn’t peeling well.
Repeating words or phrases
Run. Run. Run!
Saying one thing but meaning the opposite
Surely, that’s the best the government can do.
Comparing two subjects/objects by saying that one is LIKE the other
Her cheeks were as red as an apple.
Remember to include these when you are writing your speeches and presentations.
10. Write your conclusion
Never end your speech with “Thank you for listening to my speech!”
When you learn how to write speeches and presentations, you will see that the conclusion is very important.
Basically, speeches need to end with a bang!
It is the last thing that the audience hears. They need to remember your arguments and they need to be inspired to take action.
So, how do we do this?
Think about your main message/thesis. How are you going to convey this in an interesting way?
Quickly summarise your arguments. Make it brief and simple.
Include a call to action. What actions do you want your audience to take to deal with the issue?
Use rhetorical techniques. Persuade your audience. Inspire them to take action.
Close with a bang. The last line of your speech should be remembered by the audience. Use rhetorical questions, powerful statements, or any other rhetorical technique to do this.
11. Draft and redraft
Obviously, once you finish writing your speech… it isn’t really finished yet.
You need to edit, draft and redraft!
Many students skip out on this step because they think it is a waste of time.
However, your first drafts will never be perfect. This is why editing and re-drafting is so important. You get a chance to fix your work and make it better!
So, how do we do this?
Fix grammatical, punctuation and spelling errors.
Read over your work and identify areas that need improving.
Clear up / rewrite confusing areas
Add more rhetorical techniques
Add more depth and analysis to areas that you think are lacking
Remember, you should always ask for feedback!
Other people can give you a fresh perspective on your speech and identify areas that you need to work on.
Now, it is time to practice and rehearse!
This step is really important because you can:
Identify areas that are difficult to say. eg. long sentences, tongue twisters…
See if your speech is within the time limit
Get comfortable at presenting your speech.
So, to do this, you need to:
Read your speech out loud. You need to read it out loud to see if your speech is easy to present.
If there are any tongue twisters, long sentences, difficult words or anything that is too hard to say, change them.
Get a timer and read your speech out loud. It is important that you are reading it out loud because it is always slower than reading in your head.
Too long? Cut down words.
Too short? Identify areas that need more depth and expand.
Just right? Leave it.
Now, keep practising and rehearsing until you get comfortable.
Take this step to figure out your expressions, intonations, pacing and hand gestures.
13. Final draft
After you edit, re-draft, seek feedback, edit, rehearse, and edit some more… it is time to finalise your speech.
You can’t edit and re-draft your work forever. You need to know when to stop and be satisfied with your speech.
So, once you are happy, format your speech into palm cards and print them out for the next step!
14. Memorise it!
Palm cards are still very important!
Even if you remember 100% of your speech, you still need a backup.
Students usually get nervous on stage and forget parts of their speech. So, palm cards are a great tool to remind you of what to say!
But remember, they are only there if you need them. You can’t rely on them for your whole speech.
If you want to seem more engaging and convincing, you CAN’T read off from your palm cards.
Instead, you need to:
Maintain eye contact with the audience
Sound confident in what you’re saying
Use intonations, expressions, pacing and hand gestures
To do this, you need to memorise your speeches!
So, what are some tips to memorise speeches?
Keep practising! The more you practice, the better you remember your speech.
Visualise your speech: People are known to remember things better when they can visualise and create a story. So, just imagine that your speech is a short film playing in your mind!
Record yourself and play it: This tip is useful when you want to do another activity but also memorise your speech!
Highlight the beginning of each sentence: If you ever forget the next line, these highlighted words will be very useful. It serves as a quick trigger to remind you of the rest of the sentence. It also ensures that you aren’t just reading your palm cards.
15. Polish your performance
Your polished performance is what you will be presenting to the rest of your classmates.
Here are some things that you need to consider:
Memorise your speech
Have palm cards
Know how you want to present your speech
Pacing, intonation, expression, hand gesture
Having calming techniques
Be confident and be yourself!
But sometimes, we also need some other help. Let’s look at some tips and tricks for confidence and performance!
I hate public speaking, what do I do? | Tips and tricks
For many students, public speaking is their greatest fears. But it doesn’t need to be!
So, here are some tips to help you tackle your fears and become an awesome public speaker!
Tips for becoming a better, more confident public speaker
Everyone will be nervous before they walk in front of a crowd and speak. Public speaking isn’t about being fearless, it is about turning those nerves into energy and excitement.
So, how do we do this?
1. Pretend that you’re confident (even if you’re not)
Sometimes, you just need to fake it ’till you make it.
People don’t know what you’re thinking. They can’t see your sweaty palms or hear your beating heart.
So, when you look confident, people will think you are!
And suddenly, your public speaking is so much better!
Make sure that you have a good posture, clear and project voice and let yourself loose. No one wants to see a stuttering, stiff, and shy person on stage.
Also, when you pretend that you are confident, you will become confident. It is a handy mind trick you can play on yourself.
2. If you make a mistake, just KEEP GOING
Too often, when students make mistakes as they speak, they grimace, apologise, and suddenly, lose confidence in their whole presentation.
You cannot do this!
When you make a mistake, take a second (maximum) to recover yourself and keep going! Don’t make a scene.
Your audience don’t know your speech. The only way that they know about your mistake is from your reaction!
So, stay calm. Don’t react. Gather yourself. Forget about your mistake. And keep the party going!
3. The three “Rs” of speeches: researching, writing, rehearsing
When you practice how to write speeches and presentations, it is important that you do the three R’s of speeches.
Doing this will build your confidence when you are speaking in front of a crowd.
Sometimes, students are unsure of some information in their speeches. This can make them nervous because they are afraid that their audience will notice or they are simply not confident with their ‘facts’.
Well, one way to prevent this is to research your topic thoroughly!
When you research, make sure that you use credible sources, double-check your evidence and always check the date of the information!
You want to show that you know what you’re talking about and that you are confident about your topic.
When you are learning how to write speeches and presentations, it might seem a little boring. But it doesn’t have to be!
Just, find an idea or topic that you are passionate about.
Add your own twists in your speech and let your personality shine through. Remember, speeches aren’t as formal as essays.
That way, you will have more fun writing it and feel more comfortable presenting it.
Rehearsal – Practice, practice and more practice!
Practice makes perfect! In this case, practice will make you more confident in yourself.
Remember, no one wants to see a speaker read everything off their palm cards.
Make eye contact, use hand gestures, intonations and make things expressive.
The more you rehearse, the better you will be at doing these.
Just ask your parents or friends to listen, speak to yourself in the mirror or speak to your collection of plushies!
Practising also helps you figure out time limits and how to deal with making mistakes.
3 Tricks for managing anxiety
It is your turn to go up and speak, and suddenly a wave of nerves hit you. What do you do?
1. Breathing techniques
Take a few deep breaths if you start to feel nervous or anxious. Remember, breathe in through your nose and let the air fill your belly. Then, slowly, breathe out through your mouth. Remind yourself to relax.
2. Positive visualisation
Don’t think about how you will stuff up or how the audience will hate your speech. This will not calm you down.
Instead, visualise your success before you speak. This will calm down your nerves and give you a confidence boost.
Picture yourself in front of the crowd and engaging with the audience.
Think about all the good aspects of your speech and how much the audience will enjoy or appreciate it.
Think about the success of your speech.
3. Focus on people who are engaged with your speech
Sometimes, you might still feel nervous as you speak. You question if the audience likes your speech, and wonder if you’re doing good.
Well, instead of focusing on how your presentation or disinterested audience members… focus on the people who seem engaged with your speech.
They could be smiling or nodding at what you’re saying.
When you see their positive reactions, it will give you reassurance and a confidence boost.