Cheril Clarke knows great speeches. In fact, she’s made a business of it. She founded Phenomenal Writing, LLC, an executive communications consulting agency that provides speechwriting and ghostwriting services to clients around the world. She also offers speech coaching. To her, a good speech is entertaining but forgettable. But a great speech is engaging, memorable and drives action! In a recent interview, she noted that there have been a lot of studies that correlate effective communication skills with leadership skills so a great speech could get a person promoted. Cheril said it is, “a rare find to find someone that can deliver a fantastic speech and I think that makes them more valuable to their organization.”
But how does someone give a great speech? It takes time, research, and practice. The following five steps can take a speech from average to great.
1) Know Your Audience
Knowing the type of audience, you’ll be speaking to allows you to tailor your message in a way that appeals to that particular group. Focus on what the audience wants to know. And remember, you want to influence how an audience feels about something. Feelings are often stronger than logic. Whatever you want to audience to do after listening to you will shape the entire presentation.
2) Research Your Topic
To feel confident in your material, be sure to research your topic well. If you’re not as familiar with the topic as you would like to be, you’ll have to find out more information. You can hunt for information on the Internet, at libraries, in your company records, or through interviews. Once you’ve collected the information you need, it’s time to organize it.
3) Write Your Speech
Begin with an outline. To create a speech your audience will remember, you’ve got to be organized. An outline is one of the best ways to organize your thoughts. Be sure to use a conversational tone. Write your speech the way you would normally talk. Work in some small talk or humor, if appropriate. Be specific. It’s better to give examples or statistics to support a point than it is to make a vague statement. Use short sentences. It’s likely you’re not going to give your speech word for word anyway. Shorter sentences will be easier to remember.
4) Pick Your Visuals
The dreaded PowerPoint presentation: the one where the speaker simply reads information off the slides. Do not do this. Only put up visuals that back up what you are saying. Images should be compelling compliments to a story or provide data such as charts or infographics. You can also make use of heat mapping tools to create custom heat maps for your presentation. This will help your audience better grasp your points more effectively than any pie charts or simple numbers laid out.
5) Practice, Practice, Practice
Stand up and say your speech out loud. Writing for the ear is unlike any other form of writing. There is a rhythm to the spoken word that would appear odd in the written word. Silence is just as important as what you’re saying. Like music, you need some pauses, some rests. Rehearsing the speech out loud as you would deliver it helps you find that rhythm and it’s the best way to combat nervousness. Practice makes perfect!
As you practice, pay attention to factors such as: how fast you talk, your breathing, unneeded fillers, problems pronouncing words, and body language. It’s good to practice your speech several times. You can do this in front of a mirror. That way you can see any bad habits you might have. But if you can find a friend who will watch you practice, that’s even better. They can alert to any bad speaking habits you might not be aware of. Another option is to make a video of one of your practice speeches so that you can see any mistakes you’re making and correct them. You’ll find that the more you practice your speech, the better you’ll get. You’ll be more comfortable with it because you practiced–gaining confidence in public speaking.
According to Cheril, there are a few pitfalls to avoid. Don’t put too much information into the speech. Only include three to five main points. When giving a speech or a presentation you want to avoid telling the audience how great you or your company are. Instead focus on how or why you’re the best one to help them. And tell a story. “Human emotions – that’s what people really connect with and you’re only really going to get that out of excellent stories,” says Cheril. “We still remember a good story before we remember any statistic.”
Following these steps will improve any speech or presentation. Whatever you are trying to communicate will come through clearer, engage your audience, and make an impact. As Cheril says, “If you know how to communicate well, you can get almost anything that you need.”