The next time you are asked to speak, you can use this simple structure to script your speech. This structure works very effectively for short talks of between 7 and 18 minutes.
Your first 45 seconds: The most disengaging way to start speaking is to tell people your name, the title of your talk, and then proceed to read out the ‘Agenda’ or ‘Contents’ slide word for word. Your audience can read faster than you can talk. From the moment you are introduced, you have 45 seconds to make an impact. If you are unable to engage your audience in this time, they mentally switch off. To be engaging, think of yourself as a radio DJ.
Key snippets of information: Just as a radio DJ provides a high-level overview at the beginning of the show and then at the beginning of each hour during their show – so should you. Do not provide lots of detail of what to expect. Instead, start your speech immediately with an engaging ‘hook’ in the form of a quote, interesting statistic, or fact. The beginning of your talk might sound like: ‘South Africa is now the only country in the world to have hosted the Soccer, Cricket and Rugby World Cup. Good morning ladies and gentlemen, today I am here to talk to you about the importance of youth sport in South Africa.’
Body of your talk: For a short talk of up to 18 minutes, frame your message around the top three points that you would like to share. For each of those three points, follow this framework to explain each point. First, reveal the point. Then illustrate why you think that point is important by using various facts, figures, and statistics. Third, support that point with a visual picture, story, or video. Finally, summarise that point. Since your left brain relates better to facts, figures, and research and your right brain connects more to visuals and stories – by illustrating each point with this framework – you ensure deeper understanding of the point.
Ending your talk: As you conclude, think of yourself as a pilot of a plane. You do not want to ‘crash land’ by ending abruptly. You also do not want to ‘circle in the sky’ by keeping saying ‘in conclusion’ but not concluding. You do want to ensure your talk has a ‘smooth landing’. You do this by summarising your talk with the top three messages relating to your point. As an example, JFK’s inaugural address had these words: ‘Pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship.’ You don’t just re-state your three main points of the talk but you use different words to summarise your message. It’s this message that the audience remembers.
TO SUM IT UP
- Rehearsal: Do not read the speech. Prepare and practise under timed conditions.
- Stage presence: Varying your voice, controlling your hands and eye contact are critical.
- Stance: If you are new to speaking, stand still and talk. The power should be in the words you use and not in your movement.
- Video-record yourself: Get someone to record you speak. No fancy equipment is needed – your camera recorder is sufficient. Watching yourself a week later helps improve your skill.
- Never turn down opportunities to speak: Each speaking opportunity is an opportunity to grow.
Dineshrie Pillay CA(SA) Business Owner and Public Speaking Trainer