Creating a Speech on Short Notice
Consider the 3 P's: Purpose, Practice and Polish
Toastmaster Angela Libby Jankousky from a club in Southern California gives these tips...
- Your purpose for each speech is different. Are you proposing a course of action, entertaining, informing or inspiring your audience? Make sure you can state your purpose in one sentence. If you have only a few minutes to prepare, concentrate only on achieving your purpose. Write a sentence that describes your purpose. Then organize your thoughts on that topic on your computer – or on the back of a napkin, if that’s the only thing available to you. As you write, restrict your information to what directly relates to your purpose. Try to use a story or personal experience to illustrate each point you want to mention. “One well-illustrated point is stronger and more memorable than multiple points that are explained but not illustrated,” says Jankousky.
- Practice ideas, not words. A memorized speech is dangerous: Lose your place and you are in trouble. You want to be spontaneous enough to be able to insert comments about something from earlier in the meeting, such as “This is consistent with the point Bill just made.” Having examples planned for each point will make it easier for you to remember what to say next.
- Create an attention-grabbing opening and a concluding statement that summarizes your main point and call to action. Try to memorize these.
- Be sure to practice your speech out loud, in addition to revising your written notes as much as time allows. If you miss a point, keep going. Then go back to the section you had trouble with and work on it until it’s smooth. If you have only a few hours to prepare a short speech, this is as much as you’ll accomplish. Practice your speech a few times in the car on the way to the meeting, and remember: When you give the speech, state each point clearly and sit down. Don’t ramble! And never apologize for your lack of preparation or nervousness – chances are good no one will notice.
- Polish. Contest speeches or important presentations to large audiences merit the highest level of respect to the audience and therefore, the most preparation. You polish your speech by working on finer points such as gestures, inflection and pacing. Angela Jankouski points out: “Focus on one aspect of delivery at a time. First, work on vocal variety. Next, practice gestures that enhance your meaning. Then, experiment with pacing.” If possible, rehearse your speech in front of different audiences, prior to the one that really counts. Each audience is different, and you’ll learn something from each.”
So, if you have only a few minutes to prepare a speech, focus hard on your purpose, your single most important point, and the opening statement. Also practice a strong ending to help your audience for a favorable final impression of you. If you have several hours to prepare, develop a focused speech that really illustrates and supports your main point. Practice conveying your ideas without memorizing the speech word for word. If you have adequate time before a major presentation, make sure to polish it with gestures, vocal variety and pacing until it shines!
Remember Winston Churchill’s advice: “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use the pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack. “
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