Principles and Guidelines of an Effective Public Speaking

You are almost there, but not yet. Recall the many tips and guidelines that you have read and heard about public speaking and presentations and figure out which of these are relevant to you now. We have a list of more guidelines and principles about effective public speaking that you should remember.

Effective Public Speaking is…

1. Purposive

Speech must have a purpose: to entertain, to inform, and to persuade are three of the most general purposes we consider.

2. Under pressure

Accept it. Speaking in public is intimidating. You will feel the pressure not only from the listeners—from the outsiders, but also from within you. Your negative self-perception and high personal standards can be very hard on you. Stop thinking that this speech is one that will break you as a person; instead, consider this as an opportunity for the world to hear your voice. Since no one else really knows your limitations, you are also the best person who can prove your worth. Mistakes happen, but they are just small specks of dust compared to what you can offer your audience. Also, remember, being nervous helps you to focus and improve your performance.

3. Builds up

A topic is a germ for speaking and writing that needs to grow. First, you must have something to say about the matter. State this in a complete sentence as your thesis statement. Then, support your main idea with details. In addition, “building up” means motivating the audience, sustaining their attention and interest by making your talk engaging, and ending your speech appropriately. Just like when you are writing, you are not supposed to state a new idea at the end of your speech.

4. Logically organized

Arrange your ideas logically, aiming for clarity of presentation. An important part of preparing for your presentation is writing down your ideas in a full outline or a full speech. After writing, you have to condense your ideas for delivery.

Why write the speech and then condense it?

The answer depends on the method of delivery that you will use. Remember that your outline serves as your blueprint, your guide. This outline is especially useful in delivering an extemporaneous speech. Since you are not supposed to memorize your speech verbatim, you need to condense it into a keyword outline or notes from which you can speak naturally. You can flexibly discuss your ideas guided by the parameters and points you have considered in the preparation of your speech. This process is like putting your thoughts into a large container to see its shape; then, placing its content in smaller cups. Later, practice delivering this piece but do it in a spontaneous manner.

Write your notes or keywords on small sheets of paper or index cards. Use codes, either numbers or colors, to arrange them orderly. In case you have PowerPoint slides to use during your presentation, these notes in bullets can guide you in your discussion. Rehearse your speech using your cue cards as your guide. They are not reading materials; do not focus your eyes on them.

In many schools, competitions in extemporaneous speaking provide very little time to prepare: from fifteen to thirty minutes of preparation time, followed by a five- to seven-minute speech, depending on the mechanics of the competition. This procedure explains why many people use impromptu and extemporaneous speaking interchangeably, but the former has no preparation at all, and the speaker talks on his/her feet. Since this course hopes to assist you in the process of public speaking, you are given enough time to prepare for your delivery.

This scenario is different when you speak from a manuscript in formal gatherings such as in research paper presentations and political privilege speeches. This type of speech delivery does require a completely written manuscript of your entire presentation. This written piece assists you in ensuring that you cover all points and details in the presentation, especially the facts and statistics that are of great significance in supporting your claims. However, remember that: While reading the manuscript, you still have to establish rapport with your audience by pausing at some points and maintaining eye contact with them in between your reading.

5. Inspiring

The speech need not be a homily to be inspiring, but it may be one that makes the listeners feel good about themselves, the occasion, and the topic. Although your speech may not be perfect, it should be remembered positively.

6. Contextualized

Every speech considers the context and circumstances surrounding it: for whom and for what is your speech or presentation? What are the background of your audience members (their age, value positions, educational attainment, socioeconomic status, culture, language) and the occasion and reason you have to deliver the talk? What is the field or discipline this speech? Context requires adjusting your language and style appropriately to the norms of your target audience. For example, it may be important in a talk about surfing as way of spending your leisure time to first define surfing for your audience. “Surfing” may be interpreted differently when you are on a beach and when you are inside a computer shop. Do not pressure your audience will understand you, especially if they are from an older generation.

Moreover, dress up properly according to the context of your speech. You will feel more confident when you know that you are properly dressed for the occasion and you will command respect from your audience, as well.

7. Sincere

While no one else knows that your knees are shaking and that your stomach is a bit upset because of anxiety, be sincere in delivering your speech and in dealing with people. Aspire to radiate goodwill. People feel the speaker’s sincerity not only through the words he/she uses but also through the nonverbal language that goes with it. When a speaker says that he/she is happy to be invited to give a welcome remark but is not smiling at all and is in a hurry to finish the speech, the audience might think that he/she is not true to what he/she is saying. As you have learned previously, actions speak louder than words.

8. Performed

Considering public speaking as a performance on stage requires every speaker to be an actor or actress. As such, forget your apprehensions and problems before you face the audience. Put on a convincing face to attract the audience and use both verbal and nonverbal language to impart your message sincerely. Use body language in coordination with what you say. Use right timing when you use your hands and arms, body, and facial expressions and move on stage naturally. Hold the microphone confidently and use it effectively to improve the quality of your voice and increase its volume. Use the stage strategically to highlight yourself as “the speaker.” Maintain your composure and mind your posture.

9. Engaging

As you deliver your speech, remember that public speaking is not just a performance but also an opportunity to communicate, to share your ideas and feelings about a certain topic. Talk to your audience. “Listen” to their verbal and nonverbal reactions and adjust your delivery accordingly. Do you need to speak louder? Do you need to inject an appropriate joke? Try calling their attention by asking them to smile at each other. How about citing your personal experiences to illustrate a point? Why not use a rhetorical question to excite their thinking? Communicate with your audience. Engage them with your presentation.

10. Always prepared

Preparation is key to a successful speech. Practice delivering your speech. Do it correctly. Do it several times. We do not only mean preparation before the speech but also while delivering it, and after. Always be prepared for the unexpected. Anticipate technical and equipment problems and handle them efficiently when they happen. In case an open forum is part of the program, be ready to handle questions after your speech. Maintain tact. You may disagree with your audience, but do it agreeably.

11. Keeps the audience’s attention

o hook the audience’s attention is one thing, and to maintain it is another. You do not need to be an entertainer, though. Know your topic by heart. Follow the other guidelines and be amazed as your audience listens to you.

12. Inclusive

Inclusivity does not only pertain to covering all the main points, their supports, and other details pertinent to your speech. Inclusivity also means giving consideration to your audience and distributing your attention to all of them during your actual delivery. Move on stage or vary your body’s position so that you will have the opportunity to distribute your gaze and attention to all the listeners. In case the venue is big, attempt to call their attention and ask them whether or not they can hear you from the back. Do not hesitate to adjust the height of the microphone when necessary. If the microphone is not provided, modulate your voice and adjust your vocal projection.

13. Not perfect

Although speakers strive for perfection, accept that lapses and the unexpected can happen. They can possibly distract you and make you forget what you are supposed to say. However, competent speakers are not those who do not commit mistakes but those who triumph over such mistakes. For example, in one small gathering, a speaker called the amber or orange triangle used by motorists an “early morning device” instead of “an early warning device.” When the listeners laughed after she said it, she knew that she committed a blunder. Instead of ignoring the mistake, or being embarrased by it, she laughed with them. Her pause made the audience believe that it was an intentional joke.

14. Helps you gain confidence

Many people say that you need self-confidence to speak in front of a large crowd. They are right. However, we also gain more confidence as we expose ourselves to different opportunities to communicate publicly. We master what we do regularly. We should also muster our courage as we engage in what we may dread to do pubic speaking.

Another way to remember all these principles and guidelines is to take note of the Cs of public speaking:

    • Content (what to say)
    • Context — (occasion, purpose, audience)
    • Confidence and conviction
    • Concentration and Practice
    • Code (verbal language)
    • Clothing and grooming
    • Choreography (gestures, facial expressions, body movements)

In addition, Andrew Dlugan (2009) gives a very interesting presentation of what to avoid in public speaking. He calls these “the seven deadly sins” of public speaking.

    • Sloth: failing to prepare for your speech or presentation
    • Envy: believing that great speakers are born with their skills
    • Lust: quelling your nerves by picturing the audience naked
    • Gluttony: believing that more words/slides/facts/numbers is always better
    • Greed: speaking over your allotted time
    • Wrath: rigidly reacting to problems and losing your cool
    • Pride: placing yourself ahead of the audience 

Believe it! Now, you are ready to deliver that very important and most-awaited speech that you have been preparing for the past days. You are now ready to face the audience that you have been visualizing. You are now ready to be a great speaker who will transcend your fears and limitations.

Yes! You can do it!