The panic is rising! You have been asked to write and deliver a speech!
Your subsequent anxiety has caused you to forget everything you ever knew about public speaking other than you should visualise your audience as wearing nothing but their underwear to alleviate your nerves – however, that is supposed to work!
It’s OK. Take a deep breath and calm down. Being asked to do write and deliver this speech is a good thing. It means you’re considered to be someone who has something to say that will be worth listening to and considering.
But how are you going to ensure that your speech will engage your audience so that they also come to that same conclusion? Well, there are some simple strategies that you can use to solicit the full focus of your audience.
Here is a list of useful tips to consider when composing an interesting and engaging speech.
Some may seem like common sense to you, but it is hardly unusual to encounter speakers who have simply ignored the basics and, in the process, have completely failed to gain and retain the attention of their audience!
- Clear As A Bell Not Clear As Mud: Be clear about the purpose of your speech!
Simply stated, speeches usually have one of three main purposes:
- To persuade – Think politicians on the campaign trail, competitive debaters, radio talkback hosts who often use this approach. These people know the specific tricks and techniques necessary to have their audience seriously consider their viewpoints and opinions.
- To entertain – You’ll be expected to take a less formal approach to this kind of speech, such as when you are affectionately roasting the happy couple at a wedding, or when delivering an after-dinner speech to a well-oiled gaggle of conference attendees.
- To inform – This is probably the most relevant to people having to deliver speeches in the workplace and would be the chosen mode when covering situations such as delivering a lecture on the perils of embarking on romantic workplace relationships, or presenting a report on how well the new style of pet rock is performing in the marketplace, or simply explaining the latest procedures for how to clean the office coffee machine.
Each of these speech types have their own set of rules and conventions, although there are certainly commonalities across all types.
- A Tired Re-Run? Or Something Destined To Become The New Standard In Public Speaking?
Your choice of topic will be the difference between a full house queueing to get in, or a full house plugging up the exits in their haste to escape the purgatory of thirty minutes or so of complete boredom.
So make sure you choose your topic wisely!
- Is your topic appropriate for your audience? Or is it reliant on content they have heard a hundred times before? Gauge who your audience are likely to be and make a call on what their level of involvement and expertise in, and prior knowledge of, your subject is likely to be. Then think outside of these parameters to ensure your speech is original, interesting and challenging.
- Is it a topic you are actually interested in yourself? Because it should be – exhibiting genuine passion and enthusiasm is a surefire way to guarantee an energetic and animated delivery on your part, and the subsequent level of positive energy you radiate will then, most likely, be reciprocated by your audience as well.
- Do your research Having a full range of material and information to draw upon as you compose your speech will help in achieving fluency and cohesion as you connect your information together sequentially and persuasively.
Remember to give credit where credit is due – don’t pass off other peoples’ words and ideas as your own. Not only is that unethical, someone in the audience may recognise the material you have used and in not giving its original author credit, you may lose all credibility in the minds of these listeners.
- And, equally as importantly, make sure you narrow the focus of your chosen topic specifically to fit the time restraints that may be imposed.
There is nothing worse than getting your audience fully engaged and then having to leave them unsatisfied, hanging without clear purpose or resolution, when the event’s MC cuts you off at the scheduled finish time.
- First Impressions Matter: Meticulous Planning Of Your Introduction Is Crucial
Right from the start, keep your audience in the forefront of your consideration and find a not so subtle way of suggesting that your topic is relevant to the audience and therefore worth their time and effort to listen to you.
You might mention some recent event or development in the field, name check or quote from a well-known personality who has a connection to your topic, make reference to commonly held beliefs, concerns, or even gripes, that may exist within those who are keenly involved in the specific field of focus.
All of these approaches imply that you are ‘one of the clan’ and will likely arouse an immediate sense of allegiance to you within your listeners.
Other tried and tested attention-grabbing strategies to use at the start of a speech include things such as: recounting an emotive personal anecdote; posing a pertinent question to start the audience thinking; presenting a startling or surprising statement, fact or statistic; cracking a joke relevant to the topic, or simply exhibiting a specific visual aid, such as a projected photo, or Powerpoint slide.
A well-chosen joke is not such a silly idea – apart from when you are addressing the most solemn of topics – especially if is of a self-deprecatory nature, to use early in your speech.
It will humanise you and simultaneously relax your audience, making them more immediately receptive to what you have to say.
From the outset, also ensure you have you prepared easy to understand definitions of any specific technical, new or confusing terms that a speech on your topic may have to employ.
Unfamiliar or misunderstood terms being used often in a speech are a surefire way to alienate your listener, so don’t assume everyone is au fait (um, that is a French term for ‘familiar’, apparently) with all of the specific terminology, jargon or acronyms you may be using in the body of your speech.
And on a more directly practical point – make sure your palm cards, notes etc. are in order and in easy view. It is foolhardy to believe you won’t need a safety net at some point even if you believe you have memorised everything you intend to say.
- I Sing The Body Electric! Keeping The Core Of Your Speech Powerful.
Make sure that all of the important information and ideas you wish to share are contained in this section of your speech.
Remember that persuasive speeches necessitate that all main points be supported by evidence, a well-reasoned argument, or an ‘appeal to authority’. Not to do this would risk your listeners dismissing your views as baseless personal opinion.
- Use a logical structure and sequence your key points
This may be from least to most important in order to finish with your ‘shock and awe’ point, or vice versa if you want to win over the bulk of your audience from the outset and then use sheer weight of secondary points to pick off the stubborn doubters and naysayers incrementally as you go!
- Effective speeches also make deliberate appeals to the emotions of the audience in order to make them ‘feel’ as much as you make them ‘think’.
- Also ensure clear breaks are made between key points to avoid confusion and to leave time for key information to sink in and be processed by your listeners.
A pause, a change in tone or volume can be used to signal these points of delineation.
- Bringing It Home: The Conclusion
You will be wanting to leave a lasting impression on your audience and the last thing you would want is for your speech to be forgotten as soon as you have finished delivering it.
So make sure you finish stridently and confidently. Pay particular attention to your chosen method of ending your speech – do not just ‘fade out’ and return to your seat.
A good idea is to vary the volume and power of your delivery to regain any wandering focus that may be occurring.
You may adopt a forceful tone of voice, make a direct call to action, or conclude on a relevant short anecdote or specific quotation to finish off your speech.
If you choose to use a specific quotation as your sign off move – choose someone current and culturally significant. Too many people these days use American sports coaches or basketballers as their go-to source of wisdom. These quotes are now often met with a weary rolling of the eyes by regular speech fans in the audience, so be more original in your thinking when looking for that erudite, pithy final word!
Then – it’s over! And once the applause dies down, and the feeling of euphoria fully passes from your body – make sure to be prepared!
Your next major panic attack may arise through having to deal with the imposing number of keynote speaker bookings you have attracted from your audience’s word of mouth recommendations after your successful debut on the speaker’s rostrum!
But that’s just going to be a matter of logistics – you’ve mastered the art of delivering speeches so all of these engagements are going to simply be a walk in the park!
If you’re worried about your speech and you need some professional advice, contact us here at Expressions Media. We can work with you to write and deliver and exceptional speech, or we can write it for you!