As a public speaker, there’s nothing worse than delivering a lifeless, yawn-inducing speech.
You always want to leave your audience feeling enlightened, hopeful, and inspired — but that’s no easy feat.
Here are the five steps to writing a powerful speech that will move your listeners:
1. Consider the audience’s needs.
The first rule of great speechmaking: consider the audience.
“A great speechmaker possesses great tact,” says Nick Morgan, speech coach and author of “Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact.” “You have to be prepared to speak to a particular audience on a particular occasion. Ultimately, then, a great speech is only partially about you. It’s also about the audience and the occasion.”
Ask yourself: Who is this audience? What does it want? What does it fear? Why has it invited me to speak? What aspect of my message is most relevant to it?
“And then ponder the occasion,” he says. “What’s happening right now that will be on the minds of everyone in the room? What should I not talk about? What does that audience need to hear?”
2. Catch the audience’s attention.
You need a great hook. “The idea is to frame the talk in the first one to three minutes, in a way that draws the audience in but doesn’t simply give them an agenda,” Morgan says. “That’s boring. No one pays attention during the presentation of the agenda slide, so don’t do it.”
Instead, tell a compelling story — one that shows (rather than tells) the topic you’re going to be discussing.
3. Hold the audience’s attention for the next 15 minutes.
Yes, the very beginning of the presentation is crucial, and your ending can make or break it, too, but everything in between is just as important — and it’s imperative that you hold your audience’s attention throughout.
Take time to carefully think about how you’ll accomplish that.
“There’s only one way that works reliably, and that involves asking yourself one simple question: What’s the problem the audience has for which the information I’m ready to talk about is the answer?” Morgan says.
4. Offer a solution to their problem.
Write a speech that addresses the problem and solution. “It’s an ancient formula for persuading somebody of something,” he says. “Unless you don’t want to be persuasive, it’s the best structure for a speech. The Greeks invented it more than 2,000 years ago, and it worked well for them. It will work well for you today.”
5. Provide a call to action.
The best way to finish is to give your audience something to do, Morgan says.
Why? “Because you’ve just forced normally active people to be passive for the better part of an hour, and it’s time to let them absorb your message actively. In this way, they will better remember — and even act on — what you’ve been talking about.”
He says the best action step he ever saw was at a charitable event, where the speaker asked everyone to reach into their pockets and grab their loose change. “He said, ‘Now hold it out at arm’s length.’ Once everyone was doing so, he added, ‘Now, throw it on the floor.’ There were 5,000 people or more in the audience, and the sound was amazing. What’s more, the speaker had runners collect the money, and that audience raised literally thousands of dollars for AIDS in one or two moments.”
Find something relevant and connected closely to your message. Ask yourself, “What’s the next thing I would want my audience to do after the speech is over?” Then, get them to do that, or motivate them to take a step toward that. “The point is that what people do they believe. So if you get them to act, that will reinforce their belief in your message,” Morgan says.
“The step should be simple, it should only take a few minutes, and it must be relevant to your message,” he concludes.
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