Public speaking is not for the faint of heart. It’s absolutely terrifying to stand up there on the podium while the audience stares laser-like at you, so really the least that you can do is make sure you dress the part of a public speaker. When you’ve got this part down, your next challenge is once you open your mouth to speak that you have something relevant to share. This is where an effective outline comes in really handy. This outline is an indispensable tool in delivering an almost flawless speech.
Here’s how to draft an effective outline for your public speaking event:
- Always put your audience needs first. Though you take center stage, this public speaking gig is not about you. The wonderful men and women making up the attendees are your audience and by golly, they either paid or set aside some time off their schedule to see and hear you speak so you’d better not have drivel coming off your speaking engagement. The most harmful thing you can do to your reputation as a public speaker would be to take your audience for granted. Therefore, imagine yourself as an audience member, put yourself in their shoes, and then think about their needs first. This is paramount. Drill that into your mind and find out about your audience by way of demographics, aspirations, knowledge about the subject matter, and why they need you to fill which needs in particular.
- Be unpredictable as soon as you open your public speaking session. Nothing kills audience enthusiasm than a boring public speaker. You can ask anyone and they will agree with this observation. So in your draft, do away with the usual pleasantries like “Good morning everyone! I was invited here today to speak about…” Leave that tired opening to nursery school kids. Instead, go for openings that will excite your audience. For example, ask a provocative question and point at a few audience members to supply the answers. Another example would be to include hilarious ice breakers in your draft. If you’ve been doing public speaking for a while now, you basically have an idea about keeping your audience on the edge of their seats.
- Keep it informative and light. Of course the primary reason for the audience being there is to be informed about the facts concerning the topic, but unless you are speaking before a WTO, WHO, NATO, or United Nations assembly, it would be to your spectacular benefit to keep your draft informative and yet injected with light humor to keep you from droning on and your audience from zoning out.
- Use the latest data. Any bit of information that is more than a year old is not new data so as much as possible keep your data within this time frame (6 months to 1 year).
- Write for less than the time allotted. If you are given an hour and a half to deliver your public speaking outline, write your draft to cover an hour’s worth of speaking time. This will make sure you can accommodate questions and answer these thoroughly without having to deal with time pressure.
- Divide the outline into “Acts.” Think of your outline as a play with different scenarios and treatments. This adds spice and color to your presentation.
- Make use of visual aids. Add visual aids to your outline so you can alternate between speaking and stimulating your audience visually. This is also an effective way of resting your voice in between speaking segments.
To make sure you can be better at your craft, be in attendance at other public speaking engagements and learn how other pros are doing it.