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Public Speaking

What is in this guide?

  1. What do you use public speaking for
  2. Important things to know about public speaking
  1. Target audience
  2. How you come across
  1. How to structure a speech
  2. How to present your speech well

  1. What do you use public speaking for

Public speaking is very much part of the work of any activist, organiser or NGO worker. You use public speaking to get your message across to large audiences and to win support for your cause. You may also be called on to make speeches to provide information to people or as a way of reporting back to large groups of people.

A good speaker is inspiring, clear and persuasive. Some people struggle all their lives to learn to be good speakers. Many speakers are boring, long-winded and confusing. Most speeches go on for far too long and do not get the message across clearly.

It is relatively easy to become a good public speaker. You have to concentrate on the content and what you are trying to communicate and make sure that is clear. You also have to work on your presentation style to make sure that you do not bore people or confuse them. Practice is the best teacher Ė you will become better with experience.

  1. Important things to know about public speaking

  1. Target audience

Your speech must suit the target audience that you are addressing Ė find out before-hand exactly who you will be speaking to, what their issues, problems and concerns are and how they feel about your organisation and the issues you want to talk about. If you are addressing a community meeting get a briefing from people in the area who know what the local problems and issues are. People at community meetings will always raise the most common problems in their areas and if you are well prepared you will be able to help address those problems.

It is also important to fit in as much as possible with the audience you are speaking to Ė the way you dress and behave should make them feel comfortable. It is not always easy to do this since you may speak to different groups ranging from very formal to very informal, in one day. The best idea is to dress as neutrally as possible and to look neat, tidy and semi-smart without over-dressing.

Make sure that you understand any religious or cultural sensitivity in your target audience so that you can avoid embarrassing yourself or your organisation and offending anyone. Never smoke, drink or eat during an engagement unless it is part of the event, like at a dinner.

  1. How you come across

Sometimes the way you come across in a speech is as important as what you say. Audiences can be put off you if you sound hesitant, unsure of yourself or if you sound over-confident or arrogant. Most audiences feel very comfortable and will listen to you if you are honest, warm, friendly, and show that you care about the issues affecting them. Try to keep eye-contact and to talk directly to the audience.

Never behave in an aggressive way even when someone in the audience is being rude. It is best to always stay humble and to use humour whenever possible to deal with aggressive questioners. You can be firm, but always show respect for people who disagree with you.

Never tell your audience what they should be doing, or how they should be behaving. When you want to change peopleís behaviour or to get them to participate in campaigns and programmes, appeal to them to do so. Ask them to work with you. It is important to come across as a person of the people, who trusts people and who wants to work with them in order to solve problems together.

Never brag about your achievements or claim false victories. People understand the problems and generally know what is happening in their areas. They will not be fooled and you will set yourself up to being challenged by the audience if you do not tell the truth. This doesnít mean that you cannot be proud of your achievements, or confident about the good things that have been done. Just do not be arrogant or claim false victories.

  1. How to structure a speech

When you make a speech, a report, or any other input, it is very important that you get your message across simply and clearly and that your audience knows exactly what you are saying and where you are going. This recipe below can be used for almost any speech. It doesnít matter how long the speech must be; just change the time you allocate to each heading to fit the time you have been given. Try to make sure that your speech always covers the following:

  1. How to present your speech well


Gender  |   Media and media liason   |    Running campaigns    |   HIV and AIDS Campaigning  |   Advice work  |   Lobbying   |   Guide to making posters & pamphlets    |   Public Speaking    |  Getting to Know your Community and their Needs PDF    |   Starting a Small Business

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