Giving a speech can be pretty daunting. There’s intense pressure to be confident, project your personality, engage the audience and be coherent all at the same time.
Most of us naturally associate the burden of speeches with being on stage, where nerves take over and stage fright rears its ugly head. It’s easy to forget about actually putting time into preparing the content of your speech.
If you take the time to carefully control the flow, structure and timing, people will understand you better – which is half the job already done.
Here are some helpful tips on how to write and plan the content of your speech, so you can take over the world one microphone at a time.
1. Think about your audience
Know who you are speaking to – are you talking to students at a study hall, media guests at a launch event, or corporate VIPs at a business convention? Being aware of your audience will help set the tone and delivery of your speech.
2. Evaluating, and understanding your topic
Imagine explaining something you are deeply passionate about to someone, be it food, music, or politics. You have no qualms about waxing lyrical because you are familiar and have extensive knowledge about the subject.
Knowing and understanding the topic of your speech will help ensure you have the confidence to express yourself better and do a phenomenal job at delivering the message. Research the subject of your speech, and know it inside out – your new-found confidence will do the rest.
List as many potential talking points as you can. I like to think of it as ‘word vomit’ – regurgitating as many issues and points about your topic as possible. Take a minute to review that list, and pick out the relevant and important points, and use those to create the base and structure of your speech.
4. Build a structure
Focusing on the important points will help to provide some structure, maximising the delivery of your speech. Your audience will appreciate your your practised pace and flow, which will engage them, preventing them from tuning out and getting bored.
Grab the audience’s attention from the start – make a joke, share an interesting fact, tell a story or share a personal experience. Get the message across in three points or less to avoid unnecessary droning on before you delve into the details.
Keep it short and simple – less is more. The key is to keep things as succinct as possible, to ensure you don’t ramble on out of nervousness. This is easier said than done, but using the structure as a guide will help focus on the messaging.
Throughout the entirety of your speech, it’s also important to remember to project your voice, talk slower than what feels natural and inflect your tone when appropriate so your voice remains engaging, not dull.
7. Repetition, repetition, repetition…
Build on your intensity and impact by repeating the important points.
Martin Luther King boldly repeated, “I have a dream”, but if you find that repeating too much of an overkill, try instead to repeat things like brands, names or important points you want your audience to remember.
8. One killer line
Martin Luther King had, “I have a dream”. John F Kennedy had “…ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can for your country.”Can you come up with your own killer one-liner? Put some thought into a moving or impactful statement that encapsulates your speech. It should pack a punch, making your speech a lot more thoughtful and memorable.
There’s no need to stress too much about “ending with a bang”. Try leaving it up to the audience, such as opening up the floor to questions. This is also one of the best ways to discover how effective your speech was and gives you an opportunity to sense the energy of your audience. Do they seem excited and eager to ask more questions? Or are they slumped in their seats, eyes glazed and lifeless?
Either way, there is always something to take away from the end of your speech – use this as a lesson for next time.
10. Never stop practicing!
You can never practice a speech too much – read it aloud alone, practice in front of your friends, record yourself and play it back. This is especially useful if you have a strict time limit, but numerous points you need to get across. Listen to constructive feedback and use it to help you improve.
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