Constructing a Speech by Simon Cooper

These are the notes of an educational speech delivered by Simon Cooper at the meeting on Thursday, January 9th.

CONSTRUCTING A SPEECH

Importance

  • It facilitates the art of arranging what you want to say in a logical and consistent manner so the audience can easily follow your train of thought and argument.
  • It follows the discipline – tell the audience what to expect (opening), elaborate on the main themes (body) review this in summary form (conclusion – tell them what you have told them)
  • It enables you to build your speech on a firm foundation:

– Making your speech easier for the audience to follow

– Stopping you from getting side tracked

– Encourages you to adopt a chronological approach

– Facilitates the linking of the opening, body and conclusion.

Structure

  • A speech only succeeds if the separate threads are clearly brought together to make a logical whole
  • Choose a framework to work to so that the speech doesn’t ramble in an uncontrolled way- this could be:

– Past / present / future

– Problem / solution

– Comparing alternatives

– Time sequence (i.e. chronological)

– Geographic

  • Think through the general outline of the speech and where you want it to go.  Decide on all of the main headings that cover the subject and list all of the points against each of these.
  • Add interest to the speech by moving the pace through one or more well defined climaxes.
  • It is important that the transition between the parts of the speech is smooth so that you don’t end up with 3 individual speeches.
  • Keep the construction style consistent throughout your speech
  • Aim to have your audience remember at least one central idea or message

Content

  • Develop your ideas over a period of time, jotting down thoughts as they occur and then research your subject thoroughly.
  • Consider your objective – do you want to entertain, inform, be controversial, educate or convince?
  • Don’t discard anything until you are in a position to put your ideas into a logical sequence within the allotted time.
  • Arrange your material to build your argument towards the conclusion.  Use facts and figures and quotations as supporting information to add credibility – but don’t let the speech get too dry.
  • Use descriptive words and phrases that will elevate your material from everyday speech but write these “gems” out in full so they are not omitted from the final delivery.
  • Humour has an important part to play in most speeches but it must be relevant and in context. It needs to be in sympathy with mood of the section of the speech unless you deliberately use it to change the tempo.

Balance

  • Imagine the size of each section of the speech as you would an appropriate size room of a house.
  • The appropriate amount of time to be spent in each area for an eight minute speech is:

– Opening – one minute

– Body – six minutes

– Conclusion – one minute

  • Speakers often have too much material for the main body of their speech
  • Select the vital points and prune the remainder rigorously to leave you with a crisp powerful speech.
  • Try to build finality into your concluding sentence so that the audience is quite clear that you have reached the end of your speech.

Clarity

  • It can be useful to record parts of the speech on a tape recorder or word processor and shuffle them around until it all sounds right.
Understandable

 

  • The language used in written material (such as an essay) is different to the spoken word.
  • It is therefore essential to translate some parts of the speech into natural spoken language.
  • Use words and phrases that you would use in normal conversation.  Won’t and can’t are quite appropriate giving a lift to phrases which might otherwise sound stilted.
  • Listen to programmes such as “From our own Correspondent” for tips on how professional speakers build understanding into their speeches.

Don’t

  • Start with a shopping list of what is to follow
  • Try to squeeze too much material into your speech
  • Apologise for anything
  • Say you are the wrong person to be giving this type of talk
  • Tell the audience you haven’t prepared properly
  • End with:

– Thank you

– That is all I have to say

– In conclusion

– That just about sums it up

First

  • A good introduction will capture the attention and interest of the audience.  You need to make them want to listen to your entire speech.
  • It must make them sit up and be ready for the next part of your speech.

Repeat

  • As above

Outstanding

 

  • The following devices can achieve this:

– Ask a rhetorical question

– Quote a saying or famous prose

– Deliver an anecdote

– Be humorous

– Make a shock statement

– Use startling or unusual facts

– Deliver a strong emphatic statement

  • But remember to be different and innovative.
  • Try injecting some drama
  • Keep it short and uncomplicated.
  • You must then be able to move logically to your main theme.
  • An entirely unrelated opening will only confuse the audience
  • So use your opening as a bridge

Linkages

 

  • There is no right way to construct a speech but it is often best to construct the body first before designing the conclusion and introduction.
  • The speech should proceed in logical sections which will allow the audience to digest what you are saying.
  • Develop your main points chronologically
  • Use the points you wish to cover in decreasing level of importance
  • Work from minor to major points
  • Offer both sides of an argument either offering for and against on a point by point basis or all for followed by all against
  • Draw from your personal experience and relate them to your audience
  • Pay attention to the linking of sections – when you change tack make sure you take the audience with you.

Last

  • Your concluding words must provide a powerful statement which summarises or emphasises the whole speech.
  • Use it to encapsulate your speech referring back to the opening if possible
  • This section deserves at least as much preparation as any other part of the speech.
  • This can be used as an opportunity to:

– Suggest answers to questions posted earlier

– Summarise the points that have been made

– Arrive at a completely unexpected but logical conclusion

– Leave your audience with a word picture

  • Make your conclusion brief and to the point
  • Know it by heart so that it can be delivered with conviction

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