Four considerations when structuring a speech

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If you are new to speechwriting or want to improve, four things will help you to get that standing ovation.

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Balance your speech

Firstly, a good speech has balance, with not too much preamble or repetition. Try to spend 10 per cent of your time on your introduction, 80 per cent on the main body of your speech, and the final 10 per cent summarising your key points.

Your introduction should cover who you are, what you are about to talk about, and why the audience should give you its full attention. Make your introduction more attention-grabbing by finding an interesting way to describe yourself and your experience. Your summary should be no more than 10 per cent of your total speech time, but don’t miss it out altogether. The summary is your opportunity to remind your audience of the key points.

Use storytelling to engage your audience

As a motivational speaker, your speeches will often be based on stories from your life. You can inspire others by describing how you have overcome difficulties and gone on to achieve your dreams. Think about how you could use stories and personal examples to enhance the points you want to make. Your audience will find your speech all the more engaging and memorable, as research by Paul Zak of Berkeley University has confirmed. Can your speech be presented as a ‘hero’s journey’ to really engage your audience?

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Write for your audience

Think hard about your audience and make sure you pitch your speech to match its level of knowledge and its interests. People will quickly switch off if they do not have enough knowledge to understand your points or if you explain things they are already familiar with.

A room full of highly-qualified experts and a room full of small children will obviously respond to different language, images and examples. Most audiences find the odd joke engaging if this is appropriate. Seek out speeches from professionals such as to see how they get their audience’s attention.

Stay on point

Resist the urge to explore too many different points. Do not wander off the main track of your speech, as confused audiences quickly lose interest. Making too many points will make it hard for your audience to remember them, so stick to three for maximum impact.