If you ever find yourself speaking in front of groups of people, you will want to pick up Adam Hamilton's Speaking Well: Essential Skills for Speakers, Leaders, and Preachers. An experienced preacher and speaker, Hamilton has lots of practical advice to heed before you take the platform.
His logistical tips are especially welcome. For many readers, these may be self-evident, but it doesn't hurt to mention even the obvious. For instance, have water available, but room temperature, because "cold water restricts throat passages." Make sure there are fresh batteries in your microphone, if you are using a cordless. Limit the use of technology. To the extent that you do use it, make sure it supports your point. And, given that snafus are inevitable at one time or another, "make certain your talk works without the technology, and be prepared to deliver it that way!"
In terms of preparation and content, Hamilton starts out by saying, "There's one ingredient that is vital to most effective talks: illustrations. . . . Speeches, talks, and sermons should nearly always include illustrations to touch people's hearts." Further, a good speech will have focus. "Choose on central idea and focus on that, giving . . . hearers a simple, straightforward takeaway. That takeaway should include an action point, "a clear answers to the question, 'So what?'" A speech has the most impact "when you directly ask the audience to do something, to take a next step, or to make a change."
As you might have discerned from the above paragraph, Hamilton writes from the perspective of a preacher. Speaking Well does seem to be directed most to preachers, at times explicitly so, but if you are a non-preacher speaker, don't be put off. Most of what he writes will be applicable in speaking to general, secular audiences as well. Spend a few minutes with Hamilton's book. No matter what kind of speaker you are, you will find plenty of ways to improve your speaking.
Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the complimentary electronic review copy!
2016 Reading Challenge: A book about public speaking