Of course your content is important. The central idea of your speech. The evidence, stories, and images that explain, substantiate, and illustrate that idea. And the words and phrases that bring it to life.
And so is your delivery. The way you present that content with your voice (your volume, tone and pitch, pacing) and your body (your movement and gestures, your facial expressions, your stillness and silence).
The audience is equally important. Who they are and why they’re gathering. What they know and feel about the idea you’re addressing. How they hear and interpret what you’re saying.
But the vital element of any speech is first and foremost the person who has crafted it and is presenting it: you.
That’s not to say that your needs trump everything else. Or that a speech is all about you, you, you.
It does mean that who you are — your insights and wisdom, values, beliefs, fundamental outlook — are the sine qua non of a speech: the element without which a speech can never be.
One of the best ways to give better speeches is to become a better person: more thoughtful, wise, and compassionate.
How do you do that? It’s up to you, but here are my suggestions:
- Read more. Don’t just skim and scan.
- Have in-depth conversations with people who matter to you.
- Take long walks untethered to a mobile device.
- Be still and quiet at least once a day.
- Do something kind for others without expecting anything in return.
- Know when and how to forgive.
- Ask yourself, often, “Does this matter? Why?”
Being a better person won’t necessarily make you a better speaker. But your speeches can never be better than you are.
Agree or disagree? Any additions to my suggestions?