Thursday, 28 June 2012

How to Speak with Confidence - Part 1

"Launching your presentation
is as important as the takeoff of an airplane.
If the lift-off fails, the rest of the trip becomes irrelevant."

(Richard M. Highsmith)

Speaking in public is often cited as the number one fear of adults, and certainly a number of my clients have felt that way.  They come to me because they want to be sure they present themselves well and that their message is received effectively.

I recently read an article by Richard M. Highsmith who was a senior instructor for The Leader's Institute, where he looks at some techniques to deal with the anxiety of public speaking and some tips on how to give an excellent preparation.  His methods are divided into the acronym P.R.E.P.A.R.E.

In Part 1 of this blog, I shall share with you:

P = Preparation
R = Rehearse
E = Entry

in Part 2, we shall look at:

P = Posturing
A = Audience

and in Part 3, we shall explore:

R - Relax and
E = Ending.


The foundation of a good speech is built on the six 'W's' of effective journalism: who, what, when, where, why and hoW.  You must determine:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What are your key points?
  3. When are you speaking and for how long?
  4. Where are you giving the speech? What are the physical surroundings?
  5. Why should the audience listen to you?
  6. hoW are you going to present?
In an effective speech, you can only deliver three or four main ideas.  Think about your audience, the amount of time you have, what media you are using to support your presentation and the physical surroundings.  Decide on the essential ideas vital for understanding your topic.  These are your key points.  Make a comprehensive outline with supporting detail, quotes and graphics.


Practise is essential.  Begin by reading through the detailed outline of your speech.  Check your timing during this rehearsal.  When you are comfortable with the material, move on to a key-word outline.  Don't attempt to memorise the entire speech.  Keep practising with your key-word outline until you are familiar with the material and its sequence.  Mark Twain said, 'It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.' Your delivery should be conversational, seemingly impromptu yet backed up with a thorough knowledge of the material.

Watch yourself in the mirror.  Observe your facial expressions and gestures.  Recheck the timing of your talk.  If possible, video yourself or have someone you trust listen to you practise.  Ask them to tell you what you're doing right as well as give suggestions for improvement.  Accept their criticism gratefully, even if you don't agree with them.


Launching your presentation is as important as the takeoff of an airplane.  Determine how you are going to start your speech and commit the first several lines to memory.  An excellent beginning includes telling the audience why they want to listen.  What is the benefit to them?

If you are particularly nervous, look for a sympathetic face and talk to that person for several moments. Do not begin with an apology .... 'I didn't have much time to prepare this talk.' Or 'I'm not really very good at giving speeches.' Starting with a negative makes the audience uncomfortable.  Remember you feel more anxious than you look.  Convert your nervous energy into enthusiasm and launch your speech positively.

Part 2 coming soon ....

If you have a public speaking opportunity coming up and would like to talk to me about it, then contact me at Nicholl Consultancy.

Until next time - be successful!


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