The process of preparing and delivering a speech can be a rewarding experience for students. Unfortunately, many youngsters also find public speaking to be one of the most daunting tasks they’ll face in their school career.  But the good news is that with a little guidance and practice, any speech can be successful. Use the following tips as a blueprint to help nervous speakers break through to confidence at the podium!

OCCASION: It’s important for the student to understand the nature of the occasion prior to preparing his or her speech. This will help determine the tone, length and audience expectations going in. For example, it may not be appropriate to lean on humor for a business presentation; levity would be better suited for a more relaxed atmosphere such as a wedding reception.

AUDIENCE: Knowing what type of group a speaker will be addressing is crucial. If the audience is unfamiliar with the speaker, the student’s first task must be to gain the trust of his or her listeners.  

PREPARATION: The establishment of clear goals on what the student hopes to accomplish with his or her speech is an important step. This will help make the final evaluation of a speech’s success much more thorough. For example, some gentle teasing of an award show recipient may score a speaker points, but he or she also risks offending audience members if due tribute is not also paid.

WRITING THE SPEECH: Much like the majority of writing assignments, all speeches will have a beginning, middle and end. Keep the following in mind when helping a student develop each section.
  • The opening makes up the first thirty to sixty seconds of the speech, and must engage the audience while also stating purpose.
  • The body is the speech’s largest part, and should contain every argument the student is trying to make. Students should deliver their points in a logical progression — allowing each one to build upon another.
  • The closing should be a blend of summary and an inspiration for further reflection. Students should consider the objective here as both a final attempt to influence the audience and the chance to leave a lasting impression.
DELIVERING THE SPEECH: A natural confidence-booster for any speaker comes from being well-dressed. And while having reference notes at the podium is encouraged, students should regularly make eye contact with their audience while speaking. Too much straight reading results in less speaker/audience interaction. But above all else, stress to students that they must let their natural personality shine though. In a nutshell, remind them how important it is to “Be Yourself!”