That’s a Great Speech

But what makes a good speech great?

Great Speeches are not written. They are rewritten, so says one speaking coach for whom I have tremendous respect.  But what makes a good speech great?  That is a question many have tried to answer as audience members, evaluators, or even judges at speech contests. Is there a formula some have asked?

 There are many formulas for writing and delivering a great speech. But more importantly, if a speech already has all the components of a standard presentation, it can be made great. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it will still be a pig. What makes that speech great is the content. Content that touches and inspires your audience to act differently after experiencing your presentation.

First impressions are lasting. Don’t waste it. The setup, which should come in the first minute of your delivery, should leave your audience saying silently to themselves; tell me more. In that first minute, you, the speaker, should set the tone for what is to follow. You are not only establishing yourself with your presence, who you are, and what you are about. You are also setting the tone for the content that is to follow. 

Dr. Randy Harvey, the 2004 World Champion of Public Speaking, often speaks about your scarlet ribbon. He explained that your theme or message should run through your presentation like a scarlet ribbon from the beginning to the end. To achieve that, you must know your message and your point. After hearing your message and presentation, you should know precisely what you want that audience to think, feel, or do.

If your audience has never heard from a speaker before, they are sizing them up before they utter their first words.  What are their credentials?  What makes this speaker the expert in the room? Does their appearance match their message? Some may even check the speaker’s social media profile before the event. Great expectations are often set. What’s this speaker’s story?  And the question that usually follows is, how will listening to this speaker’s story benefit me in the future?

Sometimes, the elephant in the room is whether that messenger can be trusted. Do they practice what they preach? Life stories often make a good connection with audiences. However, what makes an even stronger connection is when your audience can relate to you and your stories. When a speaker can speak about their professional and personal experiences from the heart, and their message resonates with listeners, they leave a long-lasting impression on the memories of everyone in that audience.  

The speaker must support their premise. How you choose to support your premise will determine your success or failure. Don’t tell us what occurred. Instead, take us back to the scene. We want to see what you saw, hear what you heard, and feel what you felt.  This is where painting word pictures is essential. Using the right words in the right place brings clarity to your message. Some speakers focus on the power of one. One speech, one message, one theme. Focus on the theme or premise you established in your introduction. You must then tell appropriate stories with the right words to support and clarify your message.  

All stories are not created equally. The placement of every story is essential. Make one story your magic moment. The story you place in your speech that stays with the audience long after a speaker has finished speaking can be your magical moment. That story must speak to the hearts and emotions of the audience. When that is achieved, the next step is to gently take your audience back to normalcy as you lower the tension you created. Some call this portion of your speech your Ah-Ha moment. It must not be too short or long; It must be just the right size.

After clarifying your point and message, inspire your audience to act. It is the call-to-action segment of your speech. However, your request must be doable and achievable. This portion of the address must also signal to your audience that you are wrapping things up. This is also where you start working backward to reinforce your call to action. Nothing should feel forced on your audience. Instead, they should feel inspired. You should have that audience fidgeting in their seat to get started immediately as you repeat your core message.

So, is there a formula for creating a great speech – yes, for sure – what’s yours?  Finding the components that make a speech great will be a much easier question to answer. And as you continue to face various audiences, you will naturally develop a style of your own to add humor and inspiration to your presentations. And you will be much more convincing when you say – That is a great speech.

Author: HenryOMiller

Henry joined Toastmasters in 1997. He is presently a member of 4 Toastmasters clubs; two in Santa Cruz and two in San Jose. He is a DTM-4. Henry is an executive speech coach, humorist, and speechwriter. He is also a musician and a lyricist​ whose speechwriting approach is similar to his approach to songwriting.

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