Giving a Great Speech or Oral Report

 By Donnie McKinney  c 2006

Studies show that most people are more afraid of speaking in public than they are of dying. That’s pretty serious. A young friend from recently told me he was a wreck because he was having to give a speech at an event, and knew he was going to screw it up. He was nervous, depressed and all the other things that we get when we’re in that state of lack of confidence.


I emailed him with some suggestions for getting mentally prepared; as well as, getting his outline together. Many of you may have the same problem, so I am pasting my suggestions to him below. All the links below were active at the time of my email, but please let me know if any of them stop working ;)


This is what I do when I have to prepare a speech. The initial process is called mind mapping. I just found a url that does a decent job of describing it -

You can use this technique to prepare a speech in five minutes, stand up and deliver it and sound like you've been prepared for weeks. You just take the diagram, or mind map, you’ve brainstormed, number the main points in logical sequence (the sub-points & illustrations, etc., are linked to them), and then use the diagram for your notes. If you have more than 5 minutes to prepare, you can just make this the first step in creating an outline.

Get a piece of paper. Draw a circle in the middle. Write your topic in the circle. Then, without a lot of evaluation at this time, think about it and draw lines from the circle outward and put your main points at the ends of the lines. Then, as you think of sub-points or illustrations or humorous anecdotes, etc., draw lines from each main point and write them in. Do the same with sub-points of sub-points. When you get through brainstorming look over the sheet, pick out your 3-4 main points and put circles with numbers 1-4 in the circles by each main point in logical sequence. There's your speech ;)

Go to Google and click on "images" and type in "mind mapping" - There is a whole page of different people's diagrams that will illustrate what I just tried to put into words. This one kind of looks like the ones I do.

Mind Map Diagram  


But, I also put the numbers in sequence, which he didn't do, in order to organize the speech.  Anyway, you get the idea. Just do what comes natural. Your mind isn't the same as my mind or anyone else's mind.

When I was in college, I had NO TIME for lots of studying because I was married, worked 40-50 hours a week and drove an hour each way to college every day while taking 18 credit hours each semester. I didn't know about mind mapping then, but I would read everything I could find on the subject and then just put it aside for a week or two.


Then, I would sit down at the typewriter (pre-computer days) and start typing. The outline would flow out in logical order and in an hour or two or four, my term paper would be completed (even counting time for correcting typos on the hard paper with typewriter ribbon ink). It wouldn’t take nearly as long with a computer like you use.

You may want to do that at this point in the preparation. Just put it aside for 2-3 days in this case, and then in a few days or so, pick it up and finish the process. Your subconscious mind "may" do some miraculous things in the meantime, or it may not lol  Mine usually did ;)

After I started using mind mapping, though, I pretty much stopped doing that part. I found that my subconscious mind worked its magic during the brainstorming stage and when I looked at the diagram later I rarely added many items. Do whatever is best for you.

Next, work on the stuff you want to leave in and what you want to cross out. You can put it in outline form if you want. Everybody likes different kinds of notes when they speak. I just make a hand-written outline on a small piece of paper with just the main points and "triggers" for each sub-point or anecdote or whatever. You do whatever feels natural for you.

The object is to know the material so well that you can talk without notes, and look people in the eye while you talk. The notes are just for reassurance and release of stress of the fear of forgetting about where you are. Hopefully, you wouldn't even have to look at it.

Get the main points and sub-points in your mind so you can go through it without looking at the notes much. Then, here's the powerful part. Go to my website and pick out a visualization exercise from the list - I like the one where you go up the mountain and do the Nestea plunge onto the cloud. The going up & down and counting, even the blue & green colors, are all important parts getting your subconscious mind into the alpha state. Then, put yourself in the speech. If you aren't familiar with what the space looks like where you will doing your speech, it would be helpful to go take a peek.

If you've studied my section on visualization, you already know that I believe our subconscious minds are our direct link with God. Whether you believe that or not isn't vital, but you may still have a close relationship with God. If so, use the relaxation and visualization in a prayerful state and ask God to guide you and to help you do your best. Your best is all you can do ;)  I can tell you right now, though, that you don't know how good your best is, yet!

Make the mental image as real as possible. See the room & the people who are eagerly listening to you. Look them in the eye. Smell the air, whatever you might imagine is there. Taste whatever you ate last or gum you chewed or whatever. Hear the rustling of people moving around in their seats. Feel the podium or the microphone or whatever you will be touching.

Then, do your speech in your mind. See people being engrossed in what you're saying. Look people in the eye. Feel confident and relaxed. Know that you have their undivided attention. Act "as-if" you are Zig Ziglar or some other great speaker you've seen. I'm Ben Haden when I talk lol  Ben is a great preacher who had a TV program weekly on Sunday morning and I loved the way he talked and moved and sounded. So, I'm Ben. You're whoever you want to be, or maybe just a great speaker you make up. It doesn't matter. The important thing is to get the feelings into your mind that you are confident and relaxed and speaking in a well-modulated voice, etc., and you're doing a GREAT job. 


When you get finished with your speech in the totally-relaxed alpha state, see people coming up to you and telling you what a great job you did. Feel proud of the way you "performed." Hear their words, see their smiling faces, be thankful that God guided you and you reached your peak during those few minutes. 

Between visualizations, read over your outline again. Don't worry if you leave part of it out when you're visualizing. Actually, don't get flustered if you leave something out during your real speech. You won't leave out a main point, and no one will ever know you omitted something else. So, realize that and don't get flustered and say something like, "Oh, I forgot to say . . . " lol  Don't look at your notes while everybody is waiting for the next word while you’re trying to figure out how to get it back in the speech. Just keep trucking, whether it's during your visualization or your real speech.

While you are in this state of mind and you are powerful and confident and relaxed, attach some kind of "trigger" to the state. I clinch my fist. You can do whatever you want. Connect the "trigger" to your confident and powerful state of mind.

Do that every day for the last few days before your speaking engagement. Then, when you get read to talk, just relax and let your subconscious mind take over. Do your "trigger" whatever it is to get into the confident state of mind that you experienced during the visualization. Get "in the zone" as all great golfers or basketball players, and yes great speakers, do when they perform.

If for some reason you get flustered or nervous or fear tries to pry its way in while you're doing your speech, stop for a second.  Get yourself get back in the zone. Keep trucking.  Any fears or shyness, autonomic reactions or thought patterns you've experienced in the past are all in your mind. Throw them out. Operate on autopilot in the state you've created.

When you get through, you’ll probably feel totally drained. You will want to take a nap, most likely, lol  That's because your entire being was put into your speech. It's a great feeling ;)  You know you did an excellent job. You influenced people. They all loved you ;)

Then, the only other thing you have to do after that is email me, and tell me how great your experience was ;)

Update - 6/26/07, My young friend IM'd me a few nights ago and told me he had just hosted another meeting of the group that he was so afraid of speaking in front of earlier.  I asked, "Was the audience mezmerized by the speaker?"  He answered, "I was great!"  'nuff said.