In my last post, I offered some helpful tips on preparing to give a speech or presentation, plus some inspiration for deciding on a topic. This time around, I’m going to offer some expert guidance on organising and opening a speech in order to attract and retain your audience’s attention.
Organising your speech is more than just the order that you introduce your points – you also need to ensure that the words work together to keep your audience engaged and convey the importance of each point you make and how they relate to one another…
Organising and writing your speech
While many coaches use the ‘three T’s’ method:
Tell what you’re going to tell them.
Tell them what you’ve told them.
I favour the simpler model of SME:
While it may seem to be common sense to start at the beginning, when developing your presentation, I actually advise starting with the end. What is it you want the audience to take away? What’s the end result you want from the presentation or speech?
Start with the end in mind to define what you want the outcome to be, then develop three key points to make in the middle – your ‘Power of Three’.
Once you’ve made these points to engage your audience, try to focus on one main idea, backing it up with supporting material such as statistics or quotations. Using stories is a great tool, especially personal ones which can help you to emphasise and demonstrate what you mean.
After you’ve decided on the middle part of your speech, you can use the ending to summarise what you’ve just said – linking this back to the beginning if possible, to ‘close the loop’. Audiences like closure and it helps to show that you know what you’re talking about.
Finally, finish off with a ‘takeaway’, or put another way, a call to action. What would you like them to do? Learn more on your website? Check out some additional resources? Buy your product?
Ending with the opening
Once you’ve organised the main body of your speech, you have all the information you need to create an attention-grabbing opening.
Techniques for opening a speech vary, but here are some effective ideas you can try:
- Ask a rhetorical question to get them thinking
- Stress why the topic is important to them
- Make a startling or intriguing statement
- Arouse suspense or curiosity
- Tell an amusing or dramatic story or anecdote
- Begin with a powerful, relevant quotation
- Refer to a specific historical event
- Use audience participation
- Perform a demonstration
Whatever technique you choose, ensure that it’s relevant to the topic, the audience and the event or occasion.
A well organised speech or presentation is much more effective than being unprepared – if you’re jumping around with no plan or direction, the audience will be too busy trying to create order in your words, instead of paying attention to the actual message.
Next time, we’ll take a look at ways of controlling your nerves and using body language to make your speech your presentation more engaging and effective.