Lord Patten, the former Governor of Hong Kong and Chancellor of the University of Oxford, inspired over 750 girls, parents, staff and guests at Roedean School’s Speech Day.
Following his speech Lord Patten was interviewed for Boudicca’s Bulletin, the student newspaper, and drew upon his successful years in politics to give the girls some sage advice on charismatic public speaking.
‘I think that if you go into politics and can’t make a speech it’s a bit like being in an orchestra and not being able to play the instrument.’
Have something to say
First of all, ensure that you are talking about a relevant, interesting topic for the audience.
‘It’s remarkable the number of people who just blabber on and don’t really have very much to communicate. Maybe throw in a few jokes; that will always catch people’s attention.’
Know your speech without notes
The success of your speech will directly relate to the preparation you have put into it. So research your topic thoroughly and ensure you have the most up to date information. Then, make sure you know the topic well enough to deliver the speech without notes.
‘There’s a difference between writing an essay or an article and delivering a speech. I think it’s really important to learn to speak reasonably extemporary [off hand].’
‘To start, if you’re really anxious about it, write it out first, but then commit it to a few headings. Then gradually you’ll build up the confidence so that you can just do it with headings. And then, if you’ve got a good enough memory you can remember the headings so you can do it without any notes.’
Have a clear structure and keep it simple
Keep to a few clear points to stop your speech from being too complicated. This will help you deliver it with confidence and make it easy for the audience to follow. Mapping out your key points will help with memorising the speech as well.
‘My kids always used to laugh at the fact I always used to say “I’m dividing my remarks into three.” It was like Caesar’s Gaul – 123. To have numbers and to have a clear idea of what you’re going to say is important.’
Calming the nerves
The main thing you can do to calm nerves is practice. But remember you’re only human.
‘I think it’s impossible to entirely overcome nerves. Speaking in the House of Commons with a full house was the most nerve racking thing ever. But the more you do it the less scared you are.’
Lord Patten spoke at independent girls boarding school, Roedean School, Brighton.
Zoë Marlow is Director of Admissions and Communications at independent girls boarding school, Roedean, Brighton.