Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Speech Construction 101

So much of what we do at Toastmasters can be summarised under the heading of Learning by Doing. However, it makes sense that one can't really Do unless one is first shown How to Do.  

For this reason then, I am going to publish the bones of a recent speech I did on the subject of Speech Construction.  It can all be broken down into Ten basic steps:

-         Step 1: The Idea
Select a topic on which you can speak with conviction, authority and enthusiasm. 

-         Step 2: The Central Theme
Jot down one or two sentences describing what you want the audience to learn from your speech. Use this central theme as a guide during the rest of your speech development, to avoid getting side-tracked.

-         Step 3: The Purpose 
Decide what you want to achieve through your speech. For example, do want to inform or educate or entertain the audience, or do you want to motivate or inspire the audience to action? 

-          Step 4: The Broad Outline       
       Introduction; 2 or 3 basic points of the Body; Conclusion 
Select one or two phrases describing the content or approach of each part of the speech. Each part must support your central theme.

            Many studies have shown that people can remember very few of the facts or items of information that          speakers convey. You only need to make 2 or 3 points to have your talk be successful.

       -         Step 5: Formulate Your Opening and Conclusion

     The purpose of the introduction is: 
-          To grip and hold the attention of the audience
-          To motivate the audience to listen to the speaker’s message
-          To give the audience some indication what the speaker is going to talk about, and why 
    Some possible effective openings:
-          Ask a question
-          Refer to a recent event of interest
-          Begin with an unusual statement or question
-          Refer directly to the problem
-          Show a picture, diagram or object
-          Announce clearly the main points you want to make 
Beware of the joke or personal story in your introduction 
The introduction should take up about 10 % of the total time of your presentation.  

An effective conclusion draws all points presented in the speech together, and focuses attention and emphasis on the central theme.
No new information should be introduced in the conclusion of a speech. 
You might try the following: 
-         Summarise the main points of your presentation
-         Restate your opening
-         Use a quotation, statistics, an analogy, or a vivid illustration to epitomize the whole idea
-         End with a direct appeal for support or action
-         Give your audience something challenging to think about

-         Step 6: Filling in the Details  
Concentrating on details right away causes us to lose direction, and we could end up with a mass of detail rather than a focused speech.

As you add detail, ask yourself “What is it about this that is important to supporting my central theme and purpose?”

Do the research that is required to add facts, figures, examples and quotations to substantiate your content. (Remember that the source of quotations, statistics and even pictures must be acknowledged.)

Decide on the audio-visual aids you require, e.g. music, flip chart, overhead transparencies or data projector.

The body of your speech should take up about 85 % of the presentation time.

-          Step 7: Give Your Speech a Title
When your speech title is announced immediately before your presentation, it should have the same effect on your listeners as a newspaper headline has on its readers. They will decide immediately whether they are interested; whether they want to know more; or whether the topic does not interest them at all.

-          Step 8: Write the Speech Out, Word for Word  
  Also, prepare your audio-visual aids

      -         Step 9: Rehearse and Revise

     Check the length of the speech, to fit in with your allocated time. Say your speech out loud, and time   yourself. Have you taken into account the time that you will use to show visual material, and for questions and discussion? If your speech is humorous, allow time for laughter.

Check the content. Have you said all you need to say? Do you have any unnecessary information in your presentation? Go through it carefully, remembering that after each thing you are going to say, the audience is going to ask “So what?”  This will help you to determine what information to remove. Go back to the analysis of your audience, and check that your content meets the needs of your audience.

Check the balance and proportion. Is there enough background relative to detail? Is there not too much time spent on one area, causing you to rush through another?

Check the sequence. Does it appear to be logical? Order your points so that information flows naturally, leading the audience comfortably towards your conclusion.

Check for continuity. Evaluate the transitions between the parts of the speech. Is each part of your presentation logically linked to the next part? Do you seem to be “jumping” into new subjects? Make sure you build transition bridges between the various parts of the speech.

Check for clarity. Do you need to give summaries of certain sections of the presentation as you go along, because the content is complex, or contains a lot of information?

Check the opening and conclusion. All openings must be attention-getters. A good conclusion will recap the high points of the speech and present a memorable wrap-up statement or call to action. Have you phrased your conclusion in a way which will remain in the minds of your audience after they have forgotten the rest of what you have said?The end should be the obvious end. It should never be necessary to say “In conclusion…”
Check for purpose. Does everything still work towards achieving your objectives?  Imagine your audience as you rehearse.

 -      Step 10: Make Keyword Notes for use during the actual presentation
     The opening and closing sentences should be written out in full, and memorized. 
     Any quotations should also be written out in full.  This will prevent you from misquoting.

Now I know that merely applying the steps as they occur will not necessarily turn you into an overnight speaking sensation, but it can't hurt to try the recipe, can it?  

Until next time

Ricky Woods