Picture the scene: You’re at a wedding and the best man is fumbling and mumbling through a poorly conceived and ill-advised speech. He reads the speech off a piece of paper that makes you wonder just how much one can fit onto an A4 sheet if they write small enough. His remarks are in poor taste and his references are crude and embarrassing for everyone present. The guests’ faces suggest equal measures of horror, awkwardness, and anticipation—anticipation for the speech’s conclusion, that is.
The truth is: No one wants to listen to a bore. No one wants to listen to someone who is unprepared. If you are presenting a speech—even an informal one—you have to prepare. You must consider what you say and how you say it.
Here’s what you need to know:
- A powerful speech considers the audience. Who is your audience? What is the message you are trying to convey? Why is that message important?
- Work on creating a memorable speech. While people listen to what you say, they also listen to how you say it. Provide value and be original as you present your message.
- Good speakers keep their audiences captivated, not captive. If you’ve ever sat through a terrible speech, you’ll know how the meaning of ‘captive audience’. You definitely do not want your audience to feel that way about you! A talented speaker knows that the key to holding the audience’s attention is keeping them interested and guessing.
- Go easy on the quotes and platitudes. An effective quotation is a gem, but know how to use it properly. The onus is on you and your message: You shouldn’t be paraphrasing someone else’s words. Stay away from quotations that have become platitudinous and clichéd—they work against you and your speech.
- Don’t assume the guise or persona of a master entertainer or stand-up comedian. No one expects you to! Sincerity, preparation, and enthusiasm are all aspects that you should focus on instead.
Working on your first ever speech? Go through a couple of drafts. The tips provided are just the broad strokes. There are also more technical aspects which need attention—but don’t panic! We’ll examine them in Part 2.