Dec 12, 2003
SUMMARY: Hint: Leave your PowerPoint at home. || |
Want to be a stand-out speaker at the next show? Just say
something nobody else is saying, and don't be afraid to put your
butt on the line.
That's all you have to do to get your audience's attention, says
David Murray, Editor, Speechwriter's Newsletter.
"People are fearful about making a difference and saying
something significant and possibly controversial," he explains.
The best speech in the world is the guy who gets up in front of
an audience of advertisers and says, "Ladies and gentlemen,
advertising is dead," and follows his announcement with five
seconds of silence. "That's what you should be aiming for,"
Murray shared 6 steps on crafting a speech people will remember.
-> Step #1. Audience analysis
"Your need to say does not necessarily equal your audience's need
to hear," Murray says, so take into account the real reason
people have come to hear you.
Talk to the group's organizer and find out who makes up the
audience: Are they men or women? Are they in their 40s or 60s?
Did they come to see you, or do they come to this event to
schmooze each other? What's the real reason they're here?
This holds true whether you're speaking to the heads of Fortune
500 companies or to a local Chamber of Commerce.
-> Step #2. Talk about ideas -- not yourself, not your
"The best speeches are about ideas, they're about what's going on
in society, about large and small trends that affect audience
members," Murray says. "So if I'm the CEO of IBM, I shouldn’t
show up and talk about the things we're doing at IBM."
"People are getting up there and saying here's why we're going to
be great in the next 10 years. It's pointless," he says. "People
don't want to hear it. And it's dangerous because they're wrong
half the time."
Instead, talk about what's happening in the marketplace, look at
broader issues like the economy, globalism, the environment.
Think of your business as part of society, choose your angle,
take a stand and argue it.
Look at Warren Buffet for examples of courageous, clear, and
sensitive public speaking, says Murray. "When all these CEOs
started getting in trouble and everyone said it was just a couple
of bad apples, Buffet said more than anyone else was saying and
got a lot of attention for it."
Of course, you want to promote your own interests, so be sure to
choose themes that correspond to your organization.
Pharmaceuticals do this well. They talk about the problem of drug
prices and the whole economy of the drug industry through
compelling arguments and outward-looking analysis of the
situation. At the same time, they use examples from their own
clients and are obviously promoting themselves and their best
-> Step #3. Start with a funny, spontaneous, or personal
Yep, the old speech-making practice of beginning with a joke
really does work, Murray says.
But it can't be the tired, guy-walks-into-a-bar variety of humor.
Instead, talk about something personal, something that happened
to you on the way to the speech or that occurred to you while
"The whole hour before the speech, I'm looking around for
something that's funny or will get me going, that will make my
remarks seem more spontaneous," Murray says. "If a busboy drops a
tray, that's the best way to begin."
-> Step #4. Old fashioned structure: thesis, supporting
A speech isn't like an article in a magazine: your audience can't
turn back the pages to reread something that caught their
So don't be too crazy with structure, Murray advises. "There's
nothing wrong with the old fashioned thesis, three supporting
arguments, and conclusion. There's no room for subtlety or
creativity in structure."
In fact, it's a good idea to let your audience know what the
structure is going to be, as in, "I'm going to tell you 10
reasons why you should…. "
Of course, you can (and should) still be creative within the
context of that structure, adding anecdotes, examples, quotes and
-> Step #5. A powerful ending does *not* include "thank you"
When a fabulous speech comes to a ringing end, everyone knows
it's over. Saying thank you to indicate you're through is "a
desperation move," Murray says.
End your speech with your concluding thought or argument, then
underscore it with something such as, "And that, my friends, is
the reason why we're here tonight…" Then have the guts to pause
in silence and wait for the audience to digest what you've said.
Even speeches that don't come to a thundering end can still have
a dramatic, natural conclusion.
-> Step #6. Great PowerPoint does not equal great speeches
PowerPoint and other audio/visual aids take away from your words
and lessen your interaction with your audience. If you've got a
powerful speech filled with ideas, you don't need a slide show
unless you're afraid to stand there and face your audience.
"The more bold your idea, the less you need that stuff," Murray
While some speakers feel that just having a top-notch speech
isn't enough to get on a docket at a conference these days,
Murray disagrees. You'll get your chance to speak "if you can
promise to say something that will get people buzzing."
"The poor schmuck who's putting on the conference has to sell it,
and all he or she wants is something to put in the brochure that
will get people to go," he says. "I'd say something like, 'I'd
like to speak at your conference and I'd like to claim that TV
advertising is dead…'"
The A/V stuff can still come in later, but be sure you're using
it only as an enhancement, not because you feel your speech needs a lift.