Your mindset needs to be different when delivering a speech. You see, there’s a visual and vocal component on top of the written. Much of the audience’s attention is taken up with movement and positioning in the speaking area, body language, facial expressions and vocal aspects such as pace, pause, pitch, power and projection. The audience is subject to attention overload.

It’s not like reading an essay where all they have in front of them is the printed word and where they can go at their own pace and check back on previous content if needed.

So to cope and avoid overload, speech audiences become selective. Studies show they tend to remember presentation (rather than content) and when it comes to content tend to remember what was first said and last said, rather than the body.

So speeches have to be written differently. Here are some things to consider:

  • To avoid information overload limit the number of points you are making and make them short. This does not mean dumbing down. It means being more selective about what you really want to say.
  • Provide a road map for your audience. Early on, let your audience know where you are going, then go there and even at the end tell them where you have gone. This recognizes what studies have shown, that auditory memory is inferior to reading memory.
  • Minimise statistics and work on telling the story behind them. The story is much more likely to be remembered than the statistics.
  • Become the punctuation. Readers have punctuation on the printed page to guide them. As a speaker you have to provide that punctuation, via pace, pause, emphasis, appropriate gestures and even where you position yourself in the speaking area. Good speakers are masters at shepherding an audience through their content.
  • Finally, having taken all the above into account in crafting your speech you need somewhere to practise it, and hopefully get feedback from your audience. The surest way to do this is in your local Toastmasters club – see home page. Why don’t you join Toastmasters?