How to Give More Compelling Speeches, Consistently

Christopher Witt —  June 25, 2014

To give better speeches, become a more thoughtful personIf you speak often and if you want your speeches to have an impact consistently, there two things you can do.

The first thing you can do to give more compelling speeches consistently is to become a more compelling person.

A speech is, after all, an expression- – an extension — of who you are.

  • A speech boils down – concentrates — the essence of your character, values, outlook.
  • A speech builds on (and, hopefully, improves) the way you typically express yourself, the wording and phrasing you use every day.
  • A speech reveals your true self, what matters to you, whether you intend to or not.

So the first and best way to give a compelling speech — not just once, but again and again — is to become the type of person who compels people’s’ interest. Become the type of person worth listening to: better informed, more thoughtful, kinder and wiser.

The second thing you can do to give more compelling speeches consistently is to develop and follow a process.

A speech is, in another sense, a project.

So treat your speech preparation the way you’d approach any other project: follow a process.

You don’t — at least I hope you don’t — tackle each new project as if it’s the first time you’ve ever undertaken such a project. You have a process, a series of steps that guide you through your project from inception through completion.

So develop your system. Or, if you already have one, make it explicit. Then refine it. And then follow it.

My speech preparation process:

  1. Pre-work
    This is all the research and reflection I do on an ongoing basis. I don’t approach a speech as a tabula rasa. I come to it as an expert, a thought leader,someone with insider and incisive knowledge. And the only way to stay on the edge is to read, listen, examine, assess, and reflect.
  2. Discovery
    When I’m working on a specific speech, I do all sorts of inquiry. About the audience, the group, the individuals. About the event and its purpose. About the topic and how it affects the audience.
  3. Strategy
    I develop my strategy, which creates my message. I determine what I want the audience to do and why they would want to do it. My content is what I’m talking about. My message is what I’m going to say about that content: how it affects my audience
  4. Message Formation
    I build my speeches by creating an outline, a way of structuring four different elements, many of which I’ve used and refined before:
    a) Take-away Truths: the important points I want to make. My thesis and sub-thesis statements.
    b) Evidence: Facts, figures reports — anything that explains or substantiates my main points
    c) Illustrations: Stories, anecdotes, quotes, demonstrations — everything that presents my main points to people’s emotions and imaginations.
    d) Audience Participation: The various ways I want to involve the audience. Q&A is a good way to start. But there are other techniques — small group discussions, for example
  5. Refinement
    I then go through my speech and write out whole sections of it: the parts I want people to remember. I use various rhetorical devices and techniques.

You don’t have to follow my process — it works for me, but it may not work for you. But you do need to develop and follow a process.

Be your best self. Follow a system. Give more compelling speeches more consistently.

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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.