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via theguardianPublic speaking can make even the most confident person turn wobbly at the knees. But today, addressing a crowd is part of the job spec across many roles, whether a fundraising manager for a charity or an account executive.

It can be scary, but key to delivering a brilliant presentation – or at least making it bearable – is investing time preparing your speech. “I always begin my planning with the end in mind,” says Katherine Burik, founder of the Interview Doctor. “What are the one or two main points I want the audience to leave with? Then I think about it from the audience’s perspective. Frame the entire talk around WIIFM [What’s In It For Me?] and build around your main points and you will have a great talk.”

Karen Glossop, founder of Resonance Training – which coaches people in communication and presentation skills – recommends focusing on what the goal of the talk is: “Consider do you want to challenge them, reassure them or inspire them? Then tailor your structure accordingly.”

Rebecca Hourston, managing director, head of coaching programmes at coaching consultancy Talking Talent, recommends one framing method she uses a lot. “Go for BBC delivery: what’s your big message [B], your backup points [B], and your call to action [C] – this provides a powerful and simple framework for a speech or communication,” she says.

When clients tell Robin Kermode, founder of professional training and coaching consultancy, Zone2, that they don’t have time to prepare, he advises them to spend just 10 minutes thinking about what it is they want to say: “What is your one take away? When your audience leaves the room, what is it that you want them to remember, think or do? That way your will frame your message well.”

The key is to internalise not memorise, says Andy O’Sullivan, founder of the Academy of Public Speakers. “Prepare in advance so you have ample opportunity to rehearse. During rehearsals, focus on the message rather than trying to remember every single word in order,” he says. “As no one will know exactly what you’d planned to say, skipping a word will not affect the success of your speech.”

Charlie Morley, a teacher of mindfulness meditation, recommends memorising the majority of the talk: “Not necessarily so that you stick rigidly to them but so that you can flow off into relevant ‘footnotes’ from them and then return. A well-memorised skeleton allows for freedom of movement around the speech as a whole.”

When you practice, do include any slides, flip charts, aids or props that may feature in your presentation. “By including them in your rehearsals, it will ensure they all work as expected, help to illustrate the points you’re making and that you’re comfortable with how they all work and when to use them,” says O’Sullivan.

It may sound like a tough ask, but try and make your speech memorable. “Create an opening that grabs attention and a close that give the audience a takeaway,” says O’Sullivan. “We naturally recall the first and last bits better than the middle.”

Never be robotic – try to form a connection with your audience. “When a speaker is in the moment, it’s very compelling,” says Glossop. “To be present like this, you need to physically relaxed but alert. If you care, and mean what you say, it will happen. Don’t forget some of the most amazing communication happens during a pause.”

The way you present your speech is equally, if not more, important that the content. Of course nerves can get the better of us. Speaking slowly and clearly is imperative. You don’t want to rush through it, no matter how much you want it to be over. “Taking time to pause and breathe helps the speaker to feel less stressed,” says O’Sullivan.

Just about everyone experiences nerves of some sort, and a shaky voice is a common symptom, says Dr Nick Morgan, a communication theorist and coach: “Try taking big, slow, breaths from the belly, taking air in your stomach – as if it were the bulb of an eye dropper – holding it gently with your abdominal muscles, and speaking as you slowly let the air out. Deep breathing starts your body on a relaxation response, and helps support the voice.”

Gary Wood, a psychologist, life coach and author of Unlock Your Confidence, also believes that breathing is the key to unlocking a great performance. “It’s also a way in which we can control the stress response,” he says. He suggests breaking the cycle by practising a few deep breathing techniques and rehearsing your speech to an empty room. “But perform as if you were talking to a group,” he adds.

For those who need more encouragement, experts recommend signing up to Toastmasters, a global organisation devoted to communication and leadership skills development. “I have seen nervous mice turn themselves into confident public speakers through practice and feedback in a safe environment,” says Burik. “There are Toastmasters clubs all over the world. Seek one out and allow yourself to practice in a safe environment. It is almost the quickest fix I have ever seen.”

Finally, as Burik says, never turn down a chance to speak. “Find a safe place like Toastmasters, theatre groups or even rap to practice, and get feedback in a safe place to overcome fears allow your true self to emerge.”

 

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