“The wise ones fashioned speech with their thought, sifting it as grain is sifted through a sieve”- Buddha
If you’ve been asked to give a speech, the first step is to choose a focused message. Even if you’ve been given a theme for your speech such as “inspiration” or “strength,” this is more a general umbrella under which your specific points (and point of view) will fall. Make a short list of five ideas for your speech. It can be helpful to write them in command form. “Strength” a brainstorm of five speech messages could include: “don’t ever give up, “overcome failure,” “build physical strength” and “know your strengths.” If you feel stuck for ideas, a reference to your current political or social context can bring new insight to your theme.
By focusing on your central message with supporting evidence, you strengthen it. A stronger message will resonate more with your listeners. To come up with supporting points, ask yourself “why” about the speech message you’ve selected. For example, for “don’t ever give up,” you’d ask, “Why should you never give up?” Make a list of several possible supporting ideas. Read through your finished list, and at the end, cross off the weaker ones that don’t support your main point.
After looking into the central message and supporting points for your speech, you can flesh out the rest by considering your audience. Knowing who your audience are and what they are expecting from this encounter can help you pick the right tone to optimal effect.
Some speakers choose to generalize complex topics in a speech because they think it’s easier for the audience to understand. It’s actually better to do the opposite. Listeners tend to connect better with concrete examples and personal stories, so embrace detail in your speech. A personal anecdote about why one shouldn’t give up is more effective than just saying not to. Areas where your passion and knowledge overlap are generally the richest. If appropriate to the context, don’t be afraid to tell a joke about the topic. A little self-deprecating humor goes down well with the crowd, one can always give it a shot.
Some of the most effective speeches of all times have been brief. “The Gettysburg Address” was only 15 minutes, while “I Have a Dream” was for 17 minutes. Aim for brevity. A good formula is to speak for less time than you’ve been asked to, as people tend to overestimate the attention span of their audience.
As the speech has to be delivered to an audience, it is important to get feedback from theoretical listeners. Read your speech to someone you trust and ask for some honest feedback. In particular, it can be helpful to ask if anything is confusing or unclear. Your speech will have more impact if the message is engaging.
During your speech, look at your audience while you are speaking. Put the content of your speech, either fully written out or in bullet points, so you are not staring straight down at a piece of paper while you speak. Engaging your audience visually makes you appear secure and confident.
A well-placed gesture can add humor or aid greater understanding of your speech. For optimal effectiveness, punctuate your speech with gestures when appropriate. If you’re a very nervous public speaker, try just resting your hands against the podium. It will make you feel steadier.
If your speech is informal, walking from one side of the stage to the other can help engage people sitting in different parts. It will draw your audience in and enhance your confidence.
If appropriate, bring props to punctuate your speech for your audience. This can be anything useful such as a graph to handout to all attendees or even a personal item to drive home your speech’s content. Props can personalize your speech and add interest or humor. Limit yourself to one or two props maximum per speech.
Back to All Educational Tips and Tricks, Articles, Resources