Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Speech Construction

  1. Before you start on any speech, presentation etc., ask yourself some questions:
    1. Why… have you decided to do this? (For fun, to raise money, to help a friend, a professional obligation etc?)
    2. Who… are you speaking to? What age, sex, profession etc? How many people will be there? What are the common links amongst them, and between them and you?
    3. What… are you aiming to do? Persuade / entertain / impress / inspire…etc?
    4. Where… are you speaking? How big? What are the facilities – lighting, sound system, data projector etc? Do they work? Can you check them out personally? Do you need special advice about it (eg are you on TV or radio)?
    5. When… are you speaking (eg at 10am or after dinner) and how will that affect your audience? How long have you to prepare for this? How long do they want you to talk?
    6. How… are you doing it? A speech / presentation / discussion / debate…etc?
  2. Material
    1. If you have choice of subject, think of what you might talk about.
    2. Collect your ideas on the subject(s) – lists or mind maps or pictures – whatever works for you. Don't exclude humour. (If you don't know about mind mapping, look into it, it works).
    3. Research – books and publications, internet, newspapers, talk to other people; expand your ideas.
    4. Decide what material you want to use – but throw away nothing in case you change your mind.
    5. Think about/draft a possible order for your material - a logical progression for the beginning to the end.

  3. Introduction
    A speech will usually have a beginning, a middle and an end. But before you begin to speak you should be introduced to the group. Write your own introduction, ask the person introducing you to use it.
    Write it to enhance your speech and support what you are trying to achieve. So it might explain your qualifications to speak on the subject; make you sound like a person the group can identify with; raise questions you will be addressing in your talk etc.
  4. Beginning
    1. If you start with something like ‘Mr Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen’,  it gives people time to tune into your voice and it gives you time to get to grips with the microphone / acoustics (if you haven’t has a practice run).
    2. The beginning is important, try to make it make it clear, relevant and attention grabbing.
    3. How much of your time will you give to your beginning?
  5. Middle
    1. There is a balance to a well constructed speech. 3 or 5 main points seem to give it. Decide what they will be and put the rest aside – but throw away nothing in case you change your mind.
    2. Consider how to link your main points – a speech should flow, not jump, from one idea to another.
    3. How much time is available for each point?
  6. End
    1. The end should (rather like the beginning) be clear, relevant and memorable. Sometimes switching your planned end and beginning works well.
    2. Make the end clear to the audience – beware of letting them think that you have ended when you have more to say.
    3. How much time will you give to your ending?
  7. Review and refine what you have drafted, until you are happy with it.
    1. Stand up in your biggest space and read it out loud, listen to it. Maybe record yourself.
    2. Are you comfortable with it? Do you believe it will achieve your purpose?
    3. Does it sound right spoken out loud? (e.g. isn’t or is not; we or you; short words or long?)
    4. Is the timing going to plan?
    5. Is there a place for more topical references or humour? (Keep listening to the news).
    6. Take any help or advice going.
    7. Be ruthless in getting rid of what isn’t working for you, even if you love it.
  8. And some final preparations.
    1. Are you using notes? (Why would you not?)
    2. Print or write them on – cards? top part of A4 paper? Practise to find what suits you.
    3. Ensure that you can read notes in bad light and number them in case you drop them.
    4. Give someone a 2nd set, in case you forget or lose them.
    5. If you are using IT equipment / pen drives / autocue etc, try to have spares and a run through before the meeting starts.
    6. Decide an appropriate outfit for the event – have it clean and ready.
    7. Have clear directions to where you are going and plan the journey – recce it in advance?
    8. Arrange for feedback on how your speech goes from someone you trust; learn from it.
    9. Whatever goes wrong – keep smiling. Audiences are both forgiving and slow to recognise mistakes!
Ruth Maltman, DC, FITC,
POWERtalk Pollokshields

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