| HOW TO WRITE POWERFUL SPEECHES AND TALKS by Suzan St Maur
Most of us get nervous about making a speech, whether its to 2000 conference delegates or a PTA meeting at our childs school. Often, though, people find thats the worst part of the whole process the anticipation. The
reality is often a lot easier to handle and can even be quite enjoyable, provided that you take the necessary precaution of doing your homework beforehand preparation.
So, what does that entail? Really, its about remembering those key golden rules that apply to all good business writing and they are:
1. Define exactly not so much what you want to say, as what you want your speech or talk to achieve ask yourself, "what do I want the audience to be thinking as I come to the end of my speech?"
2. Find out as much as you can about your
audience and ensure your content is very, very relevant to them and their needs
3. Use language and tone of voice that the audience will understand and identify with and blend that in with your own natural style of speaking
4. By all means use a bit of jargon and a few "in" phrases as long as youre certain the audience understands them, but never use jargon others may not know
Cut the clutter
Your success is almost entirely dependent on what your audience remembers of what you say. People have very bad memories, and if a
speech has been boring or complicated or both, they will remember even less of its content and only recall how terrible it was.
When assembling material for your speech, write yourself a list of points a structure. Try if you can to keep the main issues in your presentation to fewer than five, no matter how long your speech is. If you cant actually put it together as a traditional story, what you must do is ensure that one topic leads logically on to the next using some good, workable links.
It is possible to change direction abruptly in a
presentation, but you need to be a practised speaker to pull it off and know how to use your stage body language as well as that other wonderful presenters tool, silence. Nothing gets an audiences attention faster than a few seconds of total silence when theyre expecting a stream of words.
Whether you use a bit of silence or not you need a short, effective link. Links are actually quite useful even if they are a little abrupt, because they act as punctuation to your material. They also tell the audience that were now moving on to something new. Your links can
be as simple as a few words, or up to a few sentences, but no longer or they cease to be links and become mini-topics.
Openers and closers
Many people will tell you that a powerful opening and close of a speech are terribly important and in fact as long as those are good you can say pretty well what you like in between. I dont necessarily agree. Sometimes simple, unpretentious and honest openers and closes are far easier - and more effective.
The opener and closer dont have to be earth-shattering, but they do have to be part of you and your
material. If youre naturally a quiet, private sort of person theres no way you should struggle with a passionate, emotive ending to your speech, even if others think you should be able to carry it off. If a few, self-effacing words of "thanks for listening" are all you think you will feel comfortable with at the end of your speech then thats the best choice, because youre less likely to get it wrong.
Once you have created a structure and decided how best to open and close your speech, the best way to ensure it sounds natural is to
switch on an audio recorder, talk through the structure to yourself, and transcribe the recording. (Its a terrible job, but worth it.)
Now, edit that transcript and tidy it up a bit, but dont take out the commas and the periods. Long sentences in speeches can leave you gasping for breath and losing the plot. And dont add in anything you wouldnt say in real life. If it sounds right, it is right, and if it sounds wrong it is wrong even though it may look right on paper or screen.
Okay, you shouldnt give a speech in the same casual style you might
use to tell a story to your friends in the changing rooms at the gym or the 19th hole at the Golf Club. But you must ALWAYS be, and write for, yourself and your own personality.
The right style is always conversational. The best speakers always talk to audiences as if they were talking to a friend over a cup of coffee a natural, friendly, personal style.
I dont want to be depressing, but once youve finished all the hard work of preparing your material, writing your speech and (if relevant) organising your visual support,
you then get down to the really hard work rehearsing. Memorize the speech as well as you can, but dont worry if you forget the odd "and" or "but." If you say "er" and hesitate slightly now and again, it will make your speech sound more natural. What you must memorize perfectly is the content, and the order.
And then, go out there and enjoy yourself. If youve prepared your speech well, you will!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Canadian-born Suzan St Maur is an international business writer and author based in the United Kingdom. Read more - and check out her
free biweekly business writing tips eZine, Tipz from Suze, - at her website, SuzanStMaur.com