1. Write your own introduction. Probably someone else is going to introduce you. Write the words yourself, making it brief, pertinent, and emphasizing your credentials.
2. Know your audience. Make sure you know exactly who is going to be in the audience, why they are there, and why they invited you to speak.
3. Check the setting. Go to the facility early to make sure you’re comfortable in the surroundings. Check the microphone, lighting, audio/visual equipment, and any other factors that may affect your performance. Meet the audience members as they arrive, this is a great way to build rapport and a captive audience.
4. Start with a bang. The first thirty seconds have the most impact. Don’t waste these precious seconds with “Ladies and Gentlemen” or a weather report. Come out punching with a startling statement, quote, or story.
5. Use humor with caution. Don’t start with a joke unless you are absolutely brilliant at it. If you bomb, you’re going to lose any credibility you have. And if your only humorous material is at the beginning, the audience will be disappointed when you become serious.
6. Limit your topics. If you’re giving a half-hour speech, don’t expect to tell the audience everything you know. Pick two or three important points. Embellish your points with story and examples.
7. Structure your information. You and your audience will remember your points better if you have a clear outline. For example, start by saying, “Here are the five questions I’m asked most.” One great structure is the three Alcoholics Anonymous statements: “This is where I was” — “This is where I am now” — “This is how I got here.” (You can reverse the first two, beginning with where you are today and then contrast it with where you started from.)
8. Use handouts. If your presentation involves statistics and analytical data, put them in a handout that the audience can refer to. Don’t bore them by reciting a plethora of numbers. Stories are what make a talk memorable and lively.
9. Don’t read your speech. Look your audience in the eye. Write down key points or statements so you can refer to them, but deliver the rest of it spontaneously making eye contact. Practice with a tape recorder or in front of friends and family. After every point, ask yourself, “Who cares?” If no one does, omit it.
10. End with a bang. Write a strong and memorable closing statement or vivid example. Then memorize it so, no matter what distractions may occur, you can always “bring it home.” When the time comes, deliver your closing line directly to the audience, then accept their applause.
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Patricia Fripp CSP, CPAE is a San Francisco-based executive speech coach and award-winning professional speaker. She is the author of Get What You Want!, Make It, So You Don’t Have to Fake It!, and Past-President of the National Speakers Association. Visit Fripp’s website at http://www.fripp.com