Ten Top Tips: Make a memorable speech

Does the very thought of giving a speech leave you dry-mouthed and terrified? Here are ten ways to create a speech with the 'wow!' factor.

by Julie Williams
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

According to Nora Ephron, 'When you sit down to write the first page of your screenplay, in your head you are delivering your Oscar acceptance speech.'

However, when it comes to delivering the speech, research indicates that 75% of us suffer from glossophobia (fear of public speaking). Unfortunately, most of us have to speak in public at some point - as part of our job, at a wedding or, er, when we accept our Oscar. It can be as painful for the audience as it is for the speech maker. So how can you make your speech as painless and memorable as possible?

Remember that any topic can be made fascinating and memorable

I can remember a speech made years ago on toilet rolls. I can still recall the presenter's name, the intricacies of ply strength and the importance of softness!

Why are you giving the damn speech, anyway?

Once you have your topic, decide whether you primarily need to inform, inspire or entertain your audience. For example, in a speech about skiing, you could focus on the equipment and skills (inform), the feeling of being on top of the world (inspire) or your antics on the black run (probably entertain).

Start at the end

Write down one sentence that summarises what you want your audience to remember. You may not say it but it will be at the heart of - and guide - what you do say. Perhaps the message Gwyneth Paltrow wanted to convey in her tearful 1999 Oscar acceptance speech was 'I never stop acting even when I'm off the stage'?

Use the simple 'Tell' approach (credited to Aristotle)

a. Tell your audience what you are going to tell them.
b. Tell them.
c. Tell them what you have told them.

First impressions are everything

Your introduction sets the tone so depending on the objective, start with a simple greeting, a quote, some facts, a challenge or a question. Or make a (relevant) shocking statement. Avoid humour unless your delivery is impeccable and you are sure it is appropriate.

Don't blind them with science

Don't try to tell the audience too much. People tend to remember three things clearly, so choose the three most important points and stick to them.

Bring the topic to life

Imagine that you are writing your speech for one person - and you need to hold that one person's attention for the duration. Use dialogue. Tell stories and anecdotes to illustrate points. Engage emotions with analogies and metaphors. Interact with questions, quizzes and role play.


Perform out loud at least four times.

Take your time at the end

Don't rush off the podium too quickly as people tend to remember the last words spoken. Match your closing with your objectives of inform, inspire or entertain by summarising key points, challenging the audience to take action or engage them with an amusing anecdote. End on a positive note!

Be sensational - in any way you can

Glossophobia can impede careers but it is never too late to take action. Give it a go. Get inspiration from the best (and worst) TED talks. If all else fails, do a Lady Gaga and wear something so distracting the audience may not listen to your speech -but they will remember you!

Julie Williams is a partner at Tinder-Box.

Image: BigStockPhoto

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