Speech preparation and presentation is an important part of the educational curriculum. Speech presentation is also significant in any industry as a way of pitching an idea to potential investors, presenting a project idea to team members, or giving a talk at a conference. In all instances, a great speech preparation is key to pinning down what you plan to talk about. For students, speech presentations are mainly used to test your understanding of the topic and the ability to articulate ideas to a group of people. It involves understanding your audience, the topic and how to relay your message in a way that the audience can understand.
The first step to speech preparation is to identify and define your target audience. Understanding your audience is key to selecting a relevant topic as well as determining ways of captivating them. One of the ways of defining the audience is by identifying their demographic such as what they have in common, what appeals to them and what you might have in common with them. The demographics also includes the gender, national origin, age, occupation, culture, and ethnicity. You should also put into account the knowledge of the audience in regards to your topic. This will be vital in determining the amount of research effort you need to put in the speech. For example, an audience well-versed in the topic such as a classroom setting or academic conference will require more research to be able to respond to any questions that may arise as well as capture their attention. However, it is worth noting that you should not use the demographics information to stereotype your audience especially if they belong to one group as you are likely to lose them.
Another aspect of understanding your audience is being aware of the effects of your world-view and biases on the audiences from different genders, cultures and ages. This should also dictate your choice of language and gestures or mannerism during the presentation. This is because some gestures or idioms may be natural to you but impact others differently or communicate different messages to them.
The second step to speech preparation is to select a topic relevant to the audience or the objective of the presentation. In cases such as academic conferences, topic selection can come before the audience definition. However, in cases where you are invited to give a speech on a random topic in your area of work or study, then understanding the target audience might come first. For students, your professor might provide the topic and thus your task is to conduct research and collect relevant information. There are three factors to selecting an appropriate topic: the audience, your knowledge of the topic and passion. The knowledge factor requires that you have a better understanding of the topic than your audience in order to respond to any questions comfortably. Understanding the topic will also enable you to deliver an engaging and fluid presentation. The passion factor requires that you develop a personal drive to share knowledge about the topic. The following steps should guide your topic selection:
Brainstorming helps generate new ideas around a topic either individually or with a group of people. You can brainstorm by clustering which involves creating a visual form of word associations. Start with the main idea then generate related ideas, topics and subcategories and continue the circle to grow the cluster.
Refining the ideas
After brainstorming many ideas, refine them into a single topic by considering any patterns or commonalities in the generated ideas.
Create an outline
The third step to speech preparation is creating a structure to guide the delivery of your speech. The speech should have both logical and structural elements consisting of introduction, body and conclusion;
Introduction: this is where you define the topic and the supporting points you plan to talk about.
Body: The body of your speech should contain the supporting points in detail in an ordered manner. For example, every support should have its own slide explaining the concept in bulleted points.
Conclusion: Conclude the speech by recapping the supporting points and a closing message like a recommendation or a call-to-action.
Write the speech
Having prepared an outline, the next step is to put pen on paper. Start by creating the first draft of your speech then fine-tune it into an effective form. Research on the ideas identified in the brainstorming stage and put down the points in bulleted form. Ensure that the points are aligned with the general topic or message of the speech. For academic presentations, you will need to provide credible sources of the ideas.
Practice the speech
Conduct a rehearsal of the presentation on the preliminary content created in the previous stage. The rehearsal should be unscripted to help you develop a free flow of the presentation before facing the audience. This will also reduce your reliance on the outline template and familiarize you with the topic.
Refine your speech
The next stage is to fine-tune your speech to ensure that it achieves the deserved clarity, structure and impact. As you practice your speech you will identify some structural or thematic issues that may affect the delivery. This involves editing the speech for grammar, format or spelling errors. It ensures that the sections of the speech combine seamlessly. As you rehearse your speech you can solicit feedback from friends or supervisors and act on it to ensure success of the presentation.
Add gestures, vocal and staging variety
The last stage to prepare your speech is to consider the tone in which you will deliver the speech and add relevant elements such as pause, pitch to enhance it. The following 4ps should be considered:
Pace: The pace is the rate of speaking and having a varying pace is vital for generating interest.
Pitch: pitch is the sound frequency which is important for creating different moods in the speech delivery.
Power: power refers to volume of delivery which is key to ensuring that people can hear without straining.
Pauses: Pauses during speech delivery help create suspense and generate interest. As such, they should be introduced at different stages of the speech in different lengths.