Boris Johnson’s first address to the nation saw searches for the Prime Minister rocket by 200% in a day, while his latest address saw searches increase by 456%¹. However, it divided opinion with 44% of Brits in support of the Prime Minister’s plans and 43% opposed² to them. So what is it that makes a speech, a good speech?
With world leaders hosting daily press conferences and national addresses, experts from leading education charity, City Lit, have looked at the most impactful speeches from lockdown and share tips on how to perfect your next speech.
Online searches for Rishi Sunak soared by 669% following his address on 20th March. Searches for Michael Gove also saw an increase (223%) on 17th April, after he is said to have added to the coronavirus chaos and incompetence after announcing Boris Johnson hadn’t attended five cobra meetings.
Our Queen reigns supreme though, with searches for Her Majesty rocketing by 2,400% following her speech. Perhaps unsurprising, as 24 million³ people tuned in to see her speak on the COVID-19 situation, while 58% of Brits⁴ agreed her speech will help with the situation.
Vernon Thompson, Head of Voice and Speech at London-based education charity, City Lit, has shared his top tips to perfect the art of public speaking:
- Don’t forget to breathe
We forget to breathe at the times we most need to. While the audience is clapping as you get to your feet, inhale deeply through the nose and then allow the air to leave your body through an open mouth over at least 10 seconds. You will immediately feel more relaxed.
- Use cards as prompts
Use postcards to give your speech structure, ideally so that you can discard one when you have used the ‘idea’ or ‘topic’ written on the postcard. Using postcards with just a few aide-memoires on each means that you can look up without losing your place in a long, closely written script.
Speaking from memory always looks better, but have the cards on you anyway so you are reassured you have a ‘safety net’.
Number the postcards in case you drop them in your nerves, this way you will know what order they are meant to be in.
- Identify your anchors
Having anchors in the room means you pick a person on each side of the room and let your eyes sweep over those between them, giving the sense that you are involving everyone.
Picking out one person in front of you to stare at is intimidating for them and can be seen to be just as bad as not looking up at all.
- Make sure to warm-up
You wouldn’t go for a run without stretching and your voice is no different. A quick voice warm-up is essential!
Two minutes of humming onto the lips, opening the lips into vowel sounds and performing a few lip and tongue exercises will pay dividends.
- Pace your speech
Try to leave pauses between short sections of your sentences or phrases. Think of your favourite speakers and I guarantee they will do this.
If we dislike public speaking, we are tempted to gabble to ‘get it over with’ but this will just compound the problem.
Chris Jones, Director of Sales and Marketing at City Lit, comments: “Now is the time for leaders of any kind; political, CEOs and small business owners, to get public speaking right. While the response to a crisis is so much more than the speeches they make, the messaging plays a key role in obtaining people’s trust and therefore co-operation.
“In uncertain times, people are looking to their leaders for guidance, therefore, being able to speak confidently and calmly is key. No matter who you are, we hope these tips help you master the art of public speaking.”
To find out more about City Lit and their online public speaking and communication courses, please visit: https://www.citylit.ac.uk/courses/performing-arts/voice-and-speech.