Preparing and delivering a good speech can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. But, truth be told, it can also be one of the most anxiety-inducing. While some folks might seem to be “naturals” at speech-making, there’s a good chance that there’s a little anxiety beneath that calm exterior. Preparation and experience are what will make the difference. The following tips will help even reluctant writers and nervous speakers approach the podium with confidence.

Suit the Occasion – The nature of the occasion should dictate the content of your speech, but it also helps determine what tone to use, how long the speech will be and what expectations the audience holds.

Know Your Audience You must know and target your audience in order to be effective. If the audience is unfamiliar, an early goal of your speech should be to gain the trust and respect of your listeners.

Writing the Speech
– Like most other written projects, the speech must have a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • The Opening - The first thirty to sixty seconds are crucial. You must engage the audience and grab its attention while establishing your purpose. Some proven methods include:
    • A thought-provoking, rhetorical question
    • A lively, even controversial, statement
    • A relevant quotation from an expert source
    • And, if appropriate, a joke or amusing anecdote
  • The Body – The largest part of your speech, the body contains all the points or statements you are attempting to make. Some tips for building a successful body to your speech are:
    • List out all the statements you can make, then carefully choose only the most effective ones; it's better to make a few strong points than have a bunch of weak fillers
    • Organize the points into a logical progression, and allow each point to build upon the previous ones
  • The Closing – The closing has to be part summary, part opportunity. You want one more chance to influence your audience and leave a lasting impression. It may help to close with any or all of the following:
    • A summary of your main points, with emphasis on the ones that worked well
    • A final thought about the topic, phrased in a powerful way
    • An emotionally charged appeal to the audience
Once you’ve prepared your speech, be sure to practice it as many times as possible by yourself in front of a mirror at first, then in front of family, friends, pets, anyone you can get to listen. Even if you are going to have speaking notes, the better you know what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it, the more polished, confident and persuasive you will seem to your audience.