We all know the feeling—that moment when your heart races along a racetrack of nerves because you need to speak to the public. The audience, whether one dozen people or one thousand, can seem intimidating. Yet speeches, toasts, and other forms of public speaking can sign minds with memorable words. They allow us honor, persuade, and inform. Here are seven typical life situations that call for public speaking. I emphasize a different public speaking tip for each one, so study them well before taking the mic!
The Maid of Honor’s Wedding Toast
If a bride asks you to toast on one of the happiest days of her life, then you can assume your public speaking skills are certainly important for her wedding day. The keys here are a genuine heart and homework. Receive the request as an honor and prepare appropriately. You may start with reading some tips and ready-to-use ideas of MOH speech. Share a special memory that you experienced with the bride. Encourage the newlyweds for the journey that lies ahead. And remember that she wouldn’t have chosen you if she didn’t believe you could do a superb job.
Some jobs require presentations and even visual aids to emphasize key points. Visual aids such as PowerPoint presentations can really help us to speak well and compel. I love slides because while they help the audience remember key points, those notes can certainly remind the speaker too. Each bullet point or picture should queue your mind on what to say. But beware: don’t read the slides word-for-word! Doing so will surely cause a disconnect from your audience. Rather, keep looking toward them and present!
Prayer at Family Gathering
Every family is different, but praying together is common in many households, especially on holidays like Thanksgiving or Christmas. Picture this: a ring of family stands around the dining room table, absorbing every aroma their nostrils can. Then Aunt Susie asks you to pray. In front of everyone. Keep the prayer simple. This kind of public speaking should be fairly easy because no formal preparation is required. All you need to do is keep a sense of gratitude in mind. Keep the prayer simple and sweet.
Class Presentation (student and teacher p.o.v.)
I’m always amused to see the loudest students grow quiet as butterflies when they need to present a class assignment. These students typically don’t think twice before talking, but the idea of talking to more than a few friends changes everything. For any student who needs to give a presentation, confidence is essential. Speak like you have knowledge on the subject—because you do! With the right amount of research, you can confidently inform or persuade. The confidence rule applies to teachers as well. If you sound unsure of yourself, then students will question your expertise. Be prepared to present with a sense of purpose and authority on your subject.
Occasionally someone may ask you to share an inspiring story with an audience. This happens often on missions trips, where people give testimonies of how God healed them. To deliver a testimony, focus on connecting with your audience. Move your eyes around to engage every area of crowd around you. Relax, because people can often tell when you look uptight. Speak clearly and try not to rush. This experience is important to you for a reason, so take them on a story slide ride as you recall a significant event that could impact others.
Sometimes a sales pitch can seem like one of the hardest public speaking situations of all. I think of working a sales booth where you must constantly speak lines designed to reel people passing into your booth. Smiling and asking open-ended questions tend to do the trick. It’s hard to frown at someone who’s smiling. And it’s even harder to say “no” to a question that requires any answer but “yes” or “no.”
These events are for fun, right? No pressure, right? Yet many of us do feel public speaking pressure because we need to speak to strangers, sometimes several at once. Consider parties “the perfect opportunity to practice public speaking skills,” as National Speaker Association member Lenny Laskowski notes at ljlseminars.com. So when you attend parties, try to mingle!
Public speaking is not simply for celebrities or keynote speakers. They are those of us who are leaders (see more on leading and public speaking here.) We all lead something, from a simple conversation to a large corporation. Most of us will have several opportunities to speak publicly, but with the right techniques words will flow naturally. Enjoy your opportunities. Become a better speaker with each one.