Seven Step Speaking Course

Seven Steps for Speaking Success

In this Seven Step Speaking Course we’ll look at the key elements that are your foundations for a successful speech or persuasive presentation. The seven steps are:

  • Planning
  • Speech Structure
  • Using Your Voice
  • Body Language
  • Painting Pictures with Words
  • Using Humour
  • Speech Notes

This post outlines each of the seven steps to speaking success and gives links to more detailed articles about each one.

Shall we take the first step?

Step 1 – Planning

Isn’t it tempting to rush into putting the words together? But that’s like setting off on a journey without thinking where you’re going and how you will get there.

If you want your speech or presentation to achieve its purpose, you need to decide what that purpose is. What do you want the audience to get out of it and what do you want them to do as a result of hearing it?

Once you have a clear view of what you want to achieve, start by jotting down ideas – just any thoughts that come to mind.

Can’t think of any more? OK, now try to link related elements.

You can just draw lines between related categories or use coloured pens to highlight links. Or if you want to really go to town, Post-it notes are a great way to carry out this part of the process.

Once you have your ideas grouped, think about the best order so that the presentation flows in a logical manner. You should aim to build the ‘story’ so that the more important parts come later.

Go to our post on planning a speech for more help.

2 – Speech Structure

Once you’ve planned what you want to say, it’s now time to add a bit more structure.

Your speeches and presentations need to be structured to make it easier for the audience to follow and absorb what you are saying. In simple terms, there should be an introduction, then the speech body, followed by a summary/conclusion.

Unless it’s a very straightforward subject, it is better to break the main part of the speech into sections, ideally three. Each section will consider a different aspect of the subject.

Your introduction should identify the purpose of the speech and outline the three elements to be addressed.

The key points of the speech should be highlighted in the conclusion, including any call to action you are hoping for.

You should aim to start and finish with a powerful sentence.

When you start to speak you want to catch the attention of the audience so they know what’s in it for them.

Don’t conclude by saying ‘thank you’. That’s a weak finish. If you feel the need to thank them, do it a couple of sentences before and then deliver a strong reminder of your key message and any call to action you want the audience to take.

In summary, the speech should be constructed as below:


Body – Part 1
Body – Part 2
Body – Part 3


Check out our post on structuring a speech for more detail, including using the Power Of Three.

3 – Using Your Voice

If you deliver your speech at constant speed, the same volume and without any pauses, it will sound tedious, sleep inducing and won’t have impact.

Speaking to an audience is different from conversational speaking. The level of difference will depend on the room and audience size. The larger the audience, the louder you’ll need to speak, probably sounding to yourself as though you are shouting.

Acoustics will also have a bearing. A room with curtains, carpet and full of people will absorb sound much more than a half-a-dozen people in a room without curtains and with a hard floor.

When you speak, you need to enunciate clearly so that everyone understands what you’ve said.

Speaking quickly makes it harder to speak clearly, so you may need to speak more slowly than you do in conversation, particularly in a large room.

But, it’s good to inject pace when you want to build excitement. And turn up the volume as well.

An alternative technique when about to say something really important is to slow down and drop your volume slightly. This will draw the audience in and prepare them for what you have to say next.

Pausing before and after an important statement is also a good way to make sure the audience can absorb it. Likewise, if you use humour, pause when the audience laughs to let them (and you) enjoy the moment.

Find out more about how to use your voice effectively.

4 – Body Language

Your body language can have a significant effect on the impact of the message you are trying to convey.

If you are forever wandering around or waving your hands and arms about, the audience are liable to become distracted and, possibly irritated. Unless there’s reason to move, it’s better to stand in one place.

Having warned against excessive movement, don’t just stand ramrod straight throughout. That will look unnatural and undermine the enthusiasm that you have for your subject.

Even in a video meeting, be careful not to move excessively. The closer you are to the camera, the more even slight movement will be noticeable. This is especially true if you move forwards and backwards.

Facial expressions can add extra impact to your performance but it’s difficult to control them, so it’s probably best to let your face react naturally. But do try to smile rather than glare at your listeners!

The single most important aspect of body language is how you use your eyes.

It’s important to look at everyone in the room on a regular basis. Make them feel that you are speaking directly to them.

But don’t stare at them. Just make brief eye contact with each one in turn throughout your presentation. Do this on a random basis rather than regularly sweeping the room like a lighthouse beam.

But if it’s a video presentation, remember to look at the camera, not the images of the audience.

For more information, go to our post on body language.

5 – Painting Pictures with Words

A picture is worth a thousand words!

In truth, there’s no science behind that saying but you get the drift.

We retain images in our memory far more effectively than mere words. You can harness the power of words to paint pictures in the listeners’ minds.

Just think about your last holiday. What comes to mind?

It’s images isn’t it?

Overloading the audience with information, fact and figures will lose them. However, if you illustrate the key points by creating images in their minds, you can keep them engaged.

As mentioned earlier, slowing down helps the audience to take in what you are saying. It will also provide time for those images to develop.

Your message will be so much more compelling if the audience can visualise what you are discussing. They are unlikely to remember your words for long but they will recall the pictures you’ve painted in their minds.

Find out more about becoming an artist with words.

6 – Using Humour

One of the most effective ways to engage with your audience is by using humour. We’re not talking about jokes, just subtle humour.

Self-deprecating humour, particularly if used early on, can warm the audience to you. Being a speaker at an event confers a certain amount of authority but it can make you seem a little remote. Humour can break down the barrier.

Even in a serious speech, humour can be used to give some light relief. Contrasting light and shade can help the impact of the message.

An unexpected change of direction that wrong-foots the audience can work very effectively if related to something that the audience will be familiar with. Take them along an apparently predictable path and then say something unexpected. For example: ‘There are lies, damned lies and …’ pause briefly and someone is bound to chip in with ‘statistics’. At which point you insert the word(s) of your choice e.g. politicians, tabloid press, weather forecasts etc.

Find out more about using humour.

Step 7 – Speech Notes

Notes should be notes, not anything approaching a script. The more notes you have, the more you will be drawn to looking at them.

Reference to them should be limited and not adversely affect eye-contact.

If you have the use of a lectern, then take advantage of it by having A4 sized notes. Card is better than paper because it lies flat and is easier to turn over if you have more than one page.

You could also use a tablet or a small laptop. But just check that all the bolts are tight if it’s a collapsible lectern/music stand. It would be a shame if your shiny new laptop fell on the floor!

If you don’t have a lectern, then small cards are the answer. 15cm x 10cm card is probably the best size compromise.

Again, a tablet could be used instead but will restrict arm movement when required. Waving your tablet or phone around will have the audience worrying you might drop it and will be a distraction.

Whatever format you use, have as few words as possible and use a large font or clear handwriting. You want to be able to scan the notes without losing eye contact with the audience.

If it’s a video presentation, try to stick, pin or otherwise attach your notes above the screen as close to the camera as possible.

Take note: there’s more information in our post on using speech notes.


Seven steps from nervous speaker to confident communicator.

From nervous speaker to confident communicator with our help

Seven Step Summary

So there you have it. The bare bones of perfect presentations and stunning speeches in a seven-step speaking course:

Planning, Structure, Voice, Body Language, Images, Humour, Notes.

Oops, nearly forgot Step 8 – Practice, Practice, Practice!


Last updated 19th October 2023



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