Effective Public Speaking
As a member of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance,
you will have numerous opportunities to hone your public speaking
skills. Take advantage of these opportunities, as public speaking
experience will benefit you throughout your college years
and beyond, and practice is the best way to improve.
Read the Audience, Not the Speech
- Never read a speech. It is fine to use notes if you need
them - a brief outline or list of key points will help
you stay on message. However, don't rely too heavily
on written material.
- Make eye contact with your audience and notice their reaction.
Are they bored? Liven it up. Are they confused? Clarify.
Use Key Points
- To lend clarity and focus to your public speaking, emphasize
a clear set of main points.
- Avoid elaborating on too many details, but use a few strong
examples to back up your major points.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
- If you want your audience to remember your key points,
you must repeat them several times.
- Many people in your audience will know little or nothing
about your speech topic, so give them several chances to
absorb your message by repeating the main points.
Change it Up
- Your words are only a part of your speech your
body language, mood, and tone of voice also contribute.
- Vary the tone and volume of your voice according to the
mood you want to create. Changes in your voice will help
keep your audiences attention, and it will help get
your message and passion across.
Know Your Audience
- It is important to tailor your speech to the audience.
The key points usually remain the same, but you will want
to draw out different examples and highlight varying aspects
of an issue depending on your audience.
- If you are speaking to an organization, it is important
to understand the history and focus of the group. Knowing
something about the audience and giving them recognition
in your speech is helpful in creating an engaging and successful
Keep the Debate on Point
- If you are participating in a panel discussion or a debate,
it is essential to continually bring the discussion back
to the key issues at hand. Be careful not to let the debate
Cite Sources and Statistics
- The use of credible sources (experts) and statistics can
be helpful in strengthening your presentation.
- However, dont overdo it. Sources and statistics
should bolster your message, not make it more complicated.
How to Handle Q&A
- Question and answer periods are important for the learning
process, but they must be approached carefully.
- Do not allow hostile audience members to monopolize your
time. Handle negative questions briefly and in a controlled
manner, then move on to other questions.
- If someone asks you a question that you cannot answer,
simply state that you do not know and will be happy to get
the answer for her/him.
- Use question and answer periods to emphasize your key
points. Always look for the opportunity to link the response
back to one of your key points, so that you leave the audience
with a strong message.
Leaders' Institute Reading Room