- Stand in front of an audience and talk in a relaxed way about something familiar
- Become accustomed to monitoriong the time of your speeches
- Become aware of the time difference when you deliver a speech in public vs private talk or rehearsing
- A first take at finding your own voice and style
- No pre-requisites
- Any similar activity or role in other organizations is recognized
Deliver a short presentation on something you like, using a conversational style. The presentation should make it clear to the audience the subject you’re talking about, express a personal opinion on it and justify it.
Talk to friends
The best public speakers achieve a special connection or rapport with their audiences. Each member of the audience feels the speech as if it was addressed to himself, feeling special, as if part of a small group of friends with the speaker doing the talking, even though the audience might be in the hundreds.
Most of us are used to that kind of of speaking - it’s the type of speech we use when we’re in a group of friends - close, warm, familiar. We look them in the eyes, we smile, we make hand gestures, sometimes we even act out things... We’re relaxed.
But something changes when we talk in front of an audience. We feel tempted to do things differently, we want to look more authoritative, more important, we have this thought of “Oh my God, they are all looking at me, I’d better provide some real value”. Sometimes we feel the need to “fill in” a mental image we have created about how a public speaker should look like, and all too often, that mental image uses a wrong model - wrong both because of the type of speaker (maybe our image for a speaker is a particular politician, or a famous activist, or maybe a celebrity) and wrong because it usually carries a lot of misconceptions and prejudices about what public speaking should be about (“I need to have a joke somewhere”, “I need to sound worthy of being on the stage”)
All this results in a perverse negative feedback loop : We try to match that mental image, we try to use more complicated words to sound knowledgeable, we use long and convoluted sentences, we use cliches, jokes at inappropriate times, and as a result of all this, the audience gets confused, distracted, their attention falters. This usually doesn’t go unnoticed by the speaker (it’s very difficult not to see how some members of the audience start fiddling with their mobile phones), who in term becomes more nervous and tries to make his speech even “worthier” of their attention, in all the wrong ways.
Instead of that, your starting point and mindset should be:
I’m talking to friends
How to prepare
Even a short speech of this nature requires some preparation. Although 2 to 4 minutes is usually nothing in a friendly setting, it is a long time on stage, especially when you’re the only one talking and no one is going to interrupt you.
In this speech, you’re merely expressing your own opinion. Even if you were writing a book review for the New York Times, it would still be your opinion. You don’t need to prove anything to anyone, but you do need to explain it.
Before the speech, you need to have a clear image of the subject you want to talk about. Even if you have known the subject your whole lifetime (like a book that has been very dear to you), don’t assume that the audience also knows it. Devote at least several sentences to describing the subject and the context. If it is a book, provide a very short summary of the plot.
Next, prepare at least 4-5 reasons why you like it. Of those 4-5 reasons, you’ll probably only use 2-3. For the rest, you’ll either not have enough time, or you’ll forget them, which is something completely normal and happens even to the best speakers. Order those reasons in descending order from most important or relevant to you to least important.
You may use notes if you want to, but in that case, don’t write the whole speech, much less read it from the notes. Just write the outline and think about how you could expand that outline.
Be mentally prepared for the situation in which a previous speaker speaks about exactly the same subject as you, and uses the same arguments as you. Don’t be upset and don’t try to change your plan. Instead, just adapt by acknowledging your previous speaker and reinforcing his arguments, or adding to them if they were different. For example, if you were going to talk about the Interstellar movie and Sarah “stole the show” before you, just acknowledge and proceed according to plan:
“It seems that nowadays everyone is talking about Interstellar. It’s truly an impressive movie, and just as Sarah, it also happens to be my favourite one right now”.
The same technique applies when it comes to arguments. Even though Sarah might have used the same arguments, it’s almost impossible that she used exactly the same words or lines of thought. Again, just acknowledge, reinforce and continue:
“As Sarah pointed out, the moral dilemmas that the astronaut has to face are huge. Are we all connected? Should we trust our hearts when it comes to deciding the future of the human species?”
What to talk about
Here are some suggestions about things you can talk about:
- A favourite or recent movie
- A book
- A concert or a song
- A TV show or a particular episode from a series.
- An interesting piece of clothing or furniture
- A favourite spot in your city
- A favourite dish, or drink
- A favourite website
- An actor or actress
- A person you admire. Need not be famous, could be someone from your environment.
- A memorable place in a recent trip
- A quote from a famous person
- An event that has caused a lasting impression on you
How to deliver this speech
Remember the main mindset from the project description - “talk to friends”. What does it mean?
- Use your usual speaking style.
- Use colloquial language.
- Use short sentences and simple constructions.
- Try to keep eye contact with one person at a time
At the beginning don’t do “meta speeches” (speeches about the speech itself) such as “Today I’m going to talk about .,.” or “I want to conclude with..”. Instead, just do it.
- For the first part of the speech (maybe one paragraph), introduce the subject you want to talk about and provide some background
- Moving to the main part of the speech, talk about the points you wrote down before - what you like and why,
- Some possible ways to conclude this presentation would be a summary of the main points and a recommendation to the audience to experience it (if it was a book, or movie, or place) or to think about it (if it was a quotation or an event).
Tips and Hints
- The audience is not aware if you make a mistake or forget something unless you explicitly draw their attention to that fact.
- Unless it’s a completely obvious mistake and it’s your fault, there’s no need to apologize for something.
- When talking about books, movies, etc. don’t reveal endings or major plot twists!
- Assume that not everyone will share your opinion or your choice. Don’t be upset if during the speech, especially at the beginning, someone makes a gesture representing disagreement. Don’t give in to the temptation of focusing your attention during the speech to that person, or attempt to prove him wrong.
Notes for the Evaluator
In this project, the main goal is to make the speaker confortable in front of an audience. Technical aspects such as body language, posture, language, grammar, voice projection,etc, should not be evaluated.