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Related Content

Related topics, 7 tips for giving a great speech.

Shot of a young businesswoman delivering a presentation at a conference

July 05, 2022

A great speech presents clear, relatable content in an engaging way. Use these seven techniques to calm your nerves and prepare for giving a great speech.

Whether it's designed to share a brand message with an unfamiliar crowd or to inspire employees during difficult times, a great speech can prove to be a critical tool in a business leader's communication toolkit. 

What Makes a Great Speech?

One of the most important qualities of a great speech is that it’s relatively short.

Consider Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Both are powerful but brief, clocking in at two minutes and 17 minutes, respectively.

However, a speech’s length is only one factor. A great speech must also captivate the audience, be presented clearly and confidently, and have a well-defined message.

Here are some techniques you can use to deliver a great, memorable speech, whether it's for work or elsewhere.

1. Consider Your Speech a Performance

A speech is primarily about the words, but a performance is so much more. It’s inflection, gesture, tension, resolution, and suspense.

But it doesn't have to be overwhelming, and you don't have to be an Oscar winner to do it well.

Go see a one-person play, and you’ll instantly understand what I mean. Performers work hard at capturing and  keeping an audience’s attention , and words are only one tool in their arsenal.

This means after you finish writing a speech, the work isn't done. Make sure to rehearse the speech in front of a few people, the mirror, or a recording device. You'll feel more confident after you've practiced, even if it's just a few times.

2. Harness the Power of Eye Contact

When nerves take over, you might naturally want to look at the floor, your slides, your hands, or the back of the room. But remember that you're in a room with humans who want to connect with you and your words.

If you try to make eye contact with people while you deliver your speech, they're more likely to feel personally engaged and gain your trust. Eye contact communicates confidence and authority – two traits key to conveying your point effectively.

3. Let Go of the Lectern

The lectern can be a crutch. It’s a physical barrier between you and your audience, and you may want to consider stepping out from behind it. Not only will your movement help create a livelier presentation, but it will help the audience perceive you as more open and accessible. Movement can also help ease your nerves.

To help you stay focused when delivering your speech, map out where you want to be on stage for each key point you want to make. You can record videos of your practice sessions to pick up on subconscious nervous gestures or ticks and work to correct them.

4. Pay Attention to Your Posture

Your  body language conveys confidence . Slouching can make you look like you aren't confident. Practice standing up straight, keeping your shoulders back and your head steady. However, don't worry too much because your body will tighten, making you look and feel nervous. Remember to relax.

Additionally, breathing is important for calming your nerves. Slouching leaves less room for your lungs to fully breathe. Even if your speech is short, it’s critical to optimize your breathing habits so you feel better both mentally and physically.

Take deep, calm breaths as much as you need to beforehand. Don't forget to pause and breathe during the speech too. Taking care of yourself is crucial.

5. Spice Up Your Speech with Stories

The power of storytelling lies in the images that audience members create in their heads as you spin your yarn.

Try not to overload your speech with data points, unless it's primarily a data-driven topic. Listeners will be more likely to remember pertinent anecdotes that inspire compassion, elicit laughter, or simply intrigue them.

Stories – especially brief, relevant ones – are a powerful tool for delivering a great speech. Weaving them into your presentation can transform your listeners into active participants.

6. Vary Your Speaking Cadence

When delivering a speech, it’s important to deliberately mix up speaking patterns such as volume, speed, and tone. 

When in doubt,  slow down your speech  to let your audience catch up – especially if you tend to speak quickly. Remembering to pause can be very helpful in steadying the speech.

If you know you’re naturally a fast talker, build some pauses into your speech. Determine points at which to take a breather, or incorporate statements like “Now think about that for a moment” or “Let that sink in.” It takes an audience more time to process your points than it will take for you to articulate them.

Remember that you're the expert. Give people time to ponder your brilliant message.

7. Discuss What You Know and Care About

If you're asked to give a speech, you're probably already an expert on the subject.

Passion translates to energy and authenticity, which help engage an audience. Emotion pulls the audience in and gets them invested in hearing more. Take them with you on this journey from the start by talking with passion.

If you find you’re not moved by your topic, modify it so it's more relevant to you and your audience. The more relevant it is, the more engaging your speech will be, and the more confident you'll feel delivering it.

As an expert worthy of giving a great speech, you'll likely excel at providing the main content points. But using these techniques can help you get your message across in a compelling and memorable way. Focus on crafting a clear, concise message that’s rife with relevant anecdotes. Practice the performance, adjust any small habits as needed, and remember that you deserve to be up there. Remember to breathe.

A version of this article was originally published on September 08, 2014.

Photo: Getty Images

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Chances are you’ll be asked to give speeches or presentations in classes at school. If you get involved in volunteer groups, brief speeches to open events or thank participants are a must. Then there are the speeches at events such as weddings, as well as speeches that you might have to give in the workplace. That amounts to the average person being required to give quite a lot of speeches, even if they don’t get involved in an area such as politics where the ability to give a good speech becomes even more important. You might also have suffered through quite a number of bad speeches from other people – whether that’s at family events where the microphone squeaks the whole way through or a school presentation where the headteacher can’t quite make the jokes work. If you don’t want to inflict the same sort of experience on others, here are our top tips for giving a great speech.

1. Practise your microphone technique

Correct spacing is key - you want to be heard but don't want to end up deafening your audience!

2. Keep it short

Be strict with yourself when it comes to timing.

Particularly at something like a party or a wedding, no one will be unhappy if your speech runs a little short; it’ll just give them more time to investigate the canapés. If you are giving a speech for a class in school, and it’ll be assessed, you need to prioritise keeping it within the required time limits. But even under these circumstances, if you’ve been tasked – say – with giving a 10-15 minute speech, it’s usually better to come in nearer the 10 than the 15 minute mark. Put simply, even if your speech is terrible, your audience can probably tolerate it for 10 minutes. Much longer, and they’ll be struggling. This shouldn’t limit what you can cover; in the film Up , the whole of Carl and Ellie’s heartbreaking love story is told in under 12 minutes. Do you really need longer to make your points? Achieve brevity by writing out the speech you would give if you had all the time in the world, and then cut anything that seems extraneous or boring.

3. Consider what your audience wants to hear

If you are giving a speech in class because it’s your assignment, what your audience wants to hear is likely to be “the bell ringing for lunch”; you can’t help them there. But under other circumstances, consider what your audience wants to hear and what you want to say, and strive for there to be as much overlap as possible. In the context of a political speech, for instance, what you want to say might be why your party should receive votes; what your audience wants to hear is what your party would do for them, if they won power. Hopefully it should be possible to write a speech that meets both sets of needs, rather than focusing solely on whatever it is that you want to say and leaving your audience disappointed.

4. Pick a theme and stick to it

Beware: digressions ahead.

Here’s a goal for giving a speech: someone sitting near the back, who’s messing around on their phone for at least two-thirds of it and focusing mainly on how long it will be until lunch, should nonetheless be able to give a reasonably accurate answer to the question, “what was it about?” If you’re supposed to be giving a speech in defence of the nuclear deterrent, for example, both the topic and your position on it should be clearly identifiable. This means – to stick with the nuclear deterrent example – not talking for a while about jobs, and then the wider economy, and then the North-South divide, and then Scottish independence, and then Ukraine with a brief digression into South Ossetia before rounding off by squeaking out “and that’s why we should renew Trident!” seconds before you run out of time – no matter how relevant that cornucopia of topics may feel (and they are all relevant, albeit tenuously). It means that even if you do have to take a while to explain a more complex idea, you need to be concise, and bring it back to your theme as quickly as you can.

5. Speak slowly

Most people speak more quickly than they realise when they’re on stage, especially if they’re nervous. But no one will be able to follow your speech if you’re jabbering it out. Thankfully, this one is easy to fix with a little effort and practise. First of all, figure out how quickly you’re actually speaking: do a word count for your speech and then time yourself saying it. A fast speaker will speak at maybe 160 words per minute, a slow speaker at 100 wpm and an average speaker at 130 wpm. For a formal speech, you want to be speaking on the slow side. While this will vary by culture and environment, 120 wpm is a reasonable target to aim for; slow enough that everyone should be able to understand you, and fast enough that you hopefully won’t be sending them to sleep.

6. Tell a couple of jokes

A touch of humour won't go amiss, even if you're not a natural comedian.

This is a tricky tip because there are lots of pitfalls in the world of telling jokes. For instance, there’s the temptation to include an in-joke that three of your friends will understand and find hilarious, that is utterly baffling to everyone else in the room. Avoid this – if you include any jokes, witty references or anything along those lines, make sure they are accessible to everyone present. All the same, if you can manage a joke or two, it can be a useful way to break up a speech and retain the audience’s interest. A little self-deprecation (not too much!) or the use of classic joke formats such as “the scene was chaotic; it looked as if a bomb had hit and we didn’t know where to start on repairs – but that’s enough about the hen party…” work nicely even if you’re not very confident. Don’t turn it into a stand-up comedy sketch if you’re not a comedian, don’t wait for ages for laughter that’s not showing up, and don’t make jokes at the expense of anyone who you don’t know for sure can take it.

7. Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself if you need to

If you follow US or UK politics at all, you’ve probably heard some of these phrases recently: take back control, make America great again, long-term economic plan, son of a bus driver. Three of these have already led the party or people they’re associated with to electoral victory; the fourth remains to be seen. To take the ‘son of a bus driver’ as an example, this refers to Sadiq Khan, now Mayor of London. There can be hardly anyone in London who doesn’t know what their Mayor’s dad did for a living. Meanwhile, many of them probably can’t remember his rival Zac Goldsmith’s name, let alone anything he said during the campaign. The point is that repetition works. In pursuit of point 4, if you want people to remember your key theme, you’re going to have to say it more than once. Don’t assume that everyone will have paid attention to everything you’ve said, unless you’re in a classroom setting where they’ll get told off if they don’t.

8. Only use the visual aids you need

Scratch the notes and speak directly to your audience.

This tip applies to two things: PowerPoints and notes. If you can do without either (and your assignment allows it), then do. Every time you’re glancing over your notes or up at the screen, fiddling with the laptop to get the slide to move on, fighting with a video that isn’t working or struggling to read your own handwriting, is time that you’re not spending engaging with your audience. A well-written, clear speech delivered without notes is always going to be better than someone awkwardly reading aloud the bullet points on their PowerPoint slides. If you must do a presentation – for instance, because there are photos that need to be included – have as little text on it as possible, preferably none. That way, if there are people at the back who can’t really see the screen through the sea of heads in front of them, they’ll still be able to follow what you’re saying.

9. Get a friend to check for awkward mannerisms

Mannerisms that are entirely fine in normal life become awkward and strange when you’re speaking in public. Perhaps you’re inclined to fiddle with your hair or your cuffs, you rock back and forth on the balls of your feet, or you have a habit of reaching your hand to your cheek when you’re talking. No one would notice in everyday conversation, but when you’re on a stage, it’ll become all they’ll see. Some of this is easily avoidable – for instance, if you have long hair that you’re inclined to twirl or otherwise fiddle with, tie it up. For other mannerisms, get the critical friend who helped you sort out your microphone technique to tell you what they are, and do your best to suppress the more annoying ones.

10. Look around the room

Overly intense eye-contact can easily feel intimidating.

Talking about eye contact usually has the effect of making normal eye contact a lot harder, and so does giving a speech. All of a sudden, you’re up on stage, and you have no idea what a normal way to look at a group of people is. Some speakers deal with this by picking a point in the middle distance and speaking to it; others by picking a particular person near to the back and addressing their entire speech at them. This is obviously no fun for that person, who probably spends the whole thing feeling extremely uncomfortable, but it’s not too weird for everyone else. Better still, though, if you can manage it, is to look slowly and steadily around the room, trying to make eye contact with a decent range of people, before returning to the middle distance for a while, rinse and repeat. This needs to be slow and steady, or you give the impression that you’ve just smelled smoke and are casting about for a fire exit before the stampede beings.

11. Don’t be scared of a good reaction

If your speech is genuinely engaging, funny, inspiring or any of the other things you might hope it would be, your audience will react to it. There might be laughter, or applause, or even a bit of cheering depending on the setting. This can be daunting because when you’re practising your speech in front of your bedroom mirror, there’s no way to prepare for it. And it’s where even the best speakers can go wrong, by launching straight into what they were going to say next without waiting for the laughter or applause to stop, or by looking painfully awkward while it’s going on. It’s a pitfall that’s mostly solved by being aware it might happen. If your audience is applauding you or otherwise reacting well, it’s OK to smile, look up, wait for them to stop and then keep going with your speech – it’s as simple as that. You could even throw in a “thank you” before you continue in the knowledge that it’s all going well. Image credits: microphones ; audience ; boy with microphone ; clock ; winding road ; enjoy a joke ; sticky notes ; 

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How to Prepare and Give a Speech

Last Updated: October 28, 2022 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Deb DiSandro . Deb DiSandro is the Owner of Speak Up On Purpose, an organization dedicated to improving and teaching public speaking. Deb has over 30 years of experience as a national speaker and has presented at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Conference and the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. She was awarded the National Speakers Association Member of the Year 2007 and has been published in Writer's Digest, Daily Herald, Women's Day, and Better Homes & Gardens. There are 17 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article received 28 testimonials and 90% of readers who voted found it helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 1,135,325 times.

Being asked to prepare and give a speech can seem really intimidating when you've never done it before. Don't worry! You'll be a public speaking pro in no time if you follow these simple tips.

Planning Your Speech

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Writing the Speech

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Practicing Your Speech

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Getting Ready the Day of Your Speech

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During Your Speech

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About This Article

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To prepare and give a speech, start by thinking about the topic, audience, and location of the speech. Write a detailed outline that includes your main topics, supporting points, and facts. Then, transfer the speech to note cards or handouts if necessary. Remember to practice your speech a few times in front of a mirror or a friend, and set a timer to ensure that you aren’t taking too long. On the day of the speech, review your note cards and make sure your presentation, handouts, or other supplementary information is in order. For tips on keeping calm during the speech and examples of different speeches, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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Faculty - August 13, 2018

Five Tips to Give a Great Speech

Anybody can learn to give a great speech, says  Jane Praeger , a faculty member for the  Programs in Strategic Communication  at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies. She offers five tips on how to keep speeches both simple and authentic.

1. Practice Beforehand

Practice replacing filler words like "um," "so," and "like" with silence. If you can rehearse in the space where you’ll be speaking, that’s a real plus. Go to the back of the room, imagine that you’re hard of hearing or distracted, and you’ll know how to reach those people.

2. Work the Room

Try to speak to audience members before your speech, so that you can focus on a few friendly faces, particularly if you get nervous. If you’re making eye contact with a friendly person in one quadrant, those nearby will think that you’re talking to them. Then do the same thing in another quadrant. You want to see your talk as a series of conversations with different people throughout the room.

3. Prepare with Relaxation Techniques

If you’re nervous before approaching the stage, take a few deep breaths. Picture yourself delivering a successful speech. Most people will be nervous for the first few minutes, but you want to channel that adrenaline into positive energy.

4. Don’t Read Your Speech

Tell your speech from heart or use a notecard with bullet points as a cheat sheet. Bring the card with you and place it on the lectern. If you freeze up mid-speech, you can take a deep breath, look at your card, and know exactly which story you’re going to tell next.

5. Stand Up Straight

Whether you walk across the stage or stand behind a lectern, try to maintain good posture. Imagine that your head is being held up by a string. Standing up straight shows that you have confidence in what you’re talking about and your audience will feel more inclined to listen.

Read the full story for five more tips at  Forbes  and learn more about the  Programs in Strategic Communication  at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies.

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Giving a Speech

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However many presentations you have given as part of your job, nothing quite prepares you for the moment when you are required to make a speech. This might happen if your friend has asked you to be his best man, or you are getting married, or your son or daughter is getting married.

You may have been asked to give an after-dinner speech at a formal function or, less happily, to give the eulogy at a funeral. You may also have to give speeches if you are taking up politics.

Fortunately, although there are differences from presentations, there are also a number of similarities. This page provides some tips about giving a speech.

The Difference Between a Speech and a Presentation

Some people use the terms ‘speech’ and ‘presentation’ interchangeably. However, for the purposes of this page, a speech is assumed to consist of speaking only. There is little or no interaction, and no slides or other visual aids.

Preparing for your speech

As with a presentation, so with a speech: prior preparation and planning prevents poor performance.

Having to give a speech for a wedding is not something that is exactly sprung on you at the last minute. You usually have plenty of time to prepare, and it's a good idea to use it. The reason that so many presenters use visual aids is because just speaking to people is a very inefficient means of communicating. It’s using only one of your audience’s five senses. So when you’re giving a speech, you need to grab their attention quickly, and then keep it.

One of the best ways to do this is to use stories.

Your preparation time should therefore be used in two ways:

Suppose you are giving the best man’s speech at your friend’s wedding. The central message of your speech is fundamentally what a good bloke your friend is, and how wonderful it is that he is marrying his bride ( not all the embarrassing things that he has ever done). You then need to choose two or three good stories that illustrate this and, as a bonus, will amuse the assembled group.

For a eulogy , it’s the same idea. Talk to friends and family and find two or three stories that really illustrate the life and/or values of the person you are eulogising. It is a tribute, not their life story.

Writing your Speech

Once you have gathered your material, the next step is to put it together.

Speeches need to be carefully structured. They must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The beginning needs to grab your audience, the middle needs to hold on to them, and the end needs to finish off nicely.

You may find it helpful to have a ‘hook’ to hang the whole speech on. Ideas for wedding speech ‘hooks’ include events on that day in history, which may give you a starting point, or perhaps the initials of the bride or groom might lead you to expand on other things with that same initial that remind you of them?

Keep it simple. Three main points or stories are enough. You want to focus on the essentials, and get your message across.

You also do not want to offend anyone.

This brings us to the second important issue. As with presentations, it is important to know your audience .

The rugby club might be amused at the story where your friend took all his clothes off and was caught naked in a fountain by the police in a compromising position with a statue. The bride’s mother may not find it quite so funny.

If in doubt, leave it out.

If you're not easily offended then watch John Cleese read his eulogy to Graham Chapman.

Close your speech clearly. At weddings it’s easy: a toast to the bride and groom, or to the bridesmaids, will do nicely. But it’s an important point for other speeches too.

Experienced raconteurs may feel comfortable with sketchy notes.

If this is your first speech, however, you’ll probably want to write it out in full. Try, if you can, not to read it word-for-word, though, as it will sound a bit stilted.

As a rule of thumb, aim for a speech that is about five to seven minutes, and certainly no more than ten.

Practising your Speech in Advance

You may feel uncomfortable doing so, but it is helpful to practise by reading your speech out loud, preferably to a small audience you can trust.

When doing so, look out for:

Consider amending these bits, deleting the first, and revising the second until you are comfortable with all the words you are using, and the ideas that you are expressing. This is especially important at funerals, because you do not want to become over-emotional.

Giving your Speech: On the Day

There is one really important rule here: be yourself. That’s why it’s important to practise in advance so that you are relaxed and comfortable with what you are saying. Don’t forget to make eye contact and smile, just as you would in a presentation.

If you’re a bit nervous beforehand, concentrate on keeping your breathing steady, and think of the adrenalin as something that will help you perform. For more about this, see our page on Coping with Presentation Nerves .

Remember to speak slowly and clearly .

You are unlikely to have a microphone for speeches at weddings and funerals at least, so you will need to concentrate on projecting your voice across the room. Speaking slowly will help you with that.

Also be prepared to adapt your speech a bit as you go. For example, if your early jokes fall a bit flat, be prepared to skim over any others lightly or miss them out. If you sense that you are losing your audience, or that you are taking longer than you expected, cut out a story or two.

After all, while nobody ever complained that a speech was too short, history is littered with complaints about over-long ones!

Remember, when you’re giving a speech, the audience is (usually) on your side (the exception might be in politics). As a general rule, they want you to succeed, to amuse them, and to make everyone smile.

But there is one very useful rule of thumb to bear in mind:

Stand up, speak up, shut up, sit down.

Abide by that and you will find your speeches are likely to be much more successful.

Continue to: Effective Speaking Self Presentation

See also: Why Public Speaking and Communication Are So Important to Your Career How to Become a Better Public Speaker Inspiring TED Talks (And What You can Learn from Them)

how to make a speech give

Speechwriting 101: Writing an Effective Speech

11 jan, 2013.

Whether you are a communications pro or a human resources executive, the time will come when you will need to write a speech for yourself or someone else.  When that time comes, your career may depend on your success.

J. Lyman MacInnis, a corporate coach,  Toronto Star  columnist, accounting executive and author of  “ The Elements of Great Public Speaking ,”  has seen careers stalled – even damaged – by a failure to communicate messages effectively before groups of people. On the flip side, solid speechwriting skills can help launch and sustain a successful career.  What you need are forethought and methodical preparation.

Know Your Audience

Learn as much as possible about the audience and the event.  This will help you target the insights, experience or knowledge you have that this group wants or needs:

Choose Your Core Message

If the core message is on target, you can do other things wrong. But if the message is wrong, it doesn’t matter what you put around it.  To write the most effective speech, you should have significant knowledge about your topic, sincerely care about it and be eager to talk about it.  Focus on a message that is relevant to the target audience, and remember: an audience wants opinion. If you offer too little substance, your audience will label you a lightweight.  If you offer too many ideas, you make it difficult for them to know what’s important to you.

Research and Organize

Research until you drop.  This is where you pick up the information, connect the ideas and arrive at the insights that make your talk fresh.  You’ll have an easier time if you gather far more information than you need.  Arrange your research and notes into general categories and leave space between them. Then go back and rearrange. Fit related pieces together like a puzzle.

Develop Structure to Deliver Your Message

First, consider whether your goal is to inform, persuade, motivate or entertain.  Then outline your speech and fill in the details:

You want to leave the audience exhilarated, not drained. In our fast-paced age, 20-25 minutes is about as long as anyone will listen attentively to a speech. As you write and edit your speech, the general rule is to allow about 90 seconds for every double-spaced page of copy.

Spice it Up

Once you have the basic structure of your speech, it’s time to add variety and interest.  Giving an audience exactly what it expects is like passing out sleeping pills. Remember that a speech is more like conversation than formal writing.  Its phrasing is loose – but without the extremes of slang, the incomplete thoughts, the interruptions that flavor everyday speech.

Be sure to use all of these devices sparingly in your speeches. If overused, the speech becomes exaggerated. Used with care, they will work well to move the speech along and help you deliver your message in an interesting, compelling way.

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