“Remember to GREASE your audience and SMILE next time you’re presenting a public speech”, said Don E. Smith, A.K.A. “The Speech Wiz”, during his most recent workshop with the Trumbull High School Academic Decathlon Team. These mnemonics were just two of the many pointers that the team received over Smith’s two-day visit which was designed to assist them with their public speaking.
For many, delivering a speech in front of an audience can be a terrifying experience. Being able to bring in an authority that could allay those fears and demystify the art of public speaking was a goal of the team’s coaches, Steffanie Elkins and Dean Pelligra. “The most stressful event is the speech”, according to Mr. Pelligra, referring to one competition in the team’s upcoming ten-event contest. The two-time defending state champion THS Academic Decathlon Team is finalizing their preparations for this year’s educational tournament.
Thanks to a generous mini-grant from the Town of Trumbull Business Education Initiative (BEI), funding for Mr. Smith’s visits was made possible. BEI provides resources for career awareness and exploration for Trumbull students. “Fortunately, for our students, BEI recognizes the importance of public speaking”, said Mr. Pelligra, alluding to this essential career skill. “Out of all of the testing our students do, it is the speech (event) that will benefit them most in their post-secondary pursuits”.
“The biggest mistake people make is preparing for a speech by writing it first”, explained Mr. Smith. His approach encourages students instead to use an extemporaneous delivery. First they choose a topic that they are truly passionate or knowledgeable about, then they brainstorm words which describe the way they feel, what they know, or what they’ve experienced related to the topic. From there the speech can be developed the way it will be told. “When you memorize word for word and you forget a line,” noted Mr. Smith, “you will freeze up and lose your audience”.
Don E. Smith is a Motivational Speaker and Success Educator who coaches and trains individuals and groups in communications, leadership, and personal development skills. He is a faculty member of both Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac Universities, and the founder of “Just Start Speaking! ™”, the campaign to promote speaking competency in America. He has worked regularly with the Connecticut Academic Decathlon organization as a judge in the public speaking event.
So next time your preparing for public speaking, remember these verbal memory aids provided by “The Speech Wiz”: Get really excited and stay engaged (GREASE), and provide a spectacular mental image loaded with enthusiasm (SMILE).