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Presenting Your Research: Writing and Delivering a Speech

Speaking on an assigned topic can be a great way to demonstrate understanding of the subject, as well as mastery of the craft of writing for oral delivery.

Preparation
  1. Whether you select your own topic for a speech or have one assigned to you, research it thoroughly to learn everything you can about it. You will then have to narrow that information down to choose what you want to include in your speech. Be sure to check your facts.
  2. Be aware of who will make up your audience. In selecting the information to present, ask yourself what information or angle they might to want to know about. Your presentation should be tailored to that group, in the language you use and the information you present. For example, you would craft the speech differently if you planned to deliver it to first-grade students, your classmates, or a panel of experts.
  3. Imagine that your audience has presented questions for you to answer. Anticipate what questions they might reasonably ask on that particular topic and be sure your speech has answered them. What questions did you have when you were researching the topic? What did you want to know about it that your audience might also want to know? What is it about that topic that made you choose it and that will make it interesting for the audience?
  4. Suppose you include a quote from Michio Kaku—"The only thing that quantum theory has going for it is that it is unquestionably correct"—because all your sources did. If you are asked afterwards, "Who is Michio Kaku?" can you answer? If you are asked "What is quantum theory?" can you answer? (This is an extreme example but you get the message!)
  5. Prepare visual aids if you think they would be useful. Handouts of maps, graphs, and photographs could aid your presentation; ask students to refer to them after the speech so you don't have to use time explaining them in your speech.
  6. Read some speeches and other primary documents in Issues & Controversies. Analyze how they are constructed and assess whether they are successful. Listen to other speeches. What three things did you remember afterward from the speeches? This could help you decide what should be the focus of your own speech.
  7. To accustom yourself to performing in front of people, visualize yourself before the audience, or recruit some friends or relatives to act as an audience.
Writing the Speech
  1. Write a rough draft of your speech, listing all the points you want to make. If you think it will help, write each point on an index card. Organize these points into a logical order. Remember, though, that a speech is not a laundry list. It must flow smoothly. Each point has to be linked to the next with a smooth transition sentence.
  2. Your speech should start with an introduction of your subject that lets your audience know, in brief, what the main idea is that you are trying to get across. Then build up your case, step by step, as you progress through your speech. Support each point as you go with some factual piece of information or statistics. By all means tell anecdotes or use quotes, but since you might have time limits on the speech, make sure they all illustrate what you are trying to convey. To conclude your speech, go back to your main point and briefly sum up using the most relevant information you have used in building your case.
  3. Keep your sentences reasonably short. (This is a good way to ensure you will not run short of breath!) It will be easier to read your speech if the sentence structure is not too complex. Effective speeches tend to have short sentences.
Preparing to Deliver your Speech
  1. Time yourself as you practice delivering your speech out loud to see how long it takes. Is it within the allotted time? If it is too long, you will have to assess what information you can cut out and still convey the point you want to make—perhaps an anecdote or a quote.
  2. Practice your speech in front of someone, such as a parent or a friend. Get their reaction. Is your speech too long? Does it hold their interest? (Reassure them that you need constructive criticism and won't be offended by negative comments if they will help you improve your speech.)
  3. Record your speech and play it back. How do you feel about it? Is it a speech you would find informative and instructive—and engaging? Do you think the audience will have learned from your presentation? Have you conveyed what you intended to get across to your audience? Just as important, was your delivery smooth and polished? Go back to those speeches you listened to and assess what made the delivery engaging or what made it tedious.
  4. Try to memorize as much of your speech as you can so you have a sense of what comes next. Then if you lose your place you will have a better chance of continuing extemporaneously, until you get back on track. You will also be able to maintain better eye contact with your audience.
  5. Many people fear public speaking. However, if you are well prepared and know your subject, and if you practice delivering your speech enough so that you know what you need to work on, it can be very satisfying to give a speech, educate your audience, and get a positive reaction.
Delivering your Speech
  1. Before you take the stage, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and relax your shoulders and the muscles in your neck and face. Remember that you are in charge—you are the one with the information that the others in the room want to know. They want to hear what you have to say, so try to exude confidence. Your demeanor will affect how the audience reacts to you. Body language says a lot about yourself—your confidence level, or whether you are authoritative and relaxed. If you know your subject well, you're more likely to feel comfortable. Convey a sense of enthusiasm to your audience—make them receptive from the start.
  2. Don't rush. Leave time for some pauses. Enunciate clearly but not in an exaggerated way.
  3. Be informative but also entertaining in your presentation—you want to engage your audience, get and keep their attention. Don't just read your speech off the page, without ever looking up. Modulate your voice; speaking in a monotone will bore your listeners. Have a sense of the audience. Make some eye contact—look around or even move around the room as you speak.
  4. Now for those questions from your audience. You might have raised unanticipated questions that come out of left field. Try to think on your feet, but don't be afraid to say you don't know the answer. Most likely, you will have enough information to let people know where they can go to get their questions answered.

 

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