How To Give A Great Speech – 20 Tips

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Make your next speech, presentation, or keynote address a hit with your attendees. Use these 15 Positive P’s to ensure your message is memorable. And avoid the 5 Problem P’s that characterize a weak speaker. Read on and discover how to speak with more confidence and clarity!

Audience Applauding Great Speech After Conference Presentation

Use these 15 Powerful P’s to Deliver a Killer Presentation:

  1. PURPOSE

Why are you giving this speech? How are you going to help your audience? Before you develop the content of your message, focus on the personal conviction you have about why you are speaking to this group. Summarize your one big takeaway—what you want your hearers to walk away with—when you are done speaking. Can you put this Main Point into one sentence? Example: We can increase sales by 50% by meeting with our clients in person this year. The more focused you can be on the ONE main point of your speech the better. Your audience will not remember much of what you say, so you need to be laser-focused on the main purpose of your presentation. Do you want to inform them? Are you trying to move them to take action? What do you want them to DO?

  • PASSION

Your listeners are human beings impacted by human feelings. The best way to connect with your audience is by touching their emotions. How? Connect with your own feelings first.  You won’t move others if you don’t feel moved. One of the most powerful speakers of the 20th Century said this: “Only a hot storm of passion can turn the destinies of people, and he alone can arouse passion who bears it within himself.” Who uttered these words? Sadly, it was Adolf Hitler! This terrible evil man knew the power of passion. Thankfully, another dynamic and even more passionate speaker named Winston Churchill rallied the Allies to defeat him. Passion is the key to your talk. Yes, your speech should be logical, but it must be logic ON FIRE. Don’t expect your audience to care about what you are saying if you don’t’ show that you care deeply.

  • PLAN

Even if you are a “natural” and know how to speak on your feet, take a lesson from master communicator Mark Twain who said, “It takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” Here’s how to start: Once you know your main point, think of at least two to four supporting points that build on the main thrust of your speech. Whether you are developing an after-dinner speech, a motivational talk, or a keynote message for your annual gathering, you want to create a sequence for your speech. Here’s a winning formula you can use. It was developed by Alan Monroe, who developed his “Motivated Sequence” back in the 1930s. It still works today:  ANSVA.  Read on…

  • PEN

Whether you script every word of your talk or speak from a single one-sheet outline of your speech, you must pen your speech sequence. Write out your first draft by hand. Here’s is Alan Monroe’s fantastic format for creating a winning talk. It’s based on the acronym ANSVA:

  • Attention! How will you grab them in your opening?
  • Need: Explain the problem the audience is facing.
  • Satisfaction: Spell out how your solution(s) for the challenge facing your listeners.
    Note: This is the main part of your presentation and can be two, three, or four points.
  • Visualization: This phase of your speech is about showing them what will happen IF they follow your plan—and what will happen if they don’t.
  • Action: This goes back to your main purpose. What are you asking your audience to DO?
  • PRACTICE

“The ability to do comes from the knowledge that we can do.”

James Allen

Whatever you do, please do NOT read your speech verbatim to your group! Keep in mind, this is a speech you are delivering, not a “reading.” Take the time to rehearse your delivery. The more you can practice your speech aloud the more confident you will feel about your inspirational or informational message. Key: Can you practice in front of a live audience? Before delivering your annual address, try it out in front of your staff. Even practicing in front of your family is better than not practicing in front of a live audience. The great motivational teacher James Allen said, “The ability to do comes from the knowledge that we can do.” Your confidence will go up, the more times you deliver your presentation out loud—ideally in front of other human beings. If you get stuck, don’t stop yourself or worry about perfection at this time, just give your talk again and again before you deliver it to your target audience.

  • PERSONALIZE  

Keep the focus on “WIIFT”: What’s In It For Them?

This is what separates a great speech from a ho-hum message—can you personalize it for your audience? This is easier when you are a member of this organization. But whether you are part of the “tribe” or not, be sure to use the language (think “buzz words”, acronyms, key phrases) that will resonate with your attendees. Special tip: Who is the most loved person in your audience? Find out! Can you incorporate his/her name into your keynote message or after-dinner presentation? Here’s another key: Share a little about your own life and story. Avoid stories where you come out on top. Audiences love it when speakers open up and share vulnerably about their own struggles and setbacks.

  • POW

We live in the “attention economy.” You have to immediately GRAB the attention of your listeners. And guess what? Once you have their attention, you need to continually hook them back again, and again, and again. Use questions. Show amazing photos or short videos. Tell a funny (and clean) joke. Physically involve your attendees. Do whatever it takes to gain and maintain the attention of your listeners. Here’s the deal: You must assume inattention. Throughout your talk, your audience is secretly asking themselves this question: Who cares? Why should I tune into this? Want to become a great speaker? Surprise your audience in the first few seconds of your talk—and continue to surprise and re-engage them along the way. It’s a sin to be boring.

  • PAIN

This is the tip most speakers skip. But you must include it. Uncover the pain your audience is feeling, and they will be riveted to your message. Great advertisers do this. You must do it too. Sometimes you must hurt them—or remind them of their hurts–before you can heal them. Tap into their fears, their disappointments, their problems. There is a powerful saying in the 12-Step recovery movement, that also applies to impacting your audience. People respect wisdom, but they obey pain. Unless you unpack THE PROBLEM(S) your people are facing, why should they care about your speech? When you genuinely tap into their pain-points, your hearers will be far more interested in your message points. You will be setting them up for your solution.

  • PRESCRIBE

Prescribe the solution for the problem they are facing

You are the expert on this topic. (If not, get off the stage please). It’s time for you to shine. Share your expertise. Your speech, keynote program, break-out session, or workshop needs to bring real value to your attendees. Don’t be timid here—be bold! You know that what you have to say will make a difference in your listener’s lives. So, say it. Prescribe the solution for the problem they are facing. Demonstrate that if your audience follows your plan of action their lives will be improved. The word “prescribe” is used here intentionally. Think of the people you are addressing as “patients” you are the “doctor” who knows exactly what they need to DO to get the results they want. Suggestion: This part of your speech is critical. Spend most of your speaking time unpacking 2, 3, or 4 steps your listeners need to follow to see their lives improved.

  1. PROVE

Look and see all the nice smiling faces—and you need to be making eye contact with your audience—but don’t be fooled. They may be nodding in agreement with you, especially if you are the boss, but what they are saying to themselves is just two words. Prove it. Can you give examples that show that what you are proposing actually works? Do you have stories—not just stats—that validate what you are saying? Remember that facts tell, but stories sell. Help your hearers know that your message will matter to them when they take your advice, follow your lead, implement your plan.

  1. PURCHASE

You know the saying, “Get them to buy in.” Even if you are not selling a product or service during your speech, you must get them to take action. Be specific here. What exactly are you asking your audience to DO? Bad example: “So increase your productivity this year” (That’s too vague). Good example: “Get at least 90% of our customers to complete our super-satisfaction survey this month.”  The action steps you give your audience must be specific, doable, and measurable. Tell them what you want them to do.

  1. PUNCH-UP

“Remember that a great story is about how a person makes a big change and learns a big lesson”

The shortest—and one of the best—speaker training courses comes down to this advice for speakers in just six words:  Make a point, tell a story. People will remember how you make them feel via stories. You can also punch-up your presentation by incorporating humor into your speech. There are many resources about effective storytelling and using humor in your public speaking. Here are two quick insights:  A) Remember that a great story is about how a person makes a big change and learns a big lesson. B) Every good joke has a clear set-up, a surprising twist, and an ending or punch line. Your audience will thank you when you punch up your program with stories and jokes.

  1. PARTICIPATION

You’ll never lose your audience if you involve them. Look for ways to physically and emotionally engage with your group. Even if you are giving a lecture, remember that people don’t like to feel lectured. You are not talking to people, you are talking with them. Have attendees stand up, break into groups, enjoy an ice-breaker, take an interactive survey, fill out a pledge card, raise their hands, move to a new seat, pick a card, share something with the person next to them, sing a song, etc. What can you do to encourage lots of participation in your after-dinner speech, motivational message, or keynote presentation?

  1. PERSUADE

How will you move your audience toward action? What your listeners want is for you to take them on a journey. Persuasion is about moving people from one place to another. You are more than a speaker, you are a change agent. Design and deliver your speech so that it inspires change. Convince your listeners that your solution will work for them. Move them to take action! This goes back to the power of your WHY for giving the speech. Why should they care about what you are saying? How does this matter to them? How will your message help them feel great, save time, make money, or leave a legacy?

  1. POLISH

Great speakers have a good habit. They audio and video record their presentations. You should too. Here’s why: You can improve your motivational speaking by looking to see if the people in your audience are motivated. Listen to the audio recording. Are you getting laughs where you expect? Look and listen for reactions. Make note of what you can cut out of your speech. Most audiences are not clamoring for longer speeches. Polish speech so that your main point is crystal clear. Here are some other ways you can polish your presentation:  First, give the same speech as often as possible so you can perfect it. Next, practice what you will say and how you will say it. Finally, rehearse your movements. You are planning to move, aren’t you? Do not stay planted behind a podium. Your people want to connect with you. So get close to them and let them hear from your heart—not just your head.

Avoid These 5 Mistakes Amateur Speakers Make:

  1. POINTLESS

Don’t become one of those speakers who just talks and talks up on the platform. Your job is not to merely talk, but to give a powerful talk. The #1 concern your listeners have is this: Does she have a point to make—and will it help me?  You may be a fun “ramblin’ guy” but don’t ramble during your speech. Here’s an important suggestion: Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. And then, tell them what you just told them. Stay on point. Stick with the main purpose of your talk. What is the big point of your presentation? Get that across as clearly as possible, and then get off the stage.

  • POWERPOINT

Avoid using powerpoint if you can. Yes, you read that right. Here’s why: You have been asked to deliver a speech, not a slide show. Too many speakers hide behind graphs, stats, and quotations. What is your message? Always come back to your main message. Your audience wants to know your personal story, so don’t get lost up on a screen. Powerpoint can be a tremendous tool. If you decide to use it, remember five things:  One: Make sure everybody can see what you are showing. Two: Keep graphics simple with single images. Don’t put a detailed outline on the screen. Three: Short videos are great IF they illustrated your message. Four: Don’t stand there with a clicker like you are showing old vacation pictures. Have the AV team run your powerpoint if possible. Five: Ask yourself, “How does this image show them what I am talking about?”

  • POLITICS

Unless you are running for office or campaigning for a candidate, keep politics out of your presentation. Your speech should bring people together. Political comments are bound to divide. Take a look at the root words for communicate and community—they are the same. Look for ways to build and reinforce the community in your group. Rule one for any great speech is: know your audience. How can you connect with the values, language, and goals of this group—and include everybody? Note: Avoiding politics does not just mean staying away from controversy on a national or state level. If your organization is going through a conflict regarding departments, unions, or other disputes, avoid these topics if you can. Build bridges.

  • PERSONAL AGENDA

“Every great speech, whether paid or given for free, is a benefit speech—your presentation should benefit your listeners.”

Here’s an important distinction: You DO want to share from-the-heart on a personal level during your speech. But you DO NOT want to bring a personal agenda to a group setting. In other words, keep your pet peeves out of your presentation. Keep the focus on “WIIFT”: What’s In It For Them? If you need to confront someone in your organization, do it directly and privately. You never want to embarrass others during your annual meeting, fundraiser, or dinner program. If you have been given permission to sell something from the stage, that’s fine. Just make sure that helps your hearers. Here’s the bottom line: Every great speech, whether paid or given for free, is a benefit speech—your presentation should benefit your listeners.

  • POOR DELIVERY

You may have written a fabulous speech, an instant classic up there with the Gettysburg Address. But if you don’t get the message across to your audience, it will be a disappointment. Your delivery counts. Big time. Here are some pointers for improving your delivery while on the platform:

  • Make eye contact with your audience.
  • Crank up your energy! Feel nervous? That’s OK, that’s just adrenaline pumping you up for a great talk.
  • Vary your vocal range… This means raise your voice, lower your voice, whisper, and use the most powerful device ever known to great speakers: The power of silent pauses.
  • Get as close to your audience as possible. The closer you get, the better your speech will get. This doesn’t mean you deliver the whole talk from the floor. It’s about making a connection with your attendees (before, during, and after your speech).
  • Enjoy yourself. Believe that you have something valuable to share. You do. Your group will have a great time when you do!

Incorporate these 15 Positives and avoid the 5 Problems, and you will increase the impact of your next inspirational message, keynote speech, or after-dinner address. Remember that the time you put into your speech before you give it will enhance the experience for you and your audience.

Adam Christing holds a degree in Public Speaking and has been named one of the Top 5 After Dinner Speakers in North America. He is the author of 3 humor and personal growth books including, Your Life is a Joke: 12 Ways to Go from Ha Ha to AHA! Adam is the founder of Clean Comedians.