Believe in yourself and your audience will too

I once gave a presentation which told, in fine detail, the life and works of Jane Austen. I was extremely prepared with my computerised slides, my hard copies to hand out at the end, and my little word cards to help me along.

Afterwards I was told that I might as well have sat down with everyone else.

My presence at the front of the room was not essential to the presentation itself. I merely insulted my audience by undermining their intelligence; everything I had said could have been read from the slides.

A bit harsh, perhaps, but quite true.

I had done the in-depth research for my topic, I had prepared, rehearsed, and rehearsed again and in short, I was awful. Since then I have been left with one burning question – what makes a great speech? What makes one person stand out from the rest? Is it the topic? Probably not. I mean, of course the topic needs to be interesting. It needs to be common ground between the speaker and their audience, simply because if it isn’t then the audience would not be present, but surely the topic alone can be read about and absorbed by other means, without the need for someone to stand up and talk about it?

Therefore, there must be another aspect to producing great speeches that is just as important; and I conclude that this second aspect is the way that the speech is delivered. Standing in front of your gathering of people with an A4 page containing everything you want to say, reading its entirety, word for word, is not a good way to deliver a speech. It is, however, a great way to create mass hibernation. The speech should contain pauses and emphasis on key points. It will contain errors that the speaker will correct along the way, interruptions and comments from those listening.

Normally spoken language is immediate and spontaneous, but this can change when the words have been merely read aloud. Some might argue that writing down your speech beforehand will eliminate errors and other faux pas, but these are aspects of spoken language. They are keys to the connection between audience and speaker, and in order for a speech to be memorable, for even the shortest amount of time, there needs to be a degree of interaction.

The whole purpose of giving a speech is to persuade the audience to your point of view. It does not matter if you are selling the latest product, trying to convince someone that they should donate to a needy cause or you are merely best man at a wedding. When you are standing in front of those people everything that you say is right, and all they need to do is believe you.

This leads on to one final question – how can you expect the audience to believe you when reading from your sheet of paper indicates nothing more than the fact that you clearly do not believe in yourself?

Sharren L Bessant


Published On: 26th Feb 2012

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  1. Hi Sharren,

    The article believe youself and the audience will too is truly amazing!! Whatever you said is true that when we lack confidence and are not sure as to what are we saying then how can we convience the audience?

    I really liked the article.

    Sonam Jain 13 Aug at 7:45 am
  2. Confidence is everything! 🙂

    Katie 28 Aug at 5:38 pm
  3. The situation mentioned is right , before you start to speak, knowing your listerners is important

    rizwanaa 5 Sep at 12:22 pm
  4. Absolutely right. I am trying to prepare for a presentation myself and petrified. This has really helped me. First I MUST BELIEVE IN MYSELF. Thanks Sharren.

    Sue Cooke 4 Oct at 1:05 pm
  5. thanks Sharren. i’hv also got a presentation tomorrow and this has really helped me out.

    Anonymous 19 Oct at 8:52 am