Here are some general guidelines from Toastmasters (a non-profit
organization for helping people improve their public speaking).
I. Guidelines for Speakers:
1. Be able to take criticism. Do not take criticisms personal,
just learn from them and move on.
2. Realize that the physiological condition of nervousness that
occurs when getting in front of a group, is the same as for
excitement (think about it - sweaty palms, fast talking, etc.)
That means you can use your nervousness to convey a sense of
enthusiasm - in other words, do not worry about getting rid of
your butterfiles, instead, work on getting your butterflies
to fly in formation!
3. Try to talk slowly (obviously not too slowly). When nervous
we have a tendency to talk fast and it can be very ineffective.
Trust me, what might seem to be very slow speech to you while
up in front of a crowd, will sound very controlled to the
audience. Practicing in front of others will help.
4. Try to avoid distracting postures. e.g. The guy from Motorola
would often put his hand to his mouth which kind of distracts
the audience from the presentation. Other examples:
o The fig leaf - clasping your hands together in front of
o Scrathing your head, rubbing your eyes, picking your
o leaning on the lecturn or nerby tables etc. This is less
of a problem depending on the formality of your speach
but can be distracting.
5. Dress appropriately - don't wear distracting clothing and dress
appropriately for the talk. e.g. if your presentation is very
informal you do not have to wear a suit - always take corporate
culture into account on this one. Texas Instruments, where I
work, is a very casual environment where wearing a suit can be
distracting. I've been to (TI internal) state-of-the-union
meetings where our VP gave his presentation in jeans and a polo
6. Of course there are the obvous things about knowing your audience,
speak loudly and clearly, etc.
7. When using overheads ALWAYS check after you put a new on the
projector. You never know when one is upside down, crooked,
flipped over, etc. So always check.
8. Time your speeches. Plan on having a fixed time and practise
until you hit that time. This is crucial because you may only
have a fixed time to give a speech, so you need to learn how
to do it. In Toastmasters a person volunteers as the timer
and will flag the speaker when they are half through, when
they have five minutes left, and when they have 90 seconds to
go. All of you speeches in this class are to be 15 minutes long.
9. Work on using good phrases. Do not spend five minutes poorly
explaining something that a few good sentences (and maybe an
appropriate overhead) can illuminate. Be as precise as possible
without losing your audience. The more you understand your material
the easier this is.
10. Avoid ever saying "um", "uh", or "ah". These filler words are
useless and distracting. I was channel surfing once and came
across a Senator on C-Span who actually said an English word
every three or four "ah"'s. He was impossible to listen to.
Besides being distracting these words might also convey a sense of
insecurity. People who talk with authority don't say "um"
very much. In Toastmasters someone volunteers to be the "buzzer".
They have a small device that puts out a load obnoxious buzz
whenever a speaker "um"s. This breaks the habit in a hurry!!!
11. Avoid excessive use of conjunctions (and, or, etc.). Some people
will try to chain every sentence of their speech together using "and".
All these "and`s" can be distracting.
12. Use proper English grammar (this is highly related to 9 through 11).
II. Guidelines for Evaluators:
Evaluation is a crucial part of a Toastmasters meeting. Obviously
without good feedback you do not know what needs improving. In a
meeting there is one evaluater for each prepared speech, and then a
general evaluator who evaluates everyone who spoke. You might want
to designate someone to be your evaluator. The reason is that it is
nearly impossible to really pay attention to minute details of the
presenters style and really listen to the content of the speech. If
you really want a good evaluation, pick someone who will really
focus on your style according to the criteria above. When you
get more acquainted with the criteria, it is easier to focus on
the content of the speach and grammar. But most people struggle
with their presentation style the most, so focus your evaluations
Below are some guidlines for effective evaluation.
1. Always give praise. There is always something you can say a
speaker did pretty well, so say so. An important part of
receiving an evaluation is to learn what you did well, not
just what needs improvement.
2. Realize that constructive criticism is not "you did ... really
terrible!" A constructive criticsm is "You said 'um' a lot
during your speech. Instead, try to just pause between thoughts".
If you can't think of a general solution to their problem, try to
think of a specific example of how the speaker might have done better.
3. Learn from the evaluations you give to others!