3 Quick Tips to Write a Speech that Hooks the Audience from Start to Finish
“How can I write an inspirational speech?” A manager once sent me a message.
I wonder what made him think that I was an expert in inspirational speech writing. Who am I to give him advice?
I’ve learned that what a person thinks of you becomes your image in his mind. And you can’t just change your image in their mind.
“Here’s a tip,” I sent him a link to How to Write an Inspirational Speech to play the instant expert.
“Thanks! But I’ve read this already,” he replied.
“Nice! I think everything you need to know to write an inspirational speech is in that post.”
End of conversation.
Or so I thought.
“I need your expert advice,” he said. He was now standing behind my desk. He went out of his office to personally ask for my “expert advice.”
“That was my expert advice,” I said. There are plenty of resources on the internet. One could easily appear like an instant expert.
“You’re a toastmaster. You’re the expert.”
That’s a common dilemma of being a toastmaster. People think you are an expert in public speaking because you are a member of Toastmasters.
If they only knew…
“Why don’t you join Toastmasters?” I said. “We have a meeting on Thursday…”
“But I have no time for Toastmasters,” he quickly said. “I have to deliver an inspirational speech on Monday!”
So he came to me for a quick ‘just add water advice from an expert!’
I was new in Toastmasters back then. So I didn’t have the confidence to share with him my ‘just add water expert advice.’
If ever he would ask for my ‘expert advice’ in the future, here’s what I would tell him…
Don’t force yourself to write an inspirational speech. Just write a speech. A good speech.
What makes a good speech?
Imagine a slice of green mango in front of you. You can feel its tropical aroma getting into your senses. How does that make you feel?
A good speech is like having green mangoes in front of you. It makes your mouth water. No, not like a crazy dog. That’s creepy. A good speech makes you think. It makes you feel something. It makes you do something.
How can you do that?
Tip Number 1. Give Your Audience Green Mango and Only Green Mango
Don’t give them green mangoes, apples, and bananas in one speech. Focus only on green mango. Don’t just talk about mangoes in general. It will overwhelm the audience. It will bore them. Focus on one central topic. Be specific.
Here are three questions to help you get started:
– What is the one specific topic that you want to talk about?
– Why does it matter to you?
– What’s in it for the audience to listen to your topic?
Tip Number 2. KISS
Keep It Short and Sexy.
Let’s go back to our green mango illustration. How many slices of mangoes will make you drool?
One slice? Two slices? One hundred?
I think you know the answer.
It doesn’t matter how many. Green mangos are powerful. It makes you drool even by just imagining mangoes in front of you.
So how can you apply that in a speech?
Here are three questions to guide you:
– How much time does your audience have? You owe them their time as your listener.
– How much time is allotted for your speech? Stick with it. Don’t steal other speaker’s time.
– How important is the message of your speech?
If you Google “the greatest speeches of all time,” you’ll learn the variety of length of speeches. Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream” speech was 17 minutes. Mahatma Gandhi’s “Quit India” speech was 10 minutes. Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863 was only 3 minutes.
If King, Gandhi, and Lincoln took the time to condense their history-altering speeches, so should you. Your speech doesn’t need to have the same effect as theirs. We’re not in the war era. But it doesn’t also mean you should waste the time of your audience in your rambling.
“Good for them! They had coaches. They must have practiced. And they had the time to rehearse.”
Exactly! They had coaches. They practiced. And they made time to rehearse.
Isn’t that what you should do also?
If you believe that your message is important, then you should give time to prepare your speech….
…instead of finding a quick ‘just add water’ shortcut.
But how can you make your speech sexy?
Some people would say, keep your speech simple and that you should avoid technical terms and jargons.
I agree! But…
What if your audience is a bunch of people who love jargons and technical terms?
Being sexy to me is being relatable and understood.
A perfect speech is useless if you’re the only person who can relate to it.
So if your audience are all accountants and you’re one of them, speak like an accountant. Don’t shy away from the jargon of accountants.
Being relatable to your audience means a lot. It hooks the audience to your speech. That’s what you want. Your speech is not meant to disappear into thin air. Your speech needs an ear to serve its purpose.
But if your audience is a mixture of different backgrounds? That’s when a simple jargon-free speech becomes sexy.
Tip Number 3. Structure
Having a structure in your speech helps both you and the audience.
Your speech will be organized. You will have a logical flow of thought. Memorizing your speech is easier.
Yes, you need to memorize your speech. That way you will be able to connect with your audience. But you also need to practice and rehearse to make it sound natural and spontaneous. You don’t want to sound like a robot. You may want to appear effortless but to achieve that, you need to put extra effort by practicing and rehearsing.
What is the best structure for your speech?
There are different structures to use. But my top three favorites are: SMG. AIDA. AREM
SMG stands for Story-Message-Gain.
You can start your speech with a relevant story. The message of the story is what you have learned from it. Finally, what’s in it for your audience. That’s their gain.
AIDA stands for Attention-Interest-Desire-Action.
The first 5 seconds of your speech is crucial. Take advantage of it to get the attention of the audience. You may start with a shocking information or an attention-grabbing statement. For example, you’d say, “99% of the population is suffering from depression!” Really? I don’t know. It’s just an example. But when I say “attention-grabbing statement” I don’t mean any statement. Profanity will surely grab people’s attention but you don’t want that kind of attention.
Once you have captured the attention of your audience, it’s time to keep their interest. Stir their mind. Make them ask for more questions. That’s the “desire “part. Provide them with more interesting information that is relevant to your main topic. And lastly, have a call to action.
AREM stands for Answer-Reason-Example-Message.
You may start with a yes/no question. You may also start with an answer to a rhetorical question. Explain your answer and one example. Why only one? Okay, you can have at most three if you have enough time. Why three? Hmmm… Have you heard of ‘the power of three?” Google it!
Lastly, you have to wrap up with a message.
Let’s go back to our green mango example for the last time.
If you hand someone green mango, do you say “drool baby, drooooool!”
Of course not. Unless you’re creepy!
The drooling is automatic.
As a speaker, don’t focus on how to make your audience “drool.” Don’t force to inspire them. You can’t force “inspiration” into the minds of others. It’s a personal reaction. A feeling. A journey.
Your task as a speaker is to present them the “green mango.”
Whether your audience will be inspired or not after your speech, it’s their business, not yours.
We all have different “triggers of inspiration.” What’s inspiring to one person may not be inspiring to another.
Don’t call your speech an inspirational speech. It will just add burden to yourself.
Instead, make a speech about a topic that you care about. Whether your speech is a technical presentation, a humorous one or a eulogy, it can be inspirational.
Just make it good enough to inspire your audience.