Giving a speech is not just being able to relay information. It is an overall performance where you, as the speaker, can utilize your words, body, and narrative to captivate your audience and hopefully leave an indelible mark in their lives. However, it’s not just as easy as writing a script, standing up before a crowd, and giving a few hand gestures; it’s a process and an art form that one can learn to master.
Here are some tips on how you can make your speech more than just a bunch of words.
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1. Know your audience.
A lot of people who do public speaking tend to forget who it is they are talking to. It’s not enough that the content of your speech is thought-provoking; it needs to relate to your audience. Don’t just go into the hall and take the stage like you already know everything, do take the time to research who your audiences are.
Just like in advertising, agencies need to zero in on their target market to capture those individuals within that segment–what piques their interests? What cultural references can they relate to?
Nonetheless, not all audiences are homogeneous. When you give your speech, you can’t handpick who is going to hear it. So knowing your audience doesn’t stop at just learning who they are precisely. Not everyone in front of you is of the same age, gender identity, or income bracket, you also need to know what shared experiences they can relate to or how you can use these experiences to drive home a point.
After all, you cannot know everyone in your audience, but you can be smart on how to craft your speech around the people you intend to communicate with.
2. Understand your purpose and intention.
There are so many occasions on which you will or can give a speech. But beyond knowing about the event, you need to know your “whys,” why you need to give this speech, and what you want your listeners to take away from it.
Knowing your “why,” your purpose, and your intention, serves as a solid anchor point as to how you should build your speech–“What do I want the audience to know? How do my talk points factor into my why?”
All of our work is anchored on purpose and intention. It gives us clarity on what we want to attain or accomplish. And that clarity is what you will need to craft your speech. Working with a purpose can be traced back to the practice of mindfulness. According to ThriveGlobal, knowing your purpose and intention makes you fully aware of “what it is that you want out of your job.” In this case, in your speech.
In the practice of mindfulness, we enter a place of solitude with our thoughts, allowing us to be more in tune with our intent and purpose and how we can translate those thoughts onto our speech. In turn, it should give you a clearer image of how to structure your speech and how you want to deliver it.
3. Don’t just speak about numbers; provide context.
It’s not enough that your speech gives your audience the stats, numbers, and facts. There is a difference between your speech being full of relevant information and your audience going home with relevant information in their hands.
No one wants to spend their valuable time listening to you drone on about irrelevant details overhead. The information needs to be directly related to the topic at hand, not just something you bring up because you think it sounds good and compelling.
Give them the who, what, where, when, and how of these facts. Tell them how these numbers came up, where they happened, their significance, and how this is relevant to them. In giving context to your facts, you bridge your audience from these daunting and unassuming numbers to real-life reminders and insights that are relevant to them.
4. Cadence is key
While the words and research are important, they’re only part of the bigger game plan. A captivating speech also lies in your delivery.
Don’t just drone on for an hour in monotone; vary your cadence.
Change up your tone, speed up and give emphasis in areas that you want to highlight. Leave them thinking for a moment by slowly enumerating facts and numbers.
Engage with your audience, ask them a question, or call someone out. Sometimes information may seem dull and dry, or instances where you do not have the luxury of visual aids, so delivery is everything. Keep in mind that the words are just half of the game, and the other half is how you present them and yourself on stage.
5. Tell a story
Storytelling has become a great skill in the past years, and some of the greatest storytellers are rooted in most of our childhood memories. Take Pixar, for example.
The animation studio has been known to have employed the greatest storytellers and writers of all time. And one of the key factors on how they are able to communicate with their audience is appealing to their deepest emotions.
We’re not telling you to put on a sad show. Instead, aligned with knowing your audience, you need to know your audience’s emotional levers and capitalize on them. However, to understand these levers, you need to recognize your own emotions too, and how you would feel when you hear your speech, basically putting yourself in the shoes of your audience.
Pixar suggests that continuously asking yourself why you are feeling a certain way will eventually help you come to terms with your emotions, and that is how you turn your speech into a story. Knowing where and how to tug your audience’s heartstrings will enable you to get their attention and capture their whole being to listen to you.
A Word of Advice for Your Next Speech
Giving your speech should be like storytelling, a production, and performance all in one–aimed to not just talk in front of a crowd but to communicate genuine and powerful thoughts that your listeners can take home with them. Imagine your speech as a story: The beginning creates the setting, the middle develops tension, and the end resolves it.
Every speech brings with it the opportunity to inspire. It’s a chance for you to make an impact on people and change their lives in some small way–whether that be through humor or deep insight. Resist the urge to tell a boring tale; instead, share your own unique experiences as part of a powerful message delivered with purposeful intention.
If you want to learn how to use stories in your upcoming speech, visit our article on 7 elements of great storytelling