5 TRICKS to help you make a brilliant speech
As a comedy performer, Emma Stroud honed her skills on how to own a room. Now she advises nervous speakers through her own courses. She shares her insight…
1 PRACTISE OUT LOUD
It may feel awkward – and 95% of my clients tell me they don’t like the sound of their own voice – but that’s exactly why you should practise speaking out loud. You’ll get used to the sound of your voice, learn where to pause and what words to emphasise, and it will begin to feel normal. 2 FIND YOUR CONFIDENT STANCE Revert to this pose whenever you feel your confidence waning: place your feet hip-width apart, root your feet to the floor, open up your chest and lift up your head. It gives the illusion of confidence and makes you feel more authoritative.
3 BE YOURSELF
The most engaging speakers have one thing in common: authenticity. Anyone can reel off facts or point at graphs, but audiences are made up of people, and people connect with stories. Your personal story might be something small or it could be huge, like something you’ve overcome in your life, but it will be an insight into who you are.
4 THE 10-MINUTE RULE
It’s thought that the longest an audience can concentrate for is 18 minutes. You should try to recapture their attention before it dwindles, so I say aim for the 10-minute mark. At that point, do something different – ask questions, get them to move around in their seats or play a video. Alternatively, structure your speech into three sections, keeping each one under 10 minutes. 5 BELLY BREATHING TO CONTROL YOUR VOICE The key to speaking at a good pace (not too fast) and at a natural pitch is belly breathing. When we sit or stand, our habit is to breathe up in the chest, but you can retrain yourself with this exercise:
Fill your entire lung capacity, breathing into both your belly and chest. Imagine your inhalation is like filling a glass with water, beginning from the lowest part of the belly and filling to the top of the chest. Once you’ve taken this very big breath in, let it out on a big sigh of relief.
Return to your regular breathing, noticing the rise and fall of the belly with your breath.
It’s easiest to practise belly breathing when lying down. Take two minutes before you go to sleep and when you wake up, with your hands on your belly and your chest. Soon you’ll notice yourself breathing this way more naturally.