HOW TO GIVE A GREAT SPEECH
March 21, 2011 18 Comments
Kin Hubbard (1868-1930) US cartoonist said “Why doesn’t the fellow who says “I’m no speechmaker” let it go at that instead of giving a demonstration”.
I am often asked as to what tips I can give to people who are asked to make a speech. Most people fear public speaking more than they fear death, but I feel that if you follow some simple rules, everyone can be a great speaker, thus returning death to its rightful place at the top of “feardom”.
1. Always start your speech with “Four score and seven years ago …”.
This is the way that Abraham Lincoln started the Gettysburg address in November 1863, and despite the absence of the internet, twitter, facebook and other social media at the time, it is still ranked as the greatest and the single most remembered speech in history.
If you speak often, and start all your speeches this way, over time people may start to identify you with this opening and forget that it came from Abe.
2. If you must practise your speeches, do so whilst standing naked in front of a full length mirror.
This way, when you do the actual speech and you are fully clothed, you will have much greater confidence knowing that you are completely dressed.
Many speech coaches also advise that you pretend that your audience is actually all sitting there naked in front of you, which would give you an even greater shot of confidence. I advise against this last suggestion particularly if you are speaking to the local “Senior Citizens Association”, as it is hard to concentrate on speaking fluently when your brain keeps bringing up thoughts of ironing out creases.
3. Prepare at least 100 complex Powerpoint slides to accompany your speech.
You should make sure that the images that you use have absolutely nothing to do with the topic you are speaking on at the time, but are eye-catching enough to make sure that nobody focuses on what you are saying. This is particularly important if speaking at a European conference, where most of the audience will believe that they are much more knowledgeable on any topic than the actual speaker, so it pays to distract them with pretty pictures.
4. Be cautious about not offending one specific ethnic or interest group that may be in your audience.
As it is hard to determine who is in attendance beforehand, it pays to ensure that you insult all of them without any bias to show that you are not a racist. You will therefore need to include in your introduction serious slurs to all religions, nationalities, ethnic groups, sexual orientations, genders, tradespeople, politicians, actors, musicians, children, the elderly, all professions and any other groups that can be identified, generally by the wearing of identical T-shirts.
5. Always use a lot of statistics in your speeches.
Large lists of numbers are always well received by any audience.
If you feel it really necessary you can even use some that are relevant to your speech, though this is not mandatory. Even though you should never have more than 50 of your 100 Powerpoints dedicated to long lists of numbers, do not assume that your audience will be able to speed read them all, so you must make sure that you actually readout all the numbers with no omissions.
6. To be remembered, it is important to leave your audience hungry for more.
It is therefore critical that you give them very little worthwhile information in case you slake their thirst and quench their appetite. In fact, the less that you tell them the more they will go away feeling that there is significantly more that they could learn about your chosen topic. In this way, by telling them nothing of importance at all, it will ensure that you will be remembered and talked about long after the conference is over.
7. Always overdress so that you can look and feel superior to your audience.
For example, if you are speaking at a conference of barristers it is worthwhile dressing like a High Court Judge, or if speaking to a group of politicians you should dress like a dominatrix or an arms dealer. If you are invited to speak at an IT conference, whatever you wear will not position you as being greater than a bunch of “IT nerds”as, since the movie “Social Networks”, they now occupy the highest levels of superiority.
8. It is better not to practise your speech beforehand as this will remove any spontaneity.
It is much better to just think about what you want to say as you are being introduced, and you should always have the same small printed card available to prompt you when speaking. This way you will not need to have different prompt cards for every speech.
This card just needs to say:
- “Four score and seven years ago …”
- I want everyone here to know that I hate …. (name all the groups, missing none)
- Tell the rude joke that I heard at the last stag party I went to
- Say nothing too interesting for 30 minutes including 20 minutes of statistics
- Finish last 5 minutes with a flourish and promise everyone free beer if they applaud
I hope that this helps anyone faced with the prospect of public speaking. To keep stealing from Abraham Lincoln, just remember that “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt”.