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12 Steps To An Effective Speech

Ramon Greenwood -- Trauma time! Research shows that fear of public speaking is one of the top horrors for most of us. Don't allow it to become a career stumbling block. Instead, accelerate your path to success when you follow these job tips.

Odds are sooner or later you will have to make a speech if you are going to move forward on your career path.

Trauma time! Research shows that fear of public speaking is one of the top horrors for most of us. Uncontrolled, this fear can be a stumbling block in your to career success.

Careerists, who are confidence personified in one-on-one situations, turn to quivering Jell-O when called on to speak to a group. Others, who can effectively deliver their messages from behind a desk, mumble, ramble ,and otherwise fall flat on their faces when speaking before an audience.

Platform phobia may never disappear completely for you, but the monster can be brought under control, so that you can perform adequately as a public speaker.

Here are 12 steps you can take to control fear and do a better job the next time you are called to the platform.

12 Steps Toward Career Success

1. Be sure you know what is expected of you.

What subject are you expected to cover? Is your assignment to entertain or to inform? How much time do you have?

2. Scope out the audience and setting.

Who and how many will be there? What are their interests, at what levels? What about the physical setup of the site?

3. Put your speech in writing.

Read it aloud, repeatedly. There is a difference between the way spoken and written messages are received.

4. Have someone else read your speech for clarity and logic.

You may be an unwitting victim of that old trap that goes like this: "I know you believe that you understand what you think I said. But I am not sure you realize that what you heard is what I meant." One expert has said, "When you say something, make sure you have said it. The chances of your having said it are only fair."

Most people forget 60 percent of what they hear within 24 hours. Therefore, you should identify your major points and then take the advice of Winston Churchill, one of the great orators of all time, who said: "If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit a third time -– a tremendous whack."

5. Practice, practice, practice.

If possible, have someone make a videotape of you delivering the speech. Review the tape several times to understand how others will "see" you. Your posture, your tone of voice, your body gestures can be as powerful a carrier of your message as your words. Practice with a tape recorder if you can't get videotape made. If you can't make a video or audiotape, rehearse before a mirror.

6. Dress appropriately.

Your research into the location of your speech and the makeup of the audience should tell you how to dress. In other words, don't handicap yourself by showing up in a three-piece suit for a speech at a golf outing.

7. Speak from notes or an outline.

Never read the text verbatim. If you must read a portion of your message, look up frequently.

8. Vary your voice -- tone, volume, tempo.

9. Illustrate your speech with visual aids (i.e., slides, flip charts, overheads) when feasible.

10. Speak one-to-one to your audience, not the mass.

Focus on individual faces in different sections of the audience. Sometimes, it helps to call out individual names.

11. Put your listeners in perspective.

Remember, you are presumed to know more about the subject than they do. You are in command. Your audience wants you to deliver a good speech.

12. Recognize it is all right to be afraid.

So long as you keep your fear under control, it will keep your battery charged and actually help you make a better speech.

Your path to career success will be accelerated when you follow these job tips whether you are speaking to a packed auditorium, a committee or your boss one on one.

Ramon Greenwood, Senior Career Counselor at Common Sense At Work, is a former Senior Vice President of American Express. To subscribe to his free semi-monthly newsletter and blog please go to

© 2007 Ramon Greenwood

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