1. Begin with a strong opening statement
Every great speech begins with a strong opening statement, delivered confidently, that intrigues or amuses the audience making them eager to hear more.
The winning speech at a recent British Toastmasters Public Speaking Contest began with…
“Picture This – I’m standing in front of 300 students”
Another opening statement that grabbed people’s attention was ‘Aren’t children amazing?’.
You could also open with ‘Aren’t languages amazing?’ if you are going to talk about learning a language and the benefits it has given you.
2. Engage the audience with a rhetorical question
A rhetorical question is a question that doesn’t require an answer but encourages the listener to think about something more deeply.
For example: “Did you ever find yourself on the wrong road and had to turn back?”
What this means is ‘Have you ever made a wrong decision and had to go back to your original choice’
This is a clever rhetorical question as all people at sometime in their life have made a wrong decision and had to take action to fix it.
Maybe you were in a relationship and realised it wasn’t a good match or changed jobs but decided you preferred your old one more. This is what this expression means, it engages the audience because we can all relate and want to hear more about what the speaker has to say
3. Make your audience laugh
There is nothing like laughter to warm an audience to you, we all love to be amused.
The best jokes are based on real life situations that people can relate to.
For example: I studied English for 6 years and thought I was doing ok, then I had a business trip to Liverpool and was excited to practice my English BUT I couldn’t understand what they were saying and I started to panic because the people didn’t sound like the British accent I heard in my Listening Tests. I didn’t know what to do so I smiled and nodded when asked questions and left as quickly as I could.
This is funny because anyone learning a new language can relate to this feeling of frustration.
4. Include emotional variety
One particularly effective strategy is to vary the emotional tone of the speech.
Some start with something that can make you laugh but skilfully transition into a poignant story. Others switch between funny and shocking throughout the speech.
What does this do for an audience? It keeps their attention; it makes them feel – and we remember feelings more than words – and gives a speech emotional colour.
All good speeches contain a good personal story.
You can talk about something that has affected your life, such as a transformational story and then make that story relevant to your audience through a call to action, a moral lesson or by directly relating it to people you’re talking to.
6. Have an inspiring message
A contest winning speech delivers a strong message.
From ‘Don’t give up on your dream’ to ‘Its ok, everyone doubts themselves at times’
It is best to include this in your conclusion as you finish strongly and the audience won’t forget what you said. The key to a good speech is being able to touch people's hearts and minds with your words and leaving an everlasting impression.
If you would like any help on structuring a speech or giving a presentation with confidence I would be happy to help, as I have helped other students in the past with public speaking.