12 TopTips to
Give a Damn Good Speech

by Joel Saltzman

 

1. Know Why You're Giving That Speech

First, ask yourself this: "Why am I giving this speech?" (If your answer is "Because I have to," find yourself a better answer.) You give a speech to inspire, entertain, persuade or provoke. If you don't have a clear, compelling reason to GIVE that speech, your audience won't have a reason to LISTEN to that speech.

2. Know Your Audience

Next, ask yourself: "Who's my audience?" Do your research. Visit with or make phone calls in advance to learn about the group to whom you'll be speaking. That way, you'll be able to speak directly to their interests, needs, goals and dreams.

3. Stop Procrastinating

The longer you wait to prepare that speech, the greater your anxiety. So don't jam yourself up by waiting until the last minute, when all you can do is panic or pray for Instant Inspiration. Instead, be ready to "Grab those speech ideas!," collecting them in the weeks, even MONTHS before the big day. Meanwhile…

4. Learn to Be Open to Everything Around You

Whatever happens in your personal or professional life, be on the lookout for a potential story you can use to illustrate a point - from the time you almost drowned … to how you finally landed that mega-bucks contract. And read everything you can - scanning books, magazines and newspapers for "stuff you can use."

I once attended a 7 AM speech given by the head of a large international advertising agency. What I heard was a speech so timely it incorporated a reference to an article in THAT MORNING'S New York Times.
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"If you are in a spirit of creating, every meeting, everything you just happen to see, to listen to or to read is something … for your own work."

-- Pierre Boulez, from THIS MORNING'S Los Angeles Times
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5. Organize Your Speech

Be sure to have a beginning, middle and an end. (Hopefully, in that order.)
Consider, for example, the "radio writing rule" -- Tell them what you're going to tell tell them (beginning) ... tell them (middle) ... tell them what you've told them (end).

6. Hook 'em Quick!

Soon as you can, work to "hook" your audience. Start with a brief story, quip, or teaching example, something that "hooks 'em" right from the start. Then you can lead them wherever you want.

A word of caution: If you're not very good at telling a joke, respect your limits - and your audience.
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"If you haven't struck oil in your first three minutes, STOP BORING!"

-- George Jessel
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7. Involve Your Audience

Ask a question. Pose a problem. Instead of an unremitting monologue, from time to time involve your audience with an active give-and-take. (Just be sure not to lose control. Remember: You're still the person running the show.)

8. Practice

Practice your speech in front of someone you trust. SEE where their eyes glaze over … and where they light up. And be alert for sections where you feel awkward or uncomfortable, working to make your talk feel natural throughout. In other words …

9. Be Yourself

Actors are always advised to "be yourself" - regardless of the role they're called on to play. In giving a speech, let the same rule apply. Remember: They came to see YOU - not a mannequin who looks like you. ___________________________________________________

"Be yourself, stay natural, and dammit, smile once in a while!"

-- Lee Iacocca
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What's the easiest way to "be yourself" ...?

10. Don't Memorize

Instead of memorizing your speech, create a series of "sign-posts" - points or stories you plan to discuss. That way, your talk will appear more natural - which it will be - as you spontaneously broaden or expand on each point.

11. Use PowerPoint or AV Support (Or Don't)

Creating slides that "outline" your talk is a great way keep you on track - and keep you spontaneous. But don't let anyone - even yourself - insist, "You must use slides!" Me? I use index cards - much like a game show host. They're low tech, always reliable and easy to update.

12. Be Vulnerable

Allow your audience to hear how you're not so perfect after all. Imagine you're giving a speech about how to be a great______ or why they should ______.
Let them know how you've screwed up in the past. But you learned from those mistakes and that's why you're here today - to share your knowledge and help them avoid making the same kind of errors. Not only does it reveal your humanity, it makes you CREDIBLE - someone who's telling the TRUTH, warts 'n all. ("Wow, he's telling us the TRUTH!") No audience could ask for anything more.

And by all means …

[BONUS TIP]

Be Brief

As the old saying goes: "Stand up, speak up, shut up, and sit down!"

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Joel Saltzman is a speaker, facilitator and consultant who teaches people in business to
Shake That Brain!® and discover solutions for maximum profit.
Joel can be reached Toll Free at 877-Shake It! (877-742-5348).
e-mail: joel@shakethatbrain.com  
www.shakethatbrain.com/wow

 

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