So you have to give a speech, maybe its just something short to introduce your keynote speaker, maybe you just have to bring the CEO on stage, or maybe you are the CEO on stage and are being glared at with anticipatory candor as the stage lights bake the perspiration off of your furrowed brow.
Even with years of experience in front of crowds I’ve seen supposedly seasoned speakers make meandering speeches with hackneyed jokes shoehorned in-between a hamfisted message that just barely makes sense by the end of a grueling 15 minutes.
If you want to keep your speeches from becoming a festival of seat shuffling and phone checking then there are a few things that can help.
Save the Thanks: Don’t try to thank people in your speech unless you’re giving a specific thank you speech (which should last no more than a minute). Thanking someone in an awkward public announcement in the hopes that they’ll stand up and have some key grip pan the audience with a squeaky spotlight will kill the enthusiasm faster than the applause you tried to drum up for them.
Don’t Be the Clap Police: If you do find yourself in the midst of a thank-you session, it happens, don’t try to create rules around the celebration out of the blue. If you don’t establish that people need to save their claps until the end of the long list then that’s on you. Either tell everyone that it would be appreciated that applause be held until the end of the reading of the list or you wait.
Write a Strong Conclusion: On the other side of the speech is the “I just wanted to end by saying” that people try to tack on. Unless that phrase is followed up with “thank you all, goodnight” then you could be about to tank your speech. Having a strong conclusion that harkens back to points you’ve hopefully been making throughout your speech is a classic way to end. A small thank you and a bow at the end is also a great visual and audible way to end without too much hassle. If you’re introducing someone, make sure that is known by slowing down, and saying their name clearly, then step to the side and gesture with an open hand to show that the stage is open.
Know Yourself: If you aren’t some charismatic comedian that’s going to ask how the audience is doing a minimum of twice then don’t try to be. If you’re the type of speaker who is going to have to look down at a paper the whole time, then own it: speak steadily but quickly, speak well, and get your point across. For those that are basically a pastel color come to life then do what you do, jump around like a motivational speaker, ask the audience for an “oh yeah” or a “rock and roll” to get the ridiculousness going, just be the best self you can on stage. There’s a time and place for both of these archetypes in speech and knowing where you lie is only beneficial.