How to Structure a Speech
Constructing a Speech
How to structure a speech? Good question!
In a previous post we looked at how to plan a speech. Having decided what you want to say, it’s now time to structure your words for maximum impact.
It’s a bit like going on a journey. Which is the best route? What is the best mode of transport? When’s the best time to travel?
It’s the difference between a smooth journey and a chaotic one.
Speech Construction Aids
Your presentation will be easier for the audience to follow if you use simple language – not lots of obscure words.
You should also avoid too much mind-numbing detail. What is the really important stuff?
Then it’s helpful to have information or the storyline presented in a logical flow so the audience can follow where you are taking them.
You see, most of us like certainty. We want to know where we are and where we’re going.
And we want information presented so it’s easy to follow.
Your presentation should flow, use easy to understand language and it shouldn’t be crammed with unnecessarily detailed or irrelevant information.
Then it will be more enjoyable, more understandable and more memorable for your audience.
A good presentation is like a journey where we know the destination and we can follow the route so we know where we are.
And there isn’t too much traffic along the way.
Creating Presentation Flow
You want your presentation to flow smoothly, don’t you?
It’s important that the audience stays focused and takes in what you say.
Especially the key points – the action points.
Those are the actions you want the audience to take as a result of your presentation.
Let’s have a look at how to structure a speech so you can achieve your objectives.
Grip your audience with Effective Speech Construction
Constructing A Speech Map
How do you construct a speech so your presentation flows naturally?
Of course, you need a map!
A map that helps you guide the audience through the presentation. No satnav here; you need a good old-fashioned map.
The Journey Starts – Introduction
Grab attention! Give it some welly, even a bit of tyre-smoking wheelspin.
Use the opening sentence or two to provide a bold statement or question.
Questions are a good way to focus the audience’s attention, particularly early in a speech.
But at the start you don’t want difficult questions diverting you from your planned introduction.
Therefore, rhetorical questions are usually best.
Why did I agree to write this article? What do you mean, you were wondering that as well? For example.
Make sure the audience knows there’s something in it for them. Outline where you’re going to take them.
Remember, most of us don’t like uncertainty.
Have you ever jumped on a train and then had doubts as to whether it’s the right one? See what we mean about uncertainty?
If you outline the route you’re taking, it prepares the audience to be receptive for what comes next.
Then the listeners know what to expect and they’re more likely to focus on what is being said.
Make sure that the opening is clearly related to the core message – if planning to take them to Brighton, don’t show pictures of Blackpool!
It may be helpful to reassure the audience that you’re knowledgeable on the subject. But this shouldn’t be overdone.
Remember, the audience wants to know what’s in it for them. They probably aren’t that interested in you. Sorry!
They can always ask for more information at the end. And, if they do, that’s usually a good indicator of interest.
The Main Act – Speech Body
Have you heard of the ‘Rule of Three’? It’s so-called because it suggests information presented in threes is more memorable.
Therefore, try to break up the speech body – the core message – into three clear sections to make it easier to follow.
Ideally, they will be broadly equal in length.
However, this will only work if it makes sense from a content perspective.
For example, if you’re comparing the pros and cons of a subject, then two main sections make sense.
Make sure the (three) key areas of the main message are arranged in logical order so the presentation flows.
Check to ensure they support the purpose of the speech.
They should contain the information required by the audience but no more.
Once the audience is ‘hooked’, don’t unhook them by providing surplus information that may serve to confuse or bore.
It’s helpful to highlight when moving from one section to the next. In effect, the waypoints on the journey through the speech.
By doing this it will also reinforce the message being conveyed.
A long pause helps differentiate the sections. A bit like a new chapter in a book.
That’s covered the introduction and the main body of the speech (recap to make sure you’re still with us).
Now it’s time to look at the conclusion.
Conclusion – Grand Finale
Perhaps more appropriately, Summary & Conclusion.
The Summary is to remind the listener about the key points discussed in the main part of the speech.
These could be regarded as the key selling points.
We’ve used the analogy of a map. The conclusion is where you need to alert the audience to the fact we are reaching journey’s end.
The tone and pace of your voice should signal that we’re reaching the finish.
This will prepare the listeners for that final sentence or two without you saying ‘finally’ or ‘in conclusion’.
You want to go out with a bang don’t you?
You want the audience to know you’re done without resorting to a feeble ‘thank you’ at the end. That’s a damp squib.
Of course, it’s easier said than done. Audiences are used to speakers saying thank you.
So you need to make it very clear you’re done
That final message should be a powerful call to action.
Think about call-to-action (CTA) buttons on websites: ‘Sign Up For Our Newsletter’; ‘Shop Now To Receive 25% Discount’.
OK, got all that?
A Word From Winston
But before you dash off, a word from Winston Churchill (allegedly):
“Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you’ve told them.”
Put another way, provide a clear Introduction to the speech, outlining its purpose. Tick
Then give detail in the main Body of the speech – the key elements, ideally split into three. Tick
And then finish with a Summary of the key points, and the call-to-action Conclusion. Tick
And that’s How to Structure a Speech!
But before you rush off to add structure to your speech …
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