How to Give A Great Speech

Source: Forbes, Aug 2012

… keep your speech simple, with a clear beginning, middle and end. Focus on one theme, and eliminate everything else.

Use anecdotes. “People would find speechwriting much easier if they realized that all they needed to do was find a key message and three great stories to support it,” says Jane Praeger, a Columbia University professor.

Be relevant to your audience. Ask yourself what problem the audience wants to solve, and talk about that problem first. “Then and only then, talk about your area of expertise as the solution to that problem,” says Morgan. “Audiences start off by asking why. Why am I here? Why should I care? If you answer those questions early, then they’ll ask how. Your job is to answer the why question first and then address the how.”

Instead, jump right in with a framing story that suggests what the topic is without giving it all away, a statistic, a question or some kind of interaction with the audience,” says Morgan. If you know what your speech is about–and it should be about one thing–you should have an easy time deciding on an opening. Get right into the story and let the audience know what your talk will be about.

Stand up straight. Whether you walk across the stage or stand behind a lectern, try to maintain good posture. “Imagine that your head is being held up by a string,” says Praeger.

Articulate your words, regardless of your natural speaking style. “Authenticity is key,” Praeger says. “You can’t be someone you’re not. On the other hand, you can be your best self. Softness doesn’t detract from a speech if you’re committed to what you’re saying. Passion, commitment and conviction are critical for delivery, and you can do that whether you’re soft-spoken or not. Any number of delivery styles will work.”

Work the room. Try to speak to audience members before your speech, so that you can focus on few friendly faces, particularly if you get nervous. “If you’re making eye contact with a friendly person in quadrant one, everyone to their left will think that you’re talking to them,” says Praeger. “Then do the same thing in quadrant two. You want to see your talk as a series of conversations with different people throughout the room.”

Most important, try to enjoy the experience. “The real zen secret is to love what you’re doing in that moment,” says Morgan. “If you can relax and be happy about being there, the audience will feel that way, too.”

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