A Simple Guide to Writing (and Giving) a Speech

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. Your Topic: 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.

Once you've exhausted your inner knowledge or, if this is a topic you don't know much about, do a google search (www.google.com) on the topic. Visit the sites that seem to speak to the topic and again write down individual thoughts or ideas on a blank sheet of paper.

Your 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.

Body: In three subsections (A, B, C or I, II, III 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.

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.

As a rule of thumb, a single-spaced, typed page should take 3 to 4 minutes to read through at the correct pace. If it takes less, you're going too fast.

Practice, practice, 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. If you have notes you'll be looking down and just make it more obvious how uncomfortable you are - especially if you lose your place and have to stop. Again a sign you are not familiar enough with your material. 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.

Make your speech about half as fast as you feel the urge to. When giving a speech we often speed up making ourselves sound silly and making it difficult for the audience to get your points.

Speech making comes to most of us sooner or later. 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. Do you actually think they're there just waiting to pounce on your mistakes?

Good presenters are worth their weight in gold. How do I know? Just think for a moment about all the poor speeches you've endured. You would have given anything to be elsewhere. Now think about someone who made a memorable speech. Which would you rather listen to? Which would you rather be?

If you have questions about making a presentation, write me at the email address below.

Hal Warfield is a speaker, teacher and coach. Email him at warfield@midsouth.rr.com. Or visit http://www.halwarfield.com

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