Preparations for Public Speaking

Speaking in public may be challenging, but you can prepare for it. Here are some guidelines to consider:

1. Decide on an interesting topic to discuss.

Preparing for a public speech is tedious, so you need to look for a subject that interests you or find something interesting on the topic assigned to you. It is easy to overcome challenges when you are interested in what-ever you are doing. Besides, who will listen to somebody who does not even like what he/she is talking about?

If you agree that public speaking is interactional and transactional, you should also consider the interests and background of your target audience who will give you feedback.

2. Determine your audience and purpose.

In your previous lessons, you learned the significance of finding the profile of your audience and your purpose of communicating with them.

You need to know the size or number of your listeners including their background and profile: their age, gender, size, culture, academic, needs, group affiliations, and interests.

Your general purpose may be to inform, persuade, demonstrate, or entertain your audience, and you may also combine any of these purposes. You may inform and entertain, or inform and persuade your audience. But you also need to specify further your purpose/s considering the profile of your audience.

    • Are you going to inform professionals on an issue that baffled teenagers like you (e.g., teenage pregnancy, peer pressure, drug addiction, use of social media among others)?
    • Are you going to convince young people to believe in your personal or school-related advocacy (e.g., using social media responsibly, peer mentoring, avoiding premarital sex, among others)?
    • Are you going to entertain your friends and other guests at the debut of your best friend?

Determining the purpose/s of your speech and considering your audience profile help in planning your speech, identifying the style and language, and deciding what strategies to use to deliver your speech. In case you need gadgets or other equipment for your talk or presentation, you can also plan how you will use them and how you will move on stage. You can also start choosing an attire appropriate for the occasion.

3. Know the time and place to deliver your speech.

Where and when are you going to present your speech? This question may be simple, but getting specifics about the time and venue can help in designing your speech. A small number of audiences may not require a microphone, but a large crowd demands a powerful sound system; a small group may not require a big screen for your presentation, but a large gathering does. In a seminar-workshop, a small group may be easier to manage, but a large audience necessitates a more active speaker to monitor their output.

It is also wise to know the order of activities and speeches in the program. In real life, several speeches happen in an event or occasion. The response of your audience to a speech or number before your turn, as well as the psychosocial climate, can affect the attitude of your listeners. Such attitude may have a spillover when it is your turn to deliver your speech. They may become very eager to listen to you, or they may start yawning as a sign of boredom. While you may not have ail control over the audience’s reaction, it is still wise to situate your speech, or to some extent, customize it as the need arises. Hence, get a copy of the program early enough to prepare for your actual speech.

4. Focus and organize your ideas logically.

Narrow down your topic so that it is manageable to discuss or present given the allotted time. Decide on a thesis statement: this is your message to the audience. State your central idea or thesis statement clearly in a complete sentence, and use accurate, precise, and comprehensible language in discussing the supporting details. If you are writing an informative speech, state the central idea about that information in a relatively objective and neutral manner. If you are working on a persuasive speech, tell your target audience your claim and what you want them to do.

While some writers and speakers find outlining laborious, many find it helpful in organizing their ideas logically. The word outline may be useful and less laborious compared to a sentence outline in identifying the scope of your speech. Other people prefer a web-like structure, an idea map, to guide them in their thinking. Use an outline that suits your writing style.

When you were in junior high school, you learned several ways to organize your ideas in writing an essay. Now, you can also employ the same designs or formats to develop your topic and ar-range your supports logically namely:

    1. Chronological — explains a series of events or developments  
    2. Cause and effect — presents reason/s or cause/s of how certain results or effects have happened
    3. Spatial — describes the physical setting or arrangement of things
    4. Comparison and contrast — explains the similarities and differences of things, people, and events
    5. Problem solution — presents an essential problem to be addressed and the possible solution/s to address

Furthermore, consider your transitions from one idea to another. You may plan to briefly summarize after each main point, or you may use transitional devices to express the following:

    • addition of ideas: also, furthermore, besides, moreover, in addition to
    • contrast of ideas: on the contrary, however, nevertheless, in contrast, otherwise, etc.
    • importance/emphasis: remember, above all, most importantly
    • comparison: likewise, similarly, also, both are
    • chronology/sequence: first, second, next, initially, to begin with, finally, since then, now, earlier, later, last time, eventually, etc.
    • spatial: behind, around, to the left, to the right, upward, downward, in front of, at the back, etc.
    • causation and result: in effect, consequently, accordingly, as a result, hence, thus, because, due to, etc.

Together with your internal short summaries, or shifts from one idea to another, also imagine how you, will transition from one point to another using nonverbal language. Here are some possible ways:

    • Will you pause and walk?
    • Will you change voice inflection?
    • Will you click your gadget to go to another slide?
    • Will you look at your audience and pause to wait for their reaction?
    • Will you use your fingers or whole hand to count the points you have discussed?

5. Find materials for your speech.

Since you are now preparing for the most significant speech in this course, you are given time to find materials for it. This presentation is neither an impromptu speech nor a memorized one. You prepare for its content and practice for its delivery. You may remember some important facts and keywords. You are allowed to throw in an off-the-cuff, impromptu remark when you deliver it, but you would not have that kind of flexibility if you do not know your topic by heart. What materials will you need? The answer depends on your topic and purpose/s. Is your topic academic? Is it technical? Is it controversial? Is it abstract? Is it loaded with emotion or do you need to load it with emotional impact? Consider the following:

      • Do you need to define and describe fundamental concepts?
      • Would you use statistics and facts to substantiate your claims?
      • Should you cite inspiring anecdotes to get the attention of the audience?
      • Would you like to tell your personal narratives to illustrate your points and to bring your audience to a shared understanding of people’s experiences?
      • Do you need experts’ opinion to support your claims?
      • Do you intend to add humor to your speech?
      • Would other people’s testimonies support your point/claim? Do they need to be experts or ordinary people?

You have to decide which of these you should consider in gathering materials for your speech. In formal public speaking, you will feel the need to conduct research in the library or surf the In-ternet to gather data. However, remember to cite your sources. In some instances, you may also have to use other strategies such as conducting surveys or interviewing people to give you practical answers to substantiate your claims or to gather anecdotes that will enrich your talk.

6. Draft your speech.

You need not memorize a prepared speech verbatim, but you may need to see how it appears on paper. Your speech is not exactly an essay, although it shares some similarities with the essay. You will be given a singular chance to deliver your speech, and it is your performance that will be graded. Your outline or written output serves as a concrete blueprint of your presentation. In most of your English classes, you have written different types of essays, which you have revised several times until they become-acceptable and comprehensible to your target readers. While your readers may have more chance to repeat reading your essays since they are documented, your audience in most public speaking will listen to you once only (unless somebody records it for future viewing or listening). While you may need to use figures of speech to embellish your talk, you still have to keep your presentation clear and simple. Your sentences may be shorter than what you write in your essays so that those who have difficulty capturing whatever you are saying will understand your points. You will deliver this written output orally; hence, you need not use lengthy and complicated sentences. You also need to present your speech naturally because you have a live audience who can readily give feedback verbally and nonverbally.