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Public Speaking

  • Public speaking is a learned skill that is mastered through practicing the fundamental components that allow one to captivate the audience. Public speaking is comprised of both what you say and how you say it. The focus is not only on the content of a speech but also on the interaction and connection with the audience. If people only cared about what you had to say then you could just read it! Great public speakers know how to effectively and engagingly speak to an audience.

    All the great speakers were bad speakers at first.

    — Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • Videos

  • Professor Peaches’ Tips

    Capturing the Audience from the Onset

    Speeches are very structured deliveries. The opening of a speech holds a unique and powerful role; it sets the stage for the audience’s levels of engagement and interest. Therefore, beginning one’s talk in a powerful and captivating manner is important. The following section outlines some helpful techniques to grab the audience’s full attention from the very beginning when giving a speech.

    Relating the topic to the audience

    Individuals enjoy hearing things that are relevant to their lives. They are able to relate and feel a sense of personal gain by listening to the information. Directly informing the audience why your speech matters for them inherently grabs their attention. For this technique to be effective you must give your audience information that is actually congruent with their needs and interests.

    Share a story

    People love listening to stories, especially entertaining stories. Starting a speech off with an interesting and relevant story is a great way to win the audience’s attention. It draws them in and leaves them wanting to hear more. It can be helpful to inform the listeners that you are going to share a story with them rather than jumping right into it; setting the stage for the story primes the audience and increases their excitement for the story. You don’t want them to accidentally miss part of your story because they did not realize you were telling one!

    State the importance of the topic

    Clearly explaining the significance of your speech from the onset makes the reasons underlying speech easy and obvious for the audience to digest. Understanding the speech’s importance can also help engage the people. However, this technique can also have the opposite effect if the audience does not interpret the speaker’s rationale as important. If your topic is not truly important do not try and artificially build it up; people may be able to see through this, and you risk losing people before you have even gotten to your core content. People appreciate and respond to honesty.

    Use a powerful quote

    Well-selected quotes are impactful because the messages they convey are ubiquitous and resonate with your audience. For example, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” spoken by Wayne Gretzky, while initially about hockey can be applied across a wide range of settings and situations. The ability for people to understand and connect with the quote, along with its powerful message, primes them for your message. Opening a speech using an influential quotation, that is related to one’s talk, can be a strong way to grab the listener’s interest and attention.

    Include the audience

    People are inclined to listen when they are spontaneously asked a question. Therefore, opening a speech by asking the audience a rhetorical question or a question you want them to think about is advantageous for getting them actively involved from the very beginning. You want them here in the moment, ready to think about what you are saying not whether they left the dog fresh water this morning. A similar helpful technique is to ask the listeners to imagine a fictional situation or to think about a time when they felt a specific way, for example nervous or excited. Having the audience participate, opposed to simply listening, can increase the viewer’s energy and likelihood to want to listen.

    Pique the audience’s curiosity

    Starting a speech out with a shocking or astounding statement can automatically cause the listeners to want to hear the information that has led to the initial declaration. The key when implementing this type of opening is for the initial statement to be accurate. If it is false or too grandiose your audience will likely lose interest in the speech, since in their eyes you, the speaker, have lost credibility.