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Speech Tips

Nearly as dreaded as snakes and spiders, public speaking ranks high in causing fear in many of us.
Whether your motivation is a desire to learn or simple necessity, here is a really simple guide to writing and giving a speech.

Topic:

A great speech starts with a great topic. It is so important that you select a topic that interests you, and you believe will interest your audience. Is this speech about something already know? Then take a blank piece of paper and write down as many facts as you can think about this subject. Put them randomly around the page with circles or boxes drawn around each thought. Then draw lines to link the thoughts together in a meaningful way. An excellent website for this type of brainstorming can be found at www.mindmap.com.

Careful consideration of each kind of audience analysis will help you gain a better understanding of your audience so that you can select a topic and prepare a speech that will appeal to your listeners’ interests while still respecting their uniqueness and diversity.

Introduction:

Now take your sheet of ideas and write a 3-sentence introduction. If you were going to describe this to me over a cup of coffee what would you say? A key to giving a speech is a conversational tone. In the introduction tell your audience what you’re about to say.

The first thirty seconds of your speech are probably the most important. In that period of time you must grab the attention of the audience, and engage their interest in what you have to say in your speech.
Once you have won the attention of the audience, your speech should move seamlessly to the middle of your speech.

Body:

In three subsections (A, B, C or I, II, III) expand on your introduction. What is the first most important thing you want your audience to know? The second most important? The third? Make each section about 2 or 3 paragraphs long. Keep referring back to your brainstorm page.

Most good writing, we are told over and over again, must have structure. A good speech is no exception. By providing your speech with a beginning, middle, and an end, you will have laid the foundations for a successful speech that fulfils all of your aspirations.

Conclusion:

In the introduction you told them what you were going to say. In the body, you told them again in detail. In the conclusion now tell them again. Tell them what you’re going to say, tell them, and then tell them what you said. Make the conclusion about 2 times as long as your introduction.

Do you want action with that? A speech is made to inform, to persuade, or to move to action. Finish off your speech with a statement that meets one of those purposes.

Along with the opening two minutes of a speech, the final part of a speech, known as a ‘closer’ is equally important. Research shows most people remember the closing remarks most.

Nick Morgan in his book ‘Working the Room’ believes ‘the only reason to give a speech is to change the world’.
He’s right as the essence of speech making is to move people to action.

So how can you have a closer that moves people to action?

To help you get started here are my Top 5 ‘Closers’ from US history and Culture that Inspire Others To Take Action.

1. JOHN F. KENNEDY, INAUGURAL ADDRESS.
“And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

2. MARTIN LUTHER KING, Jr. “I HAVE A DREAM” SPEECH.
“Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

3. RICHARD NIXON, “AU REVOIR” SPEECH
“But the greatness comes and you are really tested, when you take some knocks, some disappointments, when sadness comes, because only if you have been in the deepest valley can you ever know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.”

4. EDWARD KENNEDY, WITHDRAWAL SPEECH AT THE DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION.
“For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives and the dream shall never die.”

5. HOPPERS SPEECH TO HIS GRASSHOPPER SWARM IN THE DISNEY/PIXAR CLASSIC “A BUG’S LIFE”.
“You let one ant stand up to us – then they all might stand up. Those puny little ants outnumber us a 100 to one. And if they ever figure that out, they’re goes our way of life. It’s not about food, it’s about keeping those ants in line. That’s why we’re going back – does anyone want to stay? Let’s ride.”

Good Practice:

Do NOT read your speech to your audience; either from 5X8 cards or from a typed sheet. To give a good speech you must sound familiar with the material; to become familiar with the material requires repetition. Repetition means reading the material aloud up to 50 times if necessary until you are totally familiar with it.
A good speech also involves feedback. During practice sessions you must recruit family or friends or coworkers to listen to you. Don’t ask them if it’s “good” or not; rather ask if it sounds conversational. Rewrite as needed to make your sentences sound like a normal conversation.

Fear:

Since speech making often causes fear it must be dealt with beforehand. First, familiarity with your content will reduce fear. Repetition causes familiarity so practice, practice, practice. Ultimately, if you need notes for fear you’ll forget, you are not familiar enough with the material. If you MUST use notes, keep them to a minimum – perhaps your outline points (introduction, ABC, conclusion).

While giving the speech do not READ, do not look down, do not go too fast. Some tricks – if you wear glasses, take them off. You’ll be less nervous if you can’t see the audience so clearly. Instead of making eye contact, look at each individual’s forehead. To your audience it looks as if you are making eye contact without actually having to.

One of the pressures of giving a speech is thinking that you have to write it word for word and rehearse it that way. Only very formal speeches such as the State of the Union address have to be prepared in this fashion. If you’ll think out and organize what you want to say, if you’ll practice until you sound conversational, and if you’ll deal with fear up front, then you’re speech will be well received.

As a final incentive, remember that your audience is not out there to ridicule or belittle you. They are actually rooting for you to give an interesting talk.

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