What’s the Single Best Way to Improve a Speech?

Christopher Witt —  February 18, 2015

To improve a speech keep it sortThe single best way to improve just about any speech is to make it shorter.

5 Reasons Shorter Speeches Are Better

1. Shorter speeches have a better chance of maintaining your audience’s attention.

Today’s audiences have the attention span of a gnat. They have too many distractions. And they’re trained not to sit still and listen.

Even a masterful speaker with a well-prepared speech will have trouble keeping an audience engaged for long. So keep your speech short.

2. Shorter speeches are more focused.

If a realtor’s mantra is location, location, location, a speaker’s mantra should be focus, focus, focus.

Keeping your speech short forces you to stay focused, which is a good thing.

A lack of focus confuses audiences. And it gives them the chance to wander way — and never return — to your main point (if you have one).

3. Shorter speeches leave the audience wanting more.

When is the last time anyone said, “I wish that speaker had gone on longer?”

It’s better to end a speech before your audience loses interest.

4. Shorter speeches are more tightly constructed.

To shorten a speech, you often have to eliminate nonessentials. Which is always a good thing. (They make you — and your audience — lose focus.)

And you sometimes have to eliminate elements — ideas, phrases, images — that are important and dear to your heart, but not as important as your main point.

Keeping only the most valuable elements is a sure way to improve a speech.

5. Shorter speeches are more memorable.

Because they’re more tightly constructed and have, as a result, a more logical flow, shorter speeches are easier to remember. Both for you and your audience.

Examples of Short Speeches

Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech before the Virginia House of Burgess lasted 6 minutes.

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address took 2 minutes.

FDR’s address to the nation after Pearl Harbor was over in 7 minutes.

Ronald Reagan’s response to the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy was a little over 4 minutes.

Margaret Thatcher’s moving tribute to Ronald Reagan was just 7 minutes.

Do you know of any other short but memorable speeches?

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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.