How to Give a Speech

So you’ve volunteered, been asked, or selected to give a speech.  Now what?

Most people consider giving a speech up there with getting a root canal; but, actually, it’s not that hard, and can even be enjoyable if you’re well prepared.

Where to start? The best way is to first know your audience and the occasion. What is expected; a technical treatise, an inspirational message, or something light and entertaining?  In a mixed group, try to find some common ground – work, community, geography, habits, past experiences or any other similarities with your audience.

The best topic is, of course, something you know about. An entertaining speech is a good all around choice, but all speeches have similar goals and techniques.

Developing Your Topic

There are many ways to develop a topic. For an entertaining speech, don’t just tell jokes, find a specific theme the audience can relate and visualize.  Remember that an entertaining speech can have a serious message, and a serious speech can still be entertaining.

Some basic suggestions:

  • Address your topic from different points of view.
  • Choose an unusual introduction or approach to capture interest.
  • Give a familiar issue, subject or topic a personal, dramatic or humorous twist.
  • Use personal experiences to make a point.  Talk about what you know.
  • When describing common mistakes and failures don’t single out individuals or groups.
  • Replace “professional jargon” with “real” talk for clarity.
  • Structure your speech for style and flow. End with a memorable, unexpected or humorous climax.
  • Use humor carefully. Don’t ridicule or insult groups or individuals.
  • Try to memorize your speech, practice until so you don’t have to refer to your notes often.
  • Practice on the timing, delivery and flow of your speech.

Delivering Your Topic