I received an email from a student who was in one of my audiences who asked if i could give her advice on putting a speech together – so here you go.
The Basics of A Great Speech
They say that people fear speaking more than they fear death. I think the reason is because you are still alive after you give a horrible speech ☺
The truth is that most people don’t know how to organize and prepare a great speech – so I wanted to share with you some of the basics of a great speech.
Every speech has three parts: The Opening, Middle & Closing.
Let’s break each part down.
Opening: When you open a speech you need to grab people’s attention right away. First off, dress the part. If it is a business or formal setting – dress appropriately. People will judge the way that you look first – so look your best.
Beyond dressing the part, to grab the audience’s attention right away – get rid of the pleasantries and jump into content. Instead of saying, Hi, my name is… or it’s so great to be with you today… – start off with real content that causes the audience to sit up and pay attention. I recommend you start with one of three things:
1) A Question
2) A Story
3) An Activity
If you jump into a story or an activity or you engage the audience with a pertinent, “you” focused question – then you have them right away.
(I prefer to start with a question that peaks curiosity and leads into a great story)
Middle: In the middle of you speech you are sharing the content (the meat) of your speech. It should be well organized and simple. For example – Today I am going to share three reasons why…
With each point that you make, I would try to encapsulate the take away message in a short, powerful, memorable phrase. When I speak to youth – one of the messages I share is “What You Put In – Is What You Get Out” – so I put the idea in an easy to remember phrase. When you have these foundational phrases – then you need to realize that to teach a point – you should introduce it, validate it and apply it.
Make sure to not try and put in too much information too quickly. The normal time frame would be about 10 minutes for each point. It can be shortened but if you try and cram in too much information – you make it really hard for the audience to take in.
Each point should be shared, and then validated with a story, an activity, an acronym or an analogy.
You can also use one of these to teach application, for example – “Take a minute and write down two ways you are going to use this strategy …”
As you share more than one point – mix it up for variety (which helps the audience stay engaged). So instead of introducing a point and sharing a story and then repeating – use a story, then an activity, then an analogy, etc… – Mix it up.
Closing: The closing too a speech should wrap it up and send the audience away with hope and excitement to apply what they have learned.
Three great ways to end a speech are:
1) A story
2) A Poem
3) A Quote
(I prefer a story)
A couple of extra thoughts.
-Great speakers cause their audience to reflect on what is being shared – so asking questions to your audience (rhetorical) is a great skill to develop.
-Your goal in your speech is not perfection – it is connection with the audience. Don’t worry about messing up or putting on a show – just be real and connect.
Best of luck – Go Knock Em Dead!