How to deliver a great speech on Zoom

  • Have you ever wondered what’s the secret sauce to delivering a great speech on Zoom? Or perhaps you’re filled with dread at the thought of talking to a group of strangers and you avoid it at all costs?

    Public speaking isn’t something that everyone finds easy, but as business-owners, we are forced to embrace it as we know it helps build the know, like, and trust factor with our audience – which, in turn, helps our business grow.

    We’ve all been on Zoom calls when you question if anyone is actually listening to the speaker. Some delegates even switch their camera off and make a cheeky cup of tea or reply to a few emails. But how do you stop this from happening to you?

    The secret sauce of delivering a great speech on Zoom

    I recently attended a brilliant talk by Toastmaster’s Division H’s recent contest winners – Chris Murphy, Stu Goodwin, and Dan Magill. They shared some fantastic insights into how to deliver a great speech and how to make the best use of stagecraft when our stage is a screen.

    If you’re struggling to get to grips with how to deliver an effective talk on Zoom, or are secretly paralysed with fear at the very thought of it, here are some handy hints and tips from the pros:

    1. Soundcheck:

    Sounds simple, but once you have mustered the courage to show up for your Zoom talk or speech, the most important thing is to check that people can hear you. Technology has a habit of throwing a curveball from time to time, so relax and try to show a little humour if you’re having teething problems as you set up – we’ve all been there and your audience will understand.

    1. Break the ice:

    Icebreakers are effective for drawing your audience’s attention from the start, whilst also easing your nerves. Using a true story or personal experience that people can be inspired by or relate to can help you make a connection with your audience and establish you as an engaging and credible speaker. Icebreakers help build a rapport between you and the audience and, if used correctly, can result in your audience hanging on to your every word.

    1. Explore the element of surprise:

    One sure-fire way to break up the monotony of Zoom calls and grab your audience’s attention is to incorporate the element of surprise in your delivery. Think of creative ways to present your speech so that people sit up and listen – whilst also remembering you and your key points.

    1. Practice makes perfect

    If public speaking isn’t something that you are comfortable with, one great way to help you overcome this hurdle is to practice it in a safe space. A great way of doing this is by joining a group such as Toastmasters, which provides many opportunities to practice and build confidence. Did you know that even Laurence Olivier used to be sick before he went on stage? Nerves get the better of all of us at times, so even if you are well versed in making speeches, there are lots of ways to improve your skills through groups like this.

    1. Breathe

    Some of the top TV presenters use breathing techniques before they go on camera, as it’s a great way to relax. We all get a little nervous from time to time, but by controlling your breathing you can also control your mind. Try breathing out slowly for five seconds, then in slowly for five seconds.

    1. Content is king:

    Since most networking and events are online, there has been an increased need to ensure your speech content is of high quality to retain your audience’s attention. There are significantly more distractions available to your audience on Zoom, which means you just have to work a little bit harder to keep its attention. Always think “what’s in it for them?” to keep your speeches packed with value and interest for your audience.

    1. Stand and deliver:

    Standing can be a great way to help you engage more effectively with the camera. It gives you the ability to be on your feet, move, and be more reactive. By standing, you don’t get that kind of overly comfortable, sedentary feel to your delivery.

    But if standing isn’t comfortable for you, consider instead sitting in a dynamic position – like on the edge of your seat and barefoot. This will help you to feel more grounded and in control. Ensure that you have an open posture, rather than hunched and closed and try to keep your energy going right to the very last word.

    1. Speak slower than normal:

    When we’re overcome with nerves there is a temptation to talk quickly – perhaps without us consciously being aware of it. Speaking a little slower and allowing for timely pauses enables your audience to digest your points, and also adds a little drama to keep your audience engaged.

    1. Study yourself:

    Things you probably wouldn’t have noticed in face to face events become magnified on Zoom. Facial gestures, hand movements, voice, tone, and the speed at which you say things all help to convey your messages. So, we must take advantage of being able to record our Zoom events and watch them back.

    Look out for any fidgety habits that are going to irk or distract the audience. Keep your expression neutral and use your eyes as much you can. Use gestures sparingly – save them for when you are making a point. And check that you’re a comfortable distance away from the camera.

    Public-speaking isn’t something that everyone finds easy, but I firmly believe it is a skill that can be learnt, and which becomes easier with practice, especially with the support of an organisation such as Toastmasters. I hope that the above tips help you the next time you need to deliver a speech – please do let me know how you get on with them.

    I am currently the Toastmaster Division H & Area 37 PR Manager and member of Tunbridge Wells Speakers club, affiliated to Toastmasters International https://www.tunbridge-wells-speakers.org/

    Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Headquartered in Englewood, Colo., the organization’s membership exceeds 364,000 in more than 16,200 clubs in 145 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people from diverse backgrounds become more confident speakers, communicators, and leaders.

    To find your local toastmasters club https://www.toastmasters.org/find-a-club

    Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash