Make a Good Speech Great

When you think of famous speeches given by a woman — who comes to mind? Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg, Arianna Huffington and J.K. Rowling are just a few women who, in my opinion, have delivered great speeches. A great speech captures my attention when it contains elements of conversation, paired with confidence, poise and an organized line of thoughts.

How does one deliver a great speech? As coordinator of New York Women In Communication Twitter chats, I had the opportunity to connect with corporate communications writer Cynthia Hanson. She offered insight on “How To Make a Good Speech Great.” Cynthia is a speechwriter who has written speeches for executives in some of America’s leading companies and universities, as well as for individuals giving TED Talks.

When asked, what makes a good speech great, Cynthia’s first response; “Storytelling!” She insists to include “a clear beginning, middle, and end and a sense of urgency, expertise, and truth.” There is a difference between a good speech and a great speech. A good speech is “meh,” Cynthia says. “A great speech is memorable, life-changing and exhilarating.”

Cynthia shared the followings tips on how to deliver a great speech:

Good preparation: “Map out all the points that must be made. Circle the most important then flesh out the major points. Be very clear about the beginning, middle and end.”

Grab audience attention: “Invent a great title. Ask an uncomfortable question; seduce your audience with truth. Speak the truth and you will gain the audience’s attention. The first 10 seconds of a speech are critical and people can sense from the beginning whether a speech is worth their attention.”

Challenges of Giving a Speech: “Command attention from people addicted to digital devices.” It is best not so save the best points until the end. Season sentences with Today! Right now! At this moment! Punctuate with urgency and the audience will stick with you. Another challenge is delivering bad news. No one wants to hear it. Therefore, acknowledge it and personalize it by including statements such as: I am sad, or I am disappointed.”
How to Conclude a Speech: Conclude by conducting your own Q&A. “What did I learn from XYZ?” “This is what I learned!” Conclude with something provocative. “How did XYZ change my life?” “This is how it changed my life!” Think about good old-fashioned children’s stories. Beginning, middle and an ending, where we learn the moral of the story.”

Know your topic, and speak from a place of knowledge. “We are fine-tuned from our earliest days to pay attention to great stories,” Cynthia stresses. “Speechwriters are storytellers. Tell the story as the best ever told.

This post originally appeared on NYWICI Aloud blog.

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