There’s no other way around this I’m afraid…learning a speech just takes practise. Lots and lots of practise.
These tips will help...
- Want to learn a speech? It’s easy on paper
Print your speech at a nice big size. Try font 16. It makes the words easy to read.
Then split it up into approximately 100 words a page. 100 words a minute is a nice, steady pace for giving a speech, so that makes a page per minute.
Read your speech out loud. And keep reading it out loud. Every time you’ve got time to spare, pick it up and read it. If you can’t read it out loud, read it quietly.
The more you read it, the more your brain will get used to that particular string of words, falling in that particular order. And the more your mouth will get used to the rhythms of your speech.
- If anything doesn’t work, change it
If any sentences don’t sound right, change them.
If you keep stumbling over the same sequence of words, make them simpler.
Do whatever you have to do to make your speech easy to read. Because if it’s easy to read, it’ll be easy to remember.
- Time yourself
Time yourself every time you read your speech out loud. You don’t want to worry about the possibility of under-running or over-running on top of everything else.
Bear in mind you’ll probably speak a bit faster than you expect on the day, so try and speak a bit more slowly to compensate when you practise.
Try varying the pace at which you speak too – speed some sections up to create some excitement. Slow other sections right down to lay on the drama. It’ll all help you to keep things interesting for your audience.
No matter how well prepared you are, you’re going to have to deal with some nerves on the day of your speech.
When I give a speech, it tends to affect my breathing most of all. So before you start reading, get yourself a little bit out of breath. Then you can practise regulating your breathing as you speak. It’ll help you do the same thing when you get up to the podium.
- Learn a speech bit by bit
Keep testing yourself. The more you read your speech, the more it’ll start to stick. When that happens, condense your notes. Replace full sentences with key words for each page and each point.
These words or phrases should be simple and easily identifiable so they’ll trigger the right association of words at a glance.
- Learn your speech in the shower
Make good use of valuable learning time in the shower, on the commute, or whenever you get some time to yourself.
The shower is good – it forces you to speak up to be heard over the sound of running water. Or, if you’re in the car, put the radio on quietly.
- Just the main points
Keep reducing the information you need to refer to. Get it down to bullet points, then to single memorable words or images.
Ideally, try to leave yourself with just a single sheet of prompts if you can. Make sure they’re big, easy to read and unambiguous. Stumbling over an unfamiliar prompt will really disrupt your momentum.
Leave the full script alone now. Stick to your page of prompts and keep practising.
- Don’t panic!
If you find yourself losing your thread while you practise, stay calm and carry on! It’ll help maintain your fluency.
If you can’t remember something, abandon it and come back to it later if you need to. You can always add it as a bonus point at the end of the speech if it’s important enough.
Whatever happens, just keep on going. The more you can improvise while you practise, the easier you’ll find it to improvise on the day.
- Know your subject
Remember, you don’t have to learn a speech word for word…
A good speech isn’t necessarily the carefully crafted words you wrote. Sometimes it’s the spur-of-the-moment stuff. It’s the stuff that trips to the tongue because you spent all that time preparing and practising.
As long as you really know your subject and you know the main points you want to cover – you’ve got what you need to make a good speech.
- Suppose you can’t…
If you’re not going to have the time to learn your speech or you’d rather deliver it from a script, you still need to take plenty of time to practise. Keep reading it over and over again out loud – some of it will still sink in.
Instead of learning the speech verbatim, practise delivering the speech as naturally as you can.
You need to be able to look up from your script and still find your place when you look back. Try and make your reading as animated as possible. The more you practise, the easier it’ll get.
- Practise makes fun?
Your passion and enthusiasm for your message can turn a good speech into a great speech.
So learn a speech with as much enthusiasm as possible. Start enthusing when you start practising and your enthusiasm will carry your audience along with you. Whether you’ve learnt your speech perfectly, or you’re reading from a script, they’re going to want to hear what you’ve got to say.