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        Empowerment Series: Public Speaking

        Contributed by Business Professionals of America

        Empowerment Series: Public Speaking

        Hello BPA and welcome to the second installment of the Empowerment Series, Public Speaking! Even when compared to death, glossophobia, or the fear of public speaking, is the greatest fear! This is very significant, due to the fact that most people in their life will engage in public speaking. Though this is not a fear that just disappears, there are ways to manage it and help improve your public speaking skills.

        Writing a Speech

        Public speaking is a process of events that begin long before you stand up in front of an audience. The first step is to do your research. When you begin to prepare your speech, you should map out what your topic will be, what message you are trying to communicate to the audience and how you plan to do that. A great tip to avoid nerves is to know your topic inside out. This will help you feel more comfortable speaking because you are confident on your knowledge level. Once you have completed your research, you can begin to articulate your speech.


        Always begin with a powerful introduction to capture the audience’s attention. A few examples of things to begin a speech with are a relevant quote, a story or a joke to break the ice. By beginning your speech with a powerful introduction, your audience will listen attentively to hear what you have to say next. Many people believe they should begin their speech by introducing themselves and what topic they will be discussing. For example, “my name is John Smith and I am here to talk to you about leadership.” This is a behavior to avoid, due to the fact that you will probably be introduced and this information will already be presented to the audience.


        When writing your speech, you should know your audience. Depending on the audience’s age, ideology, or knowledge level, the way you deliver your speech and what you discuss could vary. For example, if you were to present to a school committee about BPA, you may want to avoid only using the acronym or any jargon that someone who isn’t familiar with BPA would not know. If it is unavoidable, try to introduce and explain what the acronym or jargon means, so everyone will understand. If the audience varies on knowledge level, always cater your speech to members of the audience who know less on the matter. More knowledgeable members of the audience will understand why you are being more informative and it will help members of the audience with less experience, understand what is being discussed.



        When writing your speech, try to write the speech in a conversational language. It is natural for us to write a speech exactly as we would any written report. We tend to write reports in a more formal way than the way we speak. If you were to try to give a speech based off of a report you have written, you will feel very awkward and try to add or change words as you go along. This will increase your nervousness and will hinder your ability to be an effective speaker.  This is also a good reason why you should write using shorter sentences, until you feel more comfortable public speaking. They will be easier to speak and it will be easier for the audience to understand.


        When writing your speech, keep in mind that you want to maintain your audience’s attention. Utilizing shorter sentences enables the audience to process what is being said while still keeping pace with the speaker. Remember to write for impact with sentences that intrigue the audience. This can be done using different rhetorical forms. A few methods of doing so include posing a question and then answering it, stating a list (lists of three have more impact), using two items in comparison, etc. These types of writing tools will often make the most powerful statements.

        Once you have written about your main subject, it is time to conclude your speech. You want to finish your speech with an ending that is just as powerful as your introduction. If it is possible to link your closing to your introduction, it will not only solidify your speech as a powerful speech, but also as well prepared and thought out. Make sure your closing, again, captures your audience’s attention and delivers a clear message. This message should be one that will succeed in achieving your goal. Whether that was to inform or to persuade your audience, encourage them to act accordingly. For example, if you are writing a persuasive speech encouraging your classmates to join BPA, you can close with a call to action. This could simply be, “join today”, but it will leave a lasting thought in their mind. Click this link to learn tips to great speechwriting:

        Secrets of a Speechwriting Legend


        Before delivering your speech, make sure to practice your speech, the gestures and movements you will use on the day of your speech. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be. This will also give you the opportunity to correct any verbiage that may not sound natural. By editing your speech thoroughly, you will avoid any filler words (ums, uhs, etc.) that usually are voiced when we are trying to think of what to say next. This practice will also enable you to feel more confident when you give your speech. This confidence will be visible to the audience and will mask any nerves you may be feeling internally. Another thought to keep in mind is that the audience wants you to do well and succeed. If you were to do poorly, the audience would feel uncomfortable which would not make the presentation go well. Use this as a reminder to appear confident when you take the stage.

        Visual Aids

        Often times when giving a speech, you will utilize a visual aid, such as a PowerPoint. The downfall of including visual aids occurs when the speaker gives a slide-driven presentation. Often times, speakers turn to face the screen and will read word for word off of the presentation. When this occurs, they forget to present the material. Presentations should be used to aid the audience’s understanding of what is being stated and should not be used as a script. The material contained on the presentation should be short, relevant and should not distract the audience. If the presentation is distracting, the audience will just read the screen and will not hear or understand what is being said.



        Delivering the Speech

        Right before you deliver your speech, it is okay to feel nervous. The best thing to do when you get this feeling, before or during your speech, is to just pause for a moment and breathe. This will slow your heart rate to a normal speed and reduce the nervesthat occur before or during a speech. When you are being introduced, listen to hear what information about you is provided. As previously state, if you are introduced with your name and what you will be discussing, repeating this information will be distracting for the audience and will take up useful time. Begin your speech with your powerful introduction, but never read it off of your notes. It is okay to have notes and glance down at them on occasion, but reading from your notes will hinder your success. The first few moments of your speech are crucial, so you should be making eye contact with the audience. This eye contact should be maintained throughout the speech. Click this link to learn tips on how to speak to a crowd:

        How To Talk To A Crowd: Do’s and Don’ts


        If something is not heard clearly by a member of the audience, they will not get the chance to hear it again. As you are speaking, remember to speak slowly, clearly and to project your voice so everyone can understand you. Though you want to maintain a steady voice, utilizing voice inflections, variations in tone, and speed are also great ways to intrigue the audience and maintain their attention. William Carlos Williams said it right when he said, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Click this link to watch an example of great public speaking:

        How To Sound Smart In Your TEDx Talk

        Watching skilled public speakers and studying what makes them successful can help you in this journey. Keep in mind that everyone gets nervous to speak in public, but it is possible for anyone to be a good public speaker. By following these steps, having the right knowledge and practice, you will be on your way to delivering a great speech!

        Thank you for reading this segment of the Empowerment Series. Look for future posts, once a month, every month for the rest of the year. If you have any questions or comments regarding this segment or if you have a suggestion for a future segment, please email Arijan Alagic, aalagic@bpa.org, with your feedback.


        2015-2016 National Officer Team




        Atkinson, Max. Lend Me Your Ears All You Need to Know about Making Speeches and Presentations.New York: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.

        Greenhalgh, Andy. Public Speaking 1040. Regent’s University London, England.

        "Secrets of a Speechwriting Legend." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.

        "How To Talk To A Crowd: Do's and Don'ts." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.

        "How to Sound Smart in Your TEDx Talk | Will Stephen | TEDxNewYork."YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.

        "College Prep: A Mini Guide to Public Speaking." College Prep: A Mini Guide to Public Speaking. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.

        "Public Speaking." Public Speaking. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.

        "10 Things I Learned from Blogging - New Media and Marketing." New Media and Marketing. N.p., 15 Mar. 2014. Web. 01 Nov. 2015.






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