The key to any successful public speech is in the preparation and practice. While the organisation is vital to enable our listeners to follow our ideas; to understand our evidence – it is in the practice that we hone the delivery to create the emotional impact.

The best researched speech looses its appeal if it is read from notes at the lectern. The audience appeal comes from the direct interaction between listeners and speaker; and that needs complete familiarity with what you are saying. To obtain that you need bucket loads of practice!

Most of us will write our speeches out, we will organise our material and take care about our timing. We will read and reread our speech, often trying for ‘word by word’ recall. This is more often than not a recipe for disaster; for if we forget just one word, we will forget all words that follow.

Again, we forget that if we write our speech and then learn it, we will be delivering it using the written voice – and we write differently to how we speak. The difference may only be slight, but it will be immediately obvious to our listeners in the faint formality of the words and phrasing.

We need to rehearse our written speech until we are absolutely familiar, not with the words but with the ideas and the evidence we use to support them. Then we can reduce our written speech to the ideas only. Our notes then can merely consist of these ideas as ‘dot points’.

We should then practice speaking about the ideas using our normal phrasing; if we know our material well enough we will be able to present the speech in a natural manner avoiding the formality of the written word.

And, because we no longer depend on ‘word by word’ recall, we lose the fear of “forgetting the next word” – all we need to do is glance across to our notes and remind ourselves of the idea that we are now talking about, and even if we given the information in a slightly different way or order, we are still giving the information!

It all sounds perfectly simple – when we say it quickly! But it needs a great deal of practice for us to become that familiar with our topic, our ideas and our evidence. Which in turn means that we need to begin our preparation early enough to allow us the time to practice. And that is where we often fall down.

If we leave the organisation and preparation until the last minute, what time do we have to become familiar with our speech? We will not have the confidence to throw away our carefully written speech and we will present ourselves on the stage, or at the lectern clutching our notes in our shaking hand.

We then have no alternative – we have to read them or risk the humiliation of forgetting what we are saying and having to rush back to our notes to keep us on track. Just imagine it! I am sure you know exactly what I am saying!

But now picture this, calm and confident and in complete control of your speaking area. Direct contact with your audience, talking to them about your topic in your own words, each one coming from the heart and from the moment!

This picture of a confident public speaker does not come from dreams – it comes from hours of practice, practice, practice that creates such a familiarity with your ideas that when you come to deliver the speech it appears so natural to be unrehearsed.

‘P’ is for Practice – and practice makes perfect.

Michele @ Trischel

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