Organising and Opening a Speech

In my last post, I offered some helpful tips on preparing to give a speech or presentation, plus some inspiration for deciding on a topic. This time around, I’m going to offer some expert guidance on organising and opening a speech in order to attract and retain your audience’s attention.

Organising your speech is more than just the order that you introduce your points – you also need to ensure that the words work together to keep your audience engaged, conveying the importance of each point you make and how they relate to one another.

Organising and writing your speech

While many coaches use the ‘three T’s’ method:

● Tell what you’re going to tell them.

● Tell them.

● Tell them what you’ve told them.

I favour the simpler model of SME:

● Start

● Middle

● End

While it may seem to be common sense to start at the beginning, when developing your presentation, I actually advise starting with the end. What is it you want the audience to take away? What’s the end-result you want from the presentation or speech?

Start with the end in mind to define what you want the outcome to be, then develop three key points to make in the middle – which uses a popular technique called the ‘Power of Three’. This keeps it simple, helps you remember the points to cover and is also easy for the audience to follow.

Try to focus on one main idea as the overarching point of your speech, rather than overcomplicating it and with lots of information and viewpoints, remembering to back it up with supporting material such as statistics or quotes. Using stories is a great tool, especially personal ones which can help you to emphasise your point, and add more personality into your speech.

After you’ve decided on the middle part of your speech, which should be evidence or information to back up your initial point, you can use the ending to summarise what you’ve just said – again, linking back to the beginning if possible, to ‘close the loop’. Audiences like closure and it helps to show that you know what you’re talking about!

Finally, finish off with a ‘takeaway’, or put another way, a ‘call to action’. What would you like them to do? Learn more on your website? Check out some additional resources?

Ending with the opening

Once you’ve organised the main body of your speech, you have all the information you need to create an attention-grabbing opening.

Techniques for opening a speech vary, but here are some effective ideas you can try:

● Ask a rhetorical question to get them thinking

● Stress why the topic is important and worth listening to

● Make a startling or intriguing statement

● Create suspense or curiosity

● Tell an amusing, dramatic story or anecdote

● Begin with a powerful, relevant quote

● Refer to a specific historical event

● Use audience participation

● Perform a demonstration

Whatever technique you choose, ensure that it’s relevant to the topic, the audience and the event.

A well organised speech or presentation is much more effective than being unprepared – if you’re jumping around with no plan or direction, the audience will be too busy trying to create order in your words instead of paying attention to the actual message.

In the next blog, we’ll take a look at ways of controlling your nerves and using body language to make your speech your presentation more engaging and effective.

Join us as a guest at a meeting to find out how Toastmasters can help you. We meet every second and fourth Tuesday of the month.

Phil Heath

Treasurer and Found Member of Strictly Speaking Harrogate Toastmasters

About Phil

Phil Heath – DTM As a trainer/consultant in International Standards, Phil visited many countries in the last few years. Egypt, Turkey, Ukraine, every time he left the country there was a riot, a bombing, or an invasion! Phil joined Toastmasters in 2003 and has the honour of being a twice Distinguished Toastmaster. Before Phil became a professional speaker he was a trainer and sales consultant for many companies. As philthefunnel he now coaches organisations and individuals in the art of presentations with a focus on confident communication.

Phil Heath – Creating Confidence with Communication

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