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How to Make a Good Speech - Tips

In 2004, a discussion thread was opened at, where ‘paranoia’ asks for tips on making a good speech. He or she is very nervous about an upcoming event. Read at least three of the replies ‘paranoia’ gets. (The entries are not proofread, so there are some mistakes here. We decided to keep it authentic.)

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Source: Uncommon Forum

tips for making a good speech?

any tips on how to make a good speech? for example, should i memorize word for word, or allow some improvisation? the right speed to talk? (i tend to speak very fast when i'm nervous)
ideas anyone? thanks!

Click on the user names to read the advice given.

1. fathom

Lots of people are (get) nervous in public speaking -- I have many times.
I believe it is important to review your subject matter thoroughly but total memorization tend to create a one track mind, and should anything pop up (even something as someone coughly loudly) can totally distract you... losing your train of thought.
Talking speed can be difficult to overcome... but a good tip in preparation > record yourself and listen to your own momentum... from the opposite side of the room.
This is good practice to develop the right cadence.
Also performing in a mirror - helps to address the "public" issue (being nervous) as you have a captivative audience in yourself - the mirrow traces your every move!
Good luck and welcome to Uncommon Forum! Wink

2. Andy

i'd totally agree with fathom that you shouldn't learn a speech word for word and instead just make bullet points that you can refer to to allow for the uncertain.

i guess breathing steadily helps or doing 7/11 breathing (breathe in counting to 7 and breath out to 11). also allowing yourself to feel comfortable during silences, no matter how long they seem. not always easy i know.

perhaps doing some imagery would help to split you from any unwanted feelings, opening out your focus, so that you can begin to calm down. the classic one is to imagine everyone without anything on. but there are lots of things you can try out. it's quite nice to move your awareness into the centre of your body and imagine some kind of energy flowing outwards embrassing everyone.

if you can begin to relax when thinking about doing a speech then thats the first step. prepare and practice, but not too much, because its best to have room for improvisation. when you are able to find a method that allows you to open out your focus it will help you to be more at ease and youll find you will speak at a more regular pace.

3. Macdonut

Practise, practise, practise.

I used to be terribly nervous in standing up in front of groups - not very helpful in my days as an instructor. However, looking back over time, I feel that the best thing that ever happened to me was a switch in mindset. Instead of fearing the speeches, I suddenly started to look forward to them. I was still extremely nervous, but with a couple of techniques things really did start to improve. Every time I now give a speech, I really am looking forward to it and hardly feel nervous at all.

The starting point for overcoming my fear was twofold.

1) Don't avoid your audiences gaze. Pick a spot within the audience, speak to it for 5-10 seconds, and if you start to become uncomfortable look at another part of the audience. Under no circumstances look at the floor or the walls, or the ceiling, etc. It's amazing how much more confident you feel making eye contact with your audience and realising that they are listening to what you are saying.

2) As has been said earlier, you shouldn't learn exactly word for word. However, practise in front of the mirror often. Treat yourself as your audience. When I first tried this I actually found it uncomfortable to look at myself when I was speaking, but that soon passed.

Over time, if you stick with it, you really will start to enjoy standing up and having everyone listening attentitively to what you are saying.

Good luck!

4. Shlomo_NLP

All the replies above are great. I just want to add some quick tips:

Look at your audience as if they are one person. Talk to them personally. Take 3 seconds segments and talk directly with eyes contact to one person only. It will create a unique experience to everyone: first, that person will feel important since there are 100 people around and you chose him; secondly, other people will tune in to listen even more carefuly because someoone "was targeted".

People in the audience have some sort of anxiety too, not only you. When you sit in the audience, you wouldn't want the speaker to point at you and ask you strange questions, right? especially if you're in the company of strangers.

Look at them in the eyes. The worst you can do is to gaze over at space as if they're not there. Look at one person for a couple of seconds, then turn and look at another.

Try to engage as many people as you can in the "dialog". You're the only one who's talking, but you can get some "aha" from members of the group. When you ask a question that you want a "yes" answer, nod your had as you finish the question... "so taking notes while you're listening to a lecture is basically a good idea, isn't it (nod)?"... that would engage them in a positive way because they won't have to "expose" themselves to others. They nod, you smile, you move on, they're "safe".

Don't move too much. Move, but not too much. Try to pick a "hot spot" on stage or somewhere in the room, where everyone can feel your presence. I've been in lectures where the speaker "disappeared", the audience lost interest. when you move, always remember to come back to your hot spot. Getting used to your hot spot before speaking would also make your performance better, because you're "at home".

ooh... I should stop... I can go with it for days. Try it, let us know how it worked out for you, and - GOOD LUCK with any kind of speech you do.

Cheers and Happy Holidays,


5. Noel

Go with your style.

Talk slowly. Take pauses.

Don't ramble.

Cut into segments and memorize what you want to say in each segment - not how you are going to say it.


Short phrases.

Don't repeat phrases.

And no errs and ahs!

6. Imperialdream

I think...

-Never memorize word by word. It's really easy to actually make the difference between a "Speech" and a "Recitation". And we won't need a speaker if we needed a "Recitation", we can just get the paper and read it. And people who do so usually gives me an impression that they don't really know what they're talking about, I mean, if it was written: "I'm a pig who will talk to you about how Martians travel...", maybe the speaker will recite it.

-Make a more or less detailed outline of your speech, and know your text well. If you fear you might forget certain details or important elements, write them down in the appropriate spot on your outline, but keep everything simple.

For example:

2.1 - Definition of...
2.2 - Statistic of...

and on and on...

That grants you more flexibility I believe.

-Hands can be very useful. You can actually associate certain passages of your speech to a certain pattern of gestures. That way, it can remind you, as you move your hands, about what to say.

-The speed should be the one when you speak normally. I think you should make yourself sound as natural as possible, to really pull yourself closer to the audience. Once they and you are close, the words are a lot stronger. Speaking fast makes sure nobody understands, speaking slowly is boring. So just go with your natural speed.

-One last thing: Don't give the impression that you're there speaking because we forced you to be, or you're doing it just for thr sake of doing it. Reflect yout personality in it.

That's all that I have in mind for now...

Hope it can help!

7. Jag Senghera

When I first started out, my mentor told me this

"Never let your First Time be Your First Time"

I have hold this true for myself, Before I do any speech or presentation I
make sure I have done it at least 10 - 20 times in my mind before. Usually
I keep rehearsing in my mind so often, that when I'm on the platform
everything goes on autopilot and I can focus more on making eye contact,
speech rate, breathing pattern etc.

This doesn't mean I don't get nervous before I give a speech. When I'm on
the platform, its like a switch and the moment I see the audience I
automatically go into my presenting mode and don't even remember being

Maybe you should test it out and see what happens.

8. Eats

Don't try to memorise every word of a speech.

I worked on a cruise
ship as an assistant cruise director and had to make 'public speeches' all the time (live on stage in front of 500 people, via telecom to the entire ship of 3000 people and also to very small intimate groups on very specific subjects) and I NEVER tried to learn speeches etc 'word for word' why?

1st - It's really boring to listen to someone 'recite' a speech - remember in school assemblies when a head teacher went through his rehearsed speech about school policies etc? BORING !

2nd - If you want people to remember what you are saying you have to be likeable as well as believable...if you are reading off a piece of paper or are trying too hard to remember everything you have to say, you won't be able to 'connect' with your audience.

3rd - You have to be able to adapt your speech to the 'mood of the crowd'. Have you ever seen a comedian who stuch to his 'script' even when it was falling have to be able to 'read' your audience and then be able to change your wording or even entire speech to make them sit up and listen.

4th - Giving speeches should be fun (or at least not a trial by torture), and who ever found learning 5 pages of 'text' fun? Make bullet points, write a list of things you want to say, things you have to say & then write a list of things you can add-in to make it fun/light hearted.

5th - Getting interupted in the middle of a speech is very common & if you have learnt this speech 'word for word' it can then be very annoying (at best) or totally devastating (at worst) - to try to 'pick up' from where you left off.

9. authentically speaking

The best remedy is to be yourself and deliver with heart.

I have a friend who has a great quote:

"You might as well be yourself, everyone else is taken."

When applied to public speaking, the simple translation is:
The best speakers are those who take the information they want to present, and then "be themselves" in presenting it. This is difficult to do when you are reading word for word. Or when you are delivering a memorized speech.

Think of it this way: if you were going to recommend a restaurant or movie you absolutely love, would you write out what you are going to say, memorize it, and then deliver it word for word? Why not? Is it because it would be devoid of your heart and passion?

The same is true of public speaking. The best speakers deliver in the moment with heart and passion. And this comes across when 1) you know the bullet points of what you want to say; and 2) you deliver it extemporaneously from your heart and your passion.

Everyone refers to Martin Luther King's speech "I Have a Dream" as the quintessential powerful speech. Did you know that he started out with notes, and part-way through abondoned them to "speak from his heart"? It has gone down in history as one of the all-time greatest speeches. He knew in advance the ideas he wanted to get across, and then shortly after starting, surrendered to his own convictions and delivered those same points extemporaneously. WoW!

The only time you want to deliver word-for-word is when you are quoting another's work verbatim, reciting a poem, citing statistics or research, etc.

Other than that, once you've written out your presentation, distill it into bullet form. And you state your message with the listener in mind, i.e., "what's in it for them? (WIIFT) Why should they care?"

Let's use the restaurant review as an example:

1) Great location - why is it great?
2) Extensive wine list - would my friends want to know this?
3) Unusual menu - this appeals to large groups eating out together
4) Superb service - makes dining enjoyable for everyone
5) fabulous desserts, and then give an example.

You write these 5 points onto an index card or type them on your notes. Then you start at the top of your list, and you deliver each one with the zeal of your heart. Like you are sitting at dinner with a group of old friends relaying this great experience you've just had at a new restaurant.

That is how you be yourseflf.

It's the absolute best way.

Now, if you have tons and tons of research or statistics/reporting that must accompany your talk, then have it outlined in a handout. Then when it comes to that point in your talk, you need only reference key points and/or summarize the research. Those who love statistics will be all too happy to read further on their own time. Those who don't care so much for statistics will be grateful you didn't bore them to death. And everyone will come away thinking you're a genius and well-grounded for have done you're homework on the subject matter.

I hope this helps. If you have more speaking questions, you can visit

Wishing you speaking success,

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