Brace yourself during the upcoming season of festivities. You may be called upon to get on stage and address an audience. This could be your company, or home estate, end of year party, a family gathering, graduation, best man at a wedding, or a church congregation. How do you do it? How do you give an effective speech? You detest those speaking-way-past-allocated-time convoluted speeches where the speaker blindly fires pellets from a shot-gun hoping one will hit home by magic; you find the modern day dramatic evangelists devoid of content and absolutely loathe the politician’s manner of delivery.
What is the purpose of giving a speech?
So, are there things to consider when giving a speech? Indeed, is there a formula for speech success? Yes; sadly few bother to use it, instead choosing to wing it. First, know your intended or target audience. Then, prepare like you would (should) a presentation. Like a good preacher always have a speech (sermon) up your sleeve, just in case. Heed this quote: “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”– Mark Twain. And in doing so (preparing in advance), use this formula that has been distilled by experts from studying famous orators (with their killers speeches) throughout history. I share 5 aspects of it
First, determine the purpose of your speech. As simple as this sounds, it is most ignored. In general, one speaks to inform, educate, entertain or persuade. Chances are slim you’ll be persuading anyone in this season of making merry. Still, one never knows, you may be persuading an audience of misers to give their mean ways a break, and share in this season of giving.
Best way to how prepare to give a speech
Having decided what your general purpose is, quickly decide what your specific purpose is. This is the second part. For instance, if to persuade is your general purpose, then selling (product or idea) could be your specific purpose. It’s what you want your audience to do after listening to you. Also, prosperity gospel preachers have been accused to selling, ‘the more you give the more you receive’ after their (persuasive) preaching.
You may remember the infamous Pastor Kanyari whose specific purpose was “toa tu 310 na utabarikiwa” (Give only Kes. 310 and you will be blessed). So, if your general purpose is to inform your family about the purpose of Christmas and you specific one about the importance of family getting together during Christmas then stick to this; don’t get random and lunge from the specific purpose to bringing out the skeletons from Uncle Juma’s wardrobe and then lunge again to describe how a goat is slaughtered! Stick to your specific purpose.
Best things and topics to give a speech about
Which brings us to point three; how do you comprehensively occupy your limited time slot? Well, you begin with an attention getting opening and memorable closing. Relevant quotes, anecdotes (short personal stories), jokes and stories are impactful ways of opening or closing. For example, if your general purpose at your end of year company party speech is to entertain, you can open thus: “The tragedy of end year parties is that there rarely is enough to drink…” Or: “Our stellar seller in 2022 has been Francis. Given the scarcity of booze, HR should have spoken to him on how to successfully sell an end of year bash.”
How to give a memorable speech; opening
This opening will get their attention (and possible laughter). The (relevant) opening must also immediately get to the point of the specific purpose, which could be to tickle their funny bone. This is an important on how to give an effective speech. After that, structure 3 points round the specific purpose supporting each with more anecdotes, examples, statistics, metaphors or stories, as a way to say the same thing differently.
The shelf life of a speech is in real time so such creative repetition enhances recall. Much as it’s unlikely a keynote speech you are making, you want this; you want to make it easy for your audience to understand what you are saying. After all, it’s not clues to a puzzle you are sharing. Use simple language; say impromptu, not extemporaneously. Stories especially are a delight. Everyone loves a story because it fires the imagination. A story keeps your specific purpose long in the memory of your audience years after you have parted. Like the story of how Kageche didn’t know how to use email when he joined the company and so you had to cover for him by printing his out for him and typing his handwritten responses.
Creative ways to give a speech
What next? Well, dance with the language-use stylistic devices for instance contrasts (Uncle Juma isn’t just a successful farmer, he is also the family patriarch), alliteration, (With a poor plan, product and process in place HR didn’t do much justice to the bar this year) or triads (We came, we danced and we, drank). Many other devices exist. If you don’t believe me ask Google.
The fourth technique is vocal variety. It determines the richness of your speech. A story is a story only if well delivered with highs and lows easily felt by the tone of voice chosen by the speaker. Squeal if you have too, scream if you must and laugh like a hyena if that’s how cousin Alice in your story does.
If all else fails, give an effective speech (story)
If all the foregoing isn’t for you, yet, it’s OK. It’s not OK to chicken out though. Agreeing to speak when called upon to do so, just as speaking up in general, will easily see you stand out; and at a corporate function, say end year party, possibly promoted. If you instead are more inspired by inspiring others, well, this is your opportunity to do so. And, as I was saying, if you’re not ready for the 4 steps shared, it’s OK. There’s still something you can do. Forget everything I’ve said and just share a relevant story with your audience. Be as conversational about it as you would telling a pal. True stories (especially personal experiences) are easy to narrate without preparation; they are also fun to get informative and interesting topics from. So open with, “Let me share with you the story of how I ended up (in this company) and how I arrived at the interview without a mask in the thick of Corona…” and when done, to get back to your topic, end with “…and the moral of the story is….”
Why a speech should be limited
Whatever you do, stay between the 7 to 9 minute mark; and do not biovate; that’s “speaking for as long as the occasion warrants, and saying nothing.” (More on that here). That’s not how to give an effective speech. If it’s a party, the audience is not there to hear about your solemn, ‘what I could change if I could and why’ speech; they are there to have fun. Not fill in a crossword puzzle. A short, substance-filled speech facilitates this.
Finally, RELAX. Have fun. Stay sober.
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