Old Schooling: Are those forgotten tips to public speaking still worthwhile?

Remember the time you had to speak in front of a large crowd for a presentation or speech, and the advice you received, almost in jest, from others?

“Think of every person in their underwear.”
“Don’t think about what you’re doing, just follow your notes.”

“Practicing won’t help; just wing it.”

Based on that information, and what we know now, we needed to learn a lot about public speaking. All of those so called helpful hints didn’t translate all that well when you consider that almost to a tee the complete opposite sounds more appropriate.

The underwear comment centers on not being overly nervous and to do anything you can not to focus on your audience. The exact opposite is true. You audience is key, and you should tailor your speech, the content and even how you deliver to that same group of people based on a variety of aspects: age, how much they understand the topic and if they’re a group that is part of your office or people who aren’t (such as a sales pitch).

If your audience isn’t engaged, it’s because either your delivery is poor or the subject matter doesn’t appeal to them. If the audience isn’t one you’re familiar with, you might want to tailor your speech to how the company you are representing can help them, rather than overtly pummel them with insider jargon that they may not understand from a benefit perspective.

As far as not practicing, that thought process is a sure fire way to fail. Furthermore, practice actually does make for a perfect speech, but keep in mind you don’t wan to rehearse anything or sound as thought the speech is canned. You want to include anecdotes that pertain to the topic and make sure the speech reads as though you’ve done your homework and research but aren’t afraid to give humorous, concrete examples that most importantly are relevant.

The worst part about trying to be too funny as part of a presentation or speech is that you start to treat this more like a stand up routine rather than a speech intended to inform and entertain in the same vein. You can’t argue that having a speech that is enjoyable certainly won’t hurt your chances of pleasing the audience but staying on point is often easier said then done.

And while notes for a speech are paramount, they’re supposed to be used as an outline for rehearsing your speech, not something to be leaned upon as a crutch.

The day of public speaking advice that focused on not paying attention or just reading from a script are badly outdated, but in place of those old school mantras are specific, advisable tips that simply work.