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Public speaking

Public speaking provides the opportunity to

  • Promote your campaign
  • Collect details of sympathisers and potential supporters

You may be asked to provide public speakers to make formal presentations to:

  • Promote a campaign to decisio-makers or others
  • Raise an issue of concern
  • Educate others about your work

To take advantage of speaking opportunities, it is important to pick the right speaker.

Discuss within your group who is the best candidate.

Preparing a presentation

  • Clarify your objective by modifying the subject you will be addressing to meet your own aims
  • Consider your audience: assess their knowledge of the issue (this might not alter the content but may alter the tone)
  • Structure your argument
  • Give a stimulating introduction, a reasoned middle and a resounding end

Introductions should explain who you are, why you are there and what you are going to cover. Begin with an anecdote or striking statistic to illustrate your point.

The middle is the message itself - keep to three-five key arguments or points.

The end needs to say what needs to be done next or how people can help, as well as summarise what you have said.

Making a speech

There is no need to feel anxious before making a speech or presentation, your audience have turned up because they are interested in what you have to say.

Some steps to ensure your presentation goes smoothly:

  • Prepare a clear outline for your comments under set headings
  • Use hand-held cue cards if helpful
  • Prepare a memorable opening. (If you can raise a murmur of support or a laugh, your confidence will grow)
  • Stick to the arguments you have thought about in advance and do not be diverted into side issues
  • While you should not be afraid to speak passionately, do not be overly emotional, provocative or aggressive
  • Be yourself - an audience will tell if you are trying to be something you are not

Answering questions

Many speaking opportunities will be followed by a question-and-answer session. This can be as important as the speech itself and can also be quite unpredictable. Here's how you can prepare:

  • Think in advance of questions you might be asked and rehearse your answers
  • Write a list of likely questions and possible answers
  • Try not to be intimidated if you face aggressive questioning, you are not expected to persuade everyone and some people will not be swayed whatever you say

Agree to disagree if necessary

If you really don't know the answer to a question, don't be afraid to say so.

You should be briefed on the issues that matter and be armed with a few key facts and figures, but you are not expected to know everything.

Stick to your concerns and politely decline the temptation to get drawn into debates that don't really concern you. The more you stick to your own territory, the more you are likely to give confident, accurate answers.

Using visual aids

The key point with visual aids is that they are precisely that, aids to, but not a substitute for, your verbal presentation.


  • Use graphics, pictures or press headlines to illustrate your arguments
  • Use slides to reinforce the key messages in your presentation, highlight key facts, words or numbers and prompt your spoken comments
  • Use large fonts/text
  • Rehearse your presentation using the visual aids so you are familiar with the running order and can estimate how long it will take

Do not:

  • Use too many words per overhead - ideally, three-four lines with no more than three-four words per line
  • Read from your slides
  • Use very intricate graphics or detailed tables of figures
  • Use too many slides - five-ten should be enough for a 10-12 minute presentation
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