Giving a speech should be as easy as playing golf or going to the beach.
I'll ask you a couple of questions that you should be able to answer with ease.
1) You've got the day off and you're going to play golf - what do you need to take with you?
2) The sun is shining and you're off to the beach - what should you wear?
3) You've got a busy morning and then you're giving your speech - what are you going to say?
I bet you answered the first two questions easily but not the third.The main reason for this is because you're not sure what the purpose of the speech is? You know what the purpose of playing golf is but what is the purpose of your speech!!
Every speech needs a purpose and this purpose is not always the same as the title of yur speech.
Are you making a speech to persuade someone to do something?
Are you thanking people?
Are you explaining how to do something?
Are you selling something (even yourself)?
Until you are sure in your own mind what the purpose of your speech is you'll have great difficulty in writing it.
However - once you are sure, every speech needs an introduction, a middle and an end.
Before you read the rest of this page have a quick look at my trailer -'Giving a Speech'
When you are giving a speech the introduction should let the audience know what you are going to be talking about and tell them why you are qualified to give this speech.
Wedding speech - 'Hello - I'm John and I've been the grooms best friend for almost ten years.'
Retirement speech - 'Hi, I'm Sue and I've been working with Dorothy for five years.'
Retirement speech - 'I'm David and I've been Anns employer for the last two years.'
Informative talk - 'I'm Oliver and today I'm talking about holidaying in Disneyland Paris where I've been every year since it opened.'
In all of the above the audience know immediately who you are and why you've been asked to give the talk, so they are ready to listen right from the start.
The main part of your speech is where you put your main ideas.
Weddings - Funny stories about best friend, background to growing up together.
Retirment - How you met your workmates, any stories about the workplace.
Informative - Present your research in a logical way. If it's how to do something, make sure you give details in the correct order. If it's about a holiday, start at the beginning with the journey there and end with the journey home.
If it's to persuade people to do something make sure you put all the benefits in the speech.
Don't make the middle too long!
In the conclusion make it clear that you've finished.
Wedding - 'I'd like to end by wishing the happy couple good luck in the future.'
Retirement - 'We will all miss Dorothys enthusiasm amd hard work and wish her every success in her retirement.'
Retirement - 'Thank you all for this lovely gift, I'll miss you all very much but at last I'll have time to learn to play golf like a pro!'
When you get near the end of giving a speech resist the temptation to rush. You may be relieved to get to the end but remember it is the last thing that you say to the audience, that they will remember the easiest, so end on a positive note.
To the audience the ending is as important, if not more important, than the beginning of your talk. Therefore end the talk as forcefully as you started. You may know how your talk is going to end – but your audience don’t. Stay focused right to the end – don’t speed up or end in a whisper.
Think of your talk as a long joke – it won’t be very effective if your audience don’t hear the punch line at the end.
Avoid the use of ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ when giving a speech (or any other favourite word such as ‘alright’ or ‘okay’). The audience will be waiting for the next ‘um’ or ‘okay’ rather than listening to what you are saying.
If you find it impossible to avoid altogether try thinking ‘um’ or ‘okay’ instead of saying it.
I know of a group of school children who were taught by a teacher who kept saying ‘alright’. At the beginning of her class they would make a table in their notebooks and put a tick every time she said ‘alright’. I’m not sure if they ever learnt anything during her class so be warned!
Give yourself time to prepare what you want to say when giving a speech.
Don’t wait for last minute inspiration – it rarely arrives.
The professional speakers who appear to talk without preparation are generally using old speeches that they adapt to suit the occasion.
Also be wary of writing down every word you want to say then memorising it.
For a start it will sound false, we write differently than we speak. We tend not to write in a chatty way, if we were to write down what we say and then read it back we would want to alter it. We write ‘I am’, but we say ‘I’m’. Favourite words would crop up all the time and the sentences would be short. A writer of English would tell you to find another word which means the same and to lengthen the sentences. All very well for a written English exam but it wouldn’t sound natural when you are giving a speech.
You also have to be aware of how you would cope if you forgot your words. Would you have to go back to the beginning or could you improvise until the end.
It is also very difficult to alter your talk to unforeseen circumstances.
For example, if you are expecting an elderly audience and you discover they are younger than anticipated or if someone interrupts you and disagrees with you, what would you do, could you change your talk? If you are not very experienced your mind will be too busy trying to remember the words to be able to alter the content.
With today’s technology we don’t have to use our memories as much as our parents or grandparents did, we don’t memorise our times tables any more (we have calculators) and with the advent of mobile phones, we don’t even have to remember anyone’s phone number.
Only use your memory when you are giving a speech if it is in constant use and can be relied upon.
Sometimes you will want to or need to use notes when you are speaking. It is assumed that because a person can read to themselves adequately well they can automatically read aloud just as effectively. Wrong! When we read to ourselves our brain goes very fast and it’s not possible for our mouths to keep up at that speed.
For more information about specific speeches or types of speeches click here