Do both you and your audience dread every time you make a speech? Are speeches
an awful chore that you avoid like a plague? Do your speeches evoke yawns rather
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be in trouble. What is
the secret formula to being a good speaker? Actually, giving a very good speech
is not a magic trick at all but an art cultivated by following a few rules and
constantly practicing. Here are a few guidelines that can help you become a
Research your topic. Read about it, talk about it, and investigate it. The more
you understand the topic the better you can handle it.
Jot down any ideas which come to mind so you do not forget them. In your
reading, look for some natural idea structure on which to build a speech.
Decide on a central idea. This should be the main theme for your talk. Take into
consideration your audience's knowledge and needs.
Develop main points which support the central idea. The idea should be divided
into no fewer than two and no more than five main points. More than five points
will be difficult for the audience to remember.
Investigate the particulars on your subject. Collect examples, anecdotes,
definitions, comparisons, etc.; they can flesh out the main points by adding to
their validity and interest.
Be sure to answer the questions: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
Choose only information with relevance, accuracy and some human interest appeal.
Any other information will only confuse your audience.
Make an outline of your speech. An outline will help you to organize and pace your
Write your speech in very simple language. Use short and direct sentences. This
will make your speech easier to understand and give information more impact.
Follow a general statement with specifics. Substantiate generalities with
authority or your audience will not accept them.
Do not overestimate information for the audience or underestimate their
intelligence. Give them the facts they need to know to understand and accept
your central idea but do not talk down to them.
Be careful in your selection of humor. Use jokes only if they are appropriate to
your speech and to the audience. Do not bewilder the audience with meaningless
humor or offend them with tasteless jokes.
Choose visuals that help tell your message. Avoid visuals that are so busy that
they tend to overshadow your ideas and distract from your main idea or message.
Begin a speech with an attention grabber. Introductions should create a bond
between audience and speaker. If you do not capture their attention at the
beginning, you will not get any part of your message across.
Develop smooth transitions from one part of the speech to the next. Give your
speech continuity by showing the relationship of each part to the whole.
Place cues for pauses, gestures, and audio-visual directions in the margins of
your speech script. These cues can guide you during delivery.
In your closing, sum up the main points of the speech and again repeat the
central idea. Such repetition will reinforce your message.
End with an appeal for action. This should be your speech's goal. By concluding
with your plea for action, your audience will remember it longer.
Stay within your time allotment. Talking overtime is rude to the other speakers
and the audience.
Put your speech on large note cards. Be sure your notes are lettered large and
Rehearse. Nothing can make a speech perfect except practice and practice and
practice. Practice with your equipment and assistants, if you are using them.
When rehearsing, have someone critique your performance or check your own
mistakes with videotape or a tape recorder.
Be sure all of the equipment is working to your satisfaction. Check on
replacements in case of a breakdown.
Dress appropriately. Do not overshadow your speech with flashy apparel.
Stand erect but not stiff. Do not be afraid to move during your speech. Movement
will help keep the audience's attention.
Take your notes to the lectern. Only a professional can speak without notes so
do not trust your memory. Use your notes to guide you, but do not shuffle the
note cards. It can become distracting.
Know your microphone. Try it out before the program. When it is your turn to
speak, do not blow into the microphone or tap it. Gauge its power from the
Toastmaster's use of it.
Start your speech with a sixty second pause and a pleasant facial expression.
Relax. Do not start to talk until you are at the lectern and have everyone's
attention. Give the audience a chance to settle down and respond to your
Thank the Toastmaster and make the necessary acknowledgments. Be courteous but
Start with the strong opening. Once the audience is yours, hold them. Try a
meaningful joke or story. Ask the audience a pertinent question.
Explain why you are there. The Toastmaster will qualify you as a speaker on this
topic but it is up to you to create an intimacy between you, your topic, and
State your central idea. Tell your main idea clearly and directly. This is the
foundation upon which your speech is based. Be sure your audience understands
Make a point, then go on to the next one. Do not fill your speech with
anticlimaxes. Forget the unimportant trifles.
Work to a climax. Know the goal of your speech and work directly toward it. Do
not get detoured.
Speak in a varying tone. Use an animated conversational voice. Emphasize but do
not rant and rave. Never rush your speech.
Gesture to make a point. Use your face and body to express what you are saying.
Synchronize gestures with your words. Avoid fidgeting.
Maintain eye contact with your audience. Make friends with the group in the
center, but remember everyone in the room.
Use your visual aids but do not hide behind them. Let them talk to the audience
but do not let them do all the talking.
Unveil your props and visuals as you go along. Dispose of props after their use.
Do not clutter the speaking area and your speech with unnecessary and
Talk to your audience, do not preach. Give them your ideas not your education.
Forget the word "I" and stick to the word "you." Let the
Toastmaster brag about you. You talk about your audience and their abilities.
Make use of pauses. Give your audience time to digest your ideas.
Invite audience participation. Put the audience into the act and you will have
their attention and interest. They will remember more if they get to
Summarize main points clearly and briefly. Relate them back to the central idea.
Close with a rousing plea for action. Be as sincere, honest, and enthused as
Do not talk too long. Be fair to everyone. Do not get carried away with
Make your script obvious but not awkward. Your trying to hide it is ridiculous
Know your script. Read and re-read it, rehearse with gestures. You may want to
memorize the beginning and the end so that you know them "cold."
Do not correct small mistakes. You will only draw attention to them and disrupt
the continuity of your speech.
Say it; do not read it. Maintain eye contact with your audience. Look at the
script, then talk directly to the audience. Think about what you are saying.
Speak slower and louder whenever you must read a direct passage.
When you are finished speaking, hold eye contact for a few seconds. Avoid
closing with "Thank you;" it is a weak crutch. Wait for applause and
sit down after returning control of the lectern to either the person who
introduced you or the person in charge of the function.