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How To Give A Speech At Conference or Corporate Meetings
By Erica Armstrong
Some of the most confident and accomplished business people are terrified at the prospect of speaking to groups of people, especially if it is an unknown group such as speaking at a conference. There are so many ways to overcome this fear, but advice from well meaning friends is often conflicting. Should you read from a prepared script (and stick to it) or should you just do it all from memory to appear more spontaneous? Both methods can work, it just depends what you are most comfortable with.
Whether you are addressing a group of business people at a conference, or seminar, or addressing colleagues at a corporate meeting, it is completely acceptable to read your presentation from a prepared script if that makes you feel more relaxed and confident. A bonus of reading from a prepared speech is that you are sure that you will not leave out anything important. Giving a speech from memory comes over as more natural, but if it is a long and complicated speech you could accidentally leave something vital out.
Reading from a script you prepared earlier has certain disadvantages. It will be more difficult for you to ‘connect’ with your audience, unless you can look up every now and again, and make eye contact. Focusing on one particular attendee somewhere in the centre of the group gives the impression you are addressing the entire room.
If you do decide the best way to is to read your speech, then try to make sure that you use your hands to make gestures, as you speak, emphasizing words. This too will ensure that you draw in the group, and compel them to listen to what you are saying.
Depending upon your confidence, if you have spoken at corporate meetings, conferences or seminars, then you may decide to use notes only, just to jog your memory to ensure no important points are left out. It is definitely easier to engage the audience by use of a list of key points. Also the delivery appears much more natural and gives you the opportunity to express yourself more forcefully, particularly if it is something about which you are passionate.
There are public speakers that address conferences or seminars that speak from memory only, or completely off the cuff and ad-lib. If you fall into this category you are indeed fortunate. But it is not simple even for experienced motivational speakers. They have to ensure they do not get sidetracked or fall into using a monotonous voice.
Common mistakes amongst people who give speeches at conferences, seminars or corporate meetings are speaking too loud or (equally annoying to the audience) speaking too quietly. Of course, if there is some kind of sound system to ensure your voice is magnified and modulated, then this helps hugely. But this is not practical in many situations.
If you don’t have benefit of a microphone when you make your speech to your corporate colleagues, or conference attendees, try to pitch your voice so that the audience member farthest away from you can hear you, and in that way, so should everyone else in the room.
Another possible pitfall, whether reading from a prepared script, or even notes, is to speak too quickly. Being nervous tends to make people babble, and thus the message of your carefully prepared notes or speech may be lost. Babbling also upsets the time frame of your speech.
If you are reading from a speech or even from notes, it is sound advice to place a note at intervals to remind you to ‘slow down’. Also, a very good point to remember is that pausing between points will add emphasis to the issues you raise. It also allows your audience time to absorb facts, or to ‘catch on’ to a joke.
One tip given to me by a motivational speaker which works very well indeed for him is to select three people from your audience. This is more likely to work in a conference or seminar situation, rather than a small group of business colleagues.
Select one person (maybe someone in loud colored clothing) from the back of the room, another from somewhere in the middle (pick out something striking about this person, so you remember which one), and a third from somewhere near the front of your audience.
During your speech, try to alternate making eye contact with your selected audience members. In this way, most of the audience will get the impression that you are speaking to them personally, and your speech will be much more successful.
If you are standing, without benefit of a podium, then it is wise to try not to fiddle with notes, or put your hands in your pockets while speaking. It is distracting to your audience, and dilutes the impact of your words.
Following these simple tips on how to give a speech at conference or corporate meetings will ensure that your speech is enjoyed and remembered – for all the right reasons!