I have been a corporate speechwriter for over 15 years and have written speeches for CEOs and politicians. I know what does and does not work in a speech. Here are some key rules.
1. All speeches follow a basic pattern. “Tell them what you are going to say, say it, tell them what you said.”
2. You do not need to open with a joke, despite what everyone tells you. Chances are the audience has heard the joke before and will laugh politely – and they are really thinking – what a lame joke. Plus why waste time looking for jokes to open your speech, when you should be focusing on what message you want them to walk away with?
3. The best opening is to compliment your audience. This creates an instance rapport with your audience. For instance – “I am very flattered to be asked to speak to you tonight. I recognize that you are all outstanding professionals and am honored to share some thoughts with you tonight about ______.
4, Know the organization you are speaking to. For instance if you are addressing The Society of Professional Engineers, do some research and find out how long the organization has been in existence, some milestones it has accomplished, some famous members and perhaps its future goals. You can add these to your opening, showing that you care about the organization they thought it was important to join.
5. Know your audience. Why did they invite you? What are their main concerns? What do they want to learn from your speech? You cannot guess at what they want. Talk to someone who scheduled the speech and find out what THEY want you to discuss. Not what YOU want to discuss.
6. Don’t get fancy. Simply say – I am here tonight to talk about _____. For instance you might say, ” I am here to talk about the importance of sales training to an organization. “
7. Next – don’t cover too much in a speech. Cover three key points. After you introduce your topic – break it into three key points. For example: There are three important reasons that you should have a comprehensive training program for your sales people. First, a comprehensive training session will help them to use their time wisely. Two, it will help them identify leads they might miss.. And third , it will teach them the importance of follow-up and closing the sales.
8. The three key points are the outline of the speech.. Let’s look at our example of why organizations need a comprehensive sales training program. You will cover:
- Using time wisely
- Identifying and finding leads
- Follow up and closing a sales.
Bingo – there are the three main parts of your speech.
9. Back up each section with specific examples, stats and a good war-story. For instance – look at the first point you want to make. Using Time Wisely. Tell the audience how people who go through professional sales training are 50 percent more efficient. Tell the audience the key ways that sales people waste time. Then tell a story. Audiences love stories. Tell a specific story about someone who went through sales training and how he or she increased the use of their time, how they became more efficient.
10. The ending. Tell them – what you said. Simply repeat the three key points you covered, emphasize why they are important . Then thank the audience for letting you speak and once again tell them how great they are and how honored you were to speak with them. Politeness goes a long way!
That’s all folks. Remember there are three key parts to every speech. In the opening, you told them “what you were going to say.” You clearly laid out your main topic and the three key issues you would cover. Then “you said it” . You covered your three key points and brought them home to the audience with stats, examples and a great story. Then you wrapped up the speech” by telling them what you said”. You emphasized your key points and reminded them why the points were important.
See giving a speech is not that hard. Just stick to your main topic, reinforce your three key points and you will be a hit. Don’t worry about being a comic or entertaining the audience. They want you to be professional and share important information with them.
And, of course, make sure that your fly is not at half mast or your blouse is unbuttoned .