Making a speech is one of the more intimidating and frightening aspects of many jobs and careers. Popular thought is that people fear it more than snakes, spiders, heights, etc.
The library shelves are loaded with books to guide you through the process, and the experts stress that the only way to overcome the fear is to “jump in the water”…make as many presentations as you can in order to get used to the rhythm of doing so and to reach a certain comfort level.
We recently came across a wonderful book by Chris Matthews – “Life’s A Campaign – What Politics Has Taught Me About Friendship, Rivalry, Reputation, and Success” – published by Random House, that has a great chapter on speech-making (Chapter 23 – Speak Up!).
Chris provides six points to follow for a successful speech:
#1 – The Icebreaker – a brief comment or observation to start things off. Something like “Good afternoon… and welcome to Washington, DC – your nation’s capital – where parades and protests can snarl traffic just as well as a good snow storm!” …or…“Good afternoon….I traveled here from Washington, DC – 68.3 square miles surrounded by reality!” This opening comment is also to get any cobwebs out of your voice… to be sure your voice is projecting and that the PA system (if you are using one) works properly.
#2 – The Tease – tell ‘em what you are gonna tell them. Something like “After my remarks, you WILL be able to <understand why global warming is not good>”, or whatever. You want the audience to know where you are coming from and where your remarks are headed. You don’t want anyone in your audience wondering what your point is or what’s the goal of your presentation.
#3 – Anecdote time – these are not jokes, but rather short stories about people, circumstances or perhaps yourself and why you are standing in front of your audience. Of course, they must fit into the context of your remarks as illustrative examples of the points you wish to make.
#4 – Download – this is where you “tell ‘em” why you are talking to them…what are the points you want to make, the action you want the audience to take… etc. It is usually helpful to number the points you are making and start off by so stating…”I am going to give you four good reasons to vote for me”…or whatever. Above all, avoid wandering around the verbal landscape!
#5 – Relief – communicate that the heavy lifting is over…summarize the points you made and the logic you used to glue it all together.
#6 – Send-off – you made this speech or presentation for a reason. Re-state it here with whatever call to action is appropriate. Often speakers end with a simple, “Thank you.” Wrong!! No need to thank them for listening. Rather, thank them for the opportunity you had to teach them something, help them better understand an issue, ask them to take a course of action, etc.
Chris notes that most speeches should be between ten and twenty minutes long…notwithstanding the annual State of the Union addresses that seems to go on forever!
Success in almost every line of work requires strong and clear verbal communications, and making presentations and giving speeches is a critical part of that for many a position. Rather than shirk away from them – be determined to become good at them!
For further preparation, read some of the great speeches available online: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a Dream”, etc. and analyze what makes them great speeches. A simple Google search will bring them up for your review.
For further information about making an effective and non-anxiety producing speech go to:
Good luck and may great speeches be in your future!