Tips on Public Speaking

Best Man, Maid of Honor, work conferences, meetings -- we all know that there's nothing worse than a boring or unprepared speech.  I've given talks in front of hundreds of people at industry conferences but the toughest and most important speech that I ever made was as Matron of Honor at my sister's wedding. These tips are for anyone giving a speech or presentation  of any kind.  Click on the video at the bottom to see if I managed to hold back the tears during my Matron of Honor speech. Did I miss any public speaking tips? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

Sarah Maid of Honor Speech

1. Tell a Story.  Everyone loves a great story and it's much easier to remember a story than a list of facts and figures. Interweave the facts portion of your speech with parts of a compelling story or a series of compelling stories that illustrate your point. Here's a good example from Malcolm Gladwell.

2.  Practice.  I find it offensive when people "wing it" at wedding speeches. It's a special day for your loved one and you will have the attention of more people than you may ever for the rest of your life. Maybe that sounds harsh, but I've seen far too many awful, train-wreck or downright boring speeches. It's also frustrating when I attend a conference or event and it's clear that the speaker hasn't rehearsed.

3.  Stand in 3 Places.  It's distracting to wander around the stage and can become a nervous habit. Choose up to three landing points on the stage and move between those three. Sheryl Sandberg does a decent job of this here.

4.  Intonation.  Use different tones of voice. Vary your pitch up and down. Mix it up with some loud parts and some almost-whispers. You'll feel like a fool practicing it but it'll make for a more engaging presentation.

5.  Words on Slides. Don't do it.  Instead of words, use just images. You know why TedTalks are so engaging? Because they don't read bullet points off of slides. When you have words on the slide, viewers are reading the words instead of listening to you. Let's hope this applies only to conference-type speeches and not wedding speeches.

6. Better yet...no slides.  Seriously. Try it.

7.  Memorize It (maybe).  For smaller-scale, emotional speeches like a Best Man or Maid of Honor speech, you should read from your notes. But for a large conference-style speech, you need to know it from memory. Here's my memorization process:

+write out the speech and interweave stories that I tell that I already know by heart (no new memorization required for that part)

+practice reading it a zillion times: to myself and out loud

+write down the first sentence of each section on an index card

+practice going start to finish without stopping using just the index card...regardless of if I make a mistake

With this approach, I know the order of things, and once I get started with the section, I remember what part of the story I'm telling. When I'm nervous, I tend to go blank at transition points, so having the first sentence of each section reignites my memory.

8.  Technical Difficulties.  There are bound to be technical difficulties with any presentation. Always travel with your own adapters, arrive super early to test your slides, and don't rely on a solid internet connection - save your presentation and any audio or visual onto your desktop. When something inevitably goes wrong, do like Steve Jobs and have a funny story to stall while the tech team fixes it.

Amy and Justin Featurette from Best Man Media on Vimeo.