Today we ended a week’s worth of demonstration speeches in my entry-level speech class at Penn State. Class after class we all learned useful techniques for fixing drywall, tap dancing, sandwich making, brick patio laying and more. It was fun. When all the speeches were over, I asked the class for the “take-aways.” In other words: “What did you learn from watching all of these speeches?” The answers were instructive for anyone trying to improve their public speaking:
* Confidence is key to success
* Provide details about your topic
* Giving a speech may create a bigger interest in a topic than initially
* Don’t apologize if your speech isn’t perfect (we’ll figure that out–or not–on our own)
* Show some emotion (in other words: be enthusiastic!)
and here’s my favorite:
*It’s the speaker, not the topic that ensures success!
Isn’t that the truth? Oh, to be sure, a great topic is helpful, but it doesn’t guarantee success. One of the best speeches was on how to make a paper airplane. Simple stuff, sure, but the speaker did lots of things right. He made us care. (Need a gift, and have no cash? Want something cheap, recyclable and fun?) You get the idea.
Public speaking is so much about the speaker and so much less about the speech. Don’t get me wrong: content is important, but not nearly as important as having speaker who cares about whatever the topic is. Imagine trying to sell investors on an online method for relationship building. It would be a tough sell. But if you believed in it, and if you pointed out a higher purpose: social connections around the world would be stronger, you might just have something. You might just have something like Facebook.
So, prepare well and believe in yourself and your speech. Think hard about why the audience should listen and tell them. If you do this, it is likely that whatever it is you are talking about is likely to resonate with your audience.
Remember, in public speaking, it is the speaker, not the topic!