Public Speaking: Tips For Addressing Large Crowds

Do you have to give a speech for a large crowd? Here are some tips to help win over your audience.

The best way to give a speech is to plan to speak extemporaneously. This means that you will carefully prepare what you want to speak about, but speak off the top of your head during your speech. Reading from scripts or attempting to memorize a speech can make you sound dry, stale, and tend to trip you up if you lose your place. Make index cards outlining your key points, number them and put them in order, and use them as prompts while you are speaking. The index cards help you stay on track, while freeing you to speak in a more conversational tone. This will help you sound natural and loose, and give you more opportunity to pay attention to and interact with the audience.

Interaction with the audience is vital to the success of the impact you make upon them. Make eye contact with people, and look back and forth among the crowd. Smile, nod, and receive feedback from your audience via their body language. Do people look confused? You might need to repeat or elaborate. Are people starting to turn away or fidget? Perhaps you should get to your point, or try making a movement or telling a joke that will draw the attention back to you. Are they leaning on the edge of their seats, smiling and nodding- you've got them! Hold on to that!

Your voice is your instrument when you are speaking in public. Make sure to project your voice when speaking to a large crowd, and enunciate properly. Even if you have a microphone, your voice can get lost among outside noises such as paper shuffling, glasses clinking and passing traffic. It is much harder to get people to pay attention to you when they can't understand what you are saying. Make sure you are heard throughout the room. Also, try to vary the tone and volume of your voice. This keeps your speaking lively and demands your audience's attention. It is not easy to pay attention to someone who drones on like a machine.

As you speak, try to be animated, without being fidgety. No movement at all can make an audience's attention drift, while too many annoying ticks and jerks can be irritating to watch for any length of time. A few natural gestures or hand movements can help to punctuate points or draw attention back when it is waning.

Use visual aids whenever possible. Visual aids not only draw attention, but help audiences connect to what you are saying on another level. Make sure your visual aids are large enough to be seen by everyone in the room. Have posters blown up, use charts, graphs, or even just large words written on cards that punctuate your message. I once attended a speech on eliminating negative thinking in which the person used special magicians paper; every time he made a point on how to rid yourself of a negative thought, he lit up a crumpled piece and threw the small, fiery ball into the air, where it promptly vanished in a puff of smoke. Sometimes the silliest or most absurd visual aids can make the biggest impact and make your speech more memorable.

Before speaking in public, make sure you get a good night's rest. Eat enough to satisfy yourself, but don't stuff yourself. Keep well hydrated to avoid dry mouth. Avoid caffeine, which can make you anxious. Dress comfortably, using layers that you can add or remove at will, so that you are neither too cold nor too warm. You want to feel comfortable and relaxed, yet alert. The more prepared you are, the more ready you will be to win over your audience.

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