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How to Give a Powerful Speech

How to Give a Powerful Speech

It's not hard to give a speech. People do it every day. But if your goal is to connect with your audience and deliver a memorable presentation, you'll need to put in some preparation and practice. Powerful speeches rarely "just happen," so follow these tips to ensure your speech makes an impact.

1. Know your audience.

Knowing who you're talking to is key. Know their basic demographics, but also know their skill level regarding your topic, their interest level in your topic (Do they want to be here, or do they have to?), and what they need to hear from you to move forward. Give them what they need.

2. Write down your overall takeaway, and stick to it.

Ask yourself: If this audience could only remember one thing from my speech, what would I want it to be? Write your answer down as one complete sentence. That's your takeaway. Write it at the top of your paper as you begin developing your speech. As you add things to your speech ask yourself if each thing supports that takeaway. If it does, keep it in your speech. If it doesn't, save it for a different speech.

3. Prepare notes (not a script).

Memorizing a speech is not necessary and may even sound robotic. It's better to sound conversational yet prepared. Create an outline with bulletpoints. As you talk through it, you'll be able to condense your notes further and further. Ultimately you want to become familiar enough with your material that your notes are minimal. Just a skeletal structure is all you need. The only parts of your speech that should be written out verbatim in your notes are quotes, statistics, and anything else that must be shared exactly as written.

4. Share stories that illustrate your points.

Stories are memorable and relatable, so you'll want to include them in your speech. Make sure you choose stories that are relevant to your topic and audience, and then practice telling them until you sound natural. Don't underestimate the power of stories... they are often remembered long after the speech when statistics are forgotten.

5. Have a conversation with your audience.

Move around the stage naturally. Use expressive (yet appropriate) body language. You want to engage the audience and make them feel like they're part of the conversation rather than passive observers, so talk with them rather than at them. While we're on this subject let me just add that it's virtually impossible to have a conversation with your audience if you're reading slides to them. Don't let slides take over your speech and wreck it. For more information about slides, click here.

6. Practice. Practice again. Practice more. Repeat.

Creating your notes is not full preparation for giving a powerful speech. You must practice. That means you must say your speech out loud so many times that it feels like second nature. When you get on stage for the big day, you should feel like giving your speech is "old hat." When you've practiced enough, your speech will feel like a familiar friend. Your audience deserves your best, and that means you must practice, practice again, practice again, and practice again. Get feedback, tweak things, and practice more. 

And then please practice again.

And again.

Once more after that wouldn't hurt, either.

To deliver a powerful speech you must know your audience, prepare properly, and practice until your speech feels so familiar that you could deliver it in your sleep. Your audience will appreciate your effort, and you'll make an impact for years to come.

Need to improve your speech or stage presence? Click here to schedule a call with Carrie to learn more about how she can help you achieve your goals!

 How to Give a Powerful Speech | Carrie Sharpe | He says, She says

Don't Use Slides for Your Speech (But if You Must, Here's How)

Don't Use Slides for Your Speech (But if You Must, Here's How)

Slides during a speech are a huge pet peeve of mine. There are almost always misused, unneeded, and/or distracting. Slides should be used to enhance the message of the speech, but they are usually just a crutch for the speaker.

Before using a slide, ask yourself this question:

Does this slide tell my message better than I can?

If it does, use the slide. If it doesn't, get rid of the slide. It's as simple as that. Every single slide should make the speech better in some way. If it doesn't, it should be eliminated.

Slides should not be used as notes for the speaker. That's a crutch, and those slides don't add anything useful to the speech. Tech glitches occasionally occur, and if you're relying on those slides to get you through your speech you will be up a creek without a paddle.

Slides should not be full of text, especially in tiny font. That's annoying and unnecessary. Your audience should not spend all their time reading while you're talking. When slides become overwhelming, and when there are far too many, that's called Death By PowerPoint. Don't do that.

The focus, as a speaker, should be you and your message.

The focus should not be the slides.

If you must use slides, be sure to ask yourself the question above. If you determine you need slides, follow these guidelines:

  1. Less is more. Keep slides to a minimum. Every moment of your speech does not need its own slide. Allow your audience to determine what's important from your speech and take their own notes without the distraction of endless slides.

  2. Consider hand-outs as an alternative. If you have a lot of worksheet-style content that you're tempted to put on slides, hand-outs may be a better option. You can give them out after your talk, which allows your audience to simply listen and learn while you're talking. Audience members can review your information later.

  3. Bigger is better. If you must use text, make it super huge. Everyone in the room needs to see it. Use few words in large font. Don't clog up your slides with book-length paragraphs in tiny font.

  4. Tell a story. Use your slides to help illustrate your message. Images are preferable to text. Use meaningful images rather than stock photos. If an image doesn't have special meaning, don't use it.

  5. Stay on target. Only use slides that don't distract from you and your message. If your audience is looking up at the screen behind you more than they're looking at you, that's a problem. 

The best slides I've ever seen showed important statistics in a huge graph for effect, screenshots that illustrate how to implement what's being taught, or personal photos of the speaker's topic. They told the message better than the speakers could, so they made sense and actually enhanced the speeches. Use your slides in similar ways, and your speeches will be powerful and make an impact as well.

 

Need to improve your speech or stage presence? Click here to schedule a call with Carrie to learn more about how she can help you achieve your goals!

Stop Speaking. Start Serving.

Stop Speaking. Start Serving.

If you agree to speak at a conference, you're not a speaker. You're a server.

There's a huge difference. 

If you're speaking in an attempt to get your name in lights, demand authority, or gain popularity, your heart is in the wrong place. And your audience will see right through you.

Your audience can sense your motives. They'll know if you're there for them, or if you're there for you.

Arrive early, and stay late when you can. Mingle and get to know people. Invest your time and talents. Help people feel welcome and comfortable. Ask them questions, and get to know them. Go above and beyond.

For real. Not just to sell them something.

Speaking is a privilege and should be treated as such. It shouldn't matter whether you get keynote designation, or if you're leading a small breakout. Either way, your job is to make a difference. Your job is to teach something. Your job is to inspire others to implement what you've taught.

Your audience should leave the room better than they were when they arrived.

Take the focus off of you and put it on your audience. Get to know them. Find out their fears, dreams, and goals. Find out what holds them back. Research and prepare weeks in advance. Give them your absolute best.

It's not about you. It's about them.

Every single time.

A spotlight is not the goal. Improving the lives of your audience is.

Serve your audience.

 

Are you working on a speech? Need some help? Click here to talk about all the ways I can help!

How to Start Writing a Speech

How to Start Writing a Speech

So, you have to give a speech or presentation. Most people will have to give one at some point.

Just the thought of that can bring on serious bouts of anxiety for most people. 

What will I say?

Do I need Power Point slides?

Will I stay within my time limit?

How do I even begin?

Those are all great questions. We'll deal with the others in later articles, but in this article we'll stick with how to start. Starting properly will reduce the amount of anxiety involved and get the speech headed in the right direction right off the bat.

When I need to write a speech, I start with a topic sentence. The first thing I do is write out one sentence that very clearly states my topic. It might include what I want the audience to learn through my speech. For example, a topic sentence I wrote for a recent speech was, "You can trust God with your children." Obviously, my talk was written for a church setting. Your audience may be different, but the point is to write your topic sentence first. Once it is written you will be able to weed out ideas later if they do not support your topic.

Next comes the brainstorming process. I call it a "brain dump." For this brain dump, I write out my topic sentence in big letters across the top of a sheet of paper. Then I set a timer for 20 minutes and write down all the ideas, stories, and facts I can think of that will support my topic sentence. I write down everything that pops into my mind for the full 20 minutes. The ideas don't necessarily need to be clear or worded properly at this point. The goal is simply to write down every idea or fact that I might possibly want to include in my speech. This brain dump may need to be repeated 3-5 times over the course of a few days in order to get all the ideas onto paper.

Then I look over all the ideas from my brain dumps. Any idea, story, or fact that does not relate to my topic sentence gets the ax at this point. Those unnecessary items might be saved for a future or separate talk, but they are taken out of the current one. This is the time to weed out anything that will not support my topic sentence.

The remaining items then need to be organized into a workable order. This might mean that they need to be listed in chronological order or some other meaningful order. Usually I simply go back through the list and number them. Keep in mind that any of this can be changed later.

Once I have a rough idea where I am going with all of these ideas, I write my opening statement. This might be a paragraph or two. The opening should be strong and should let the audience know the topic or where the speech is going. I'm not saying that I state my topic sentence verbatim (that would probably be boring), but l do make sure the audience is told where we are headed.

After my opening statement is finished, I like to write my closing remarks. Again, this might be a paragraph or two. The closing should be strong and have a definitive end. No audience wants to listen to a speaker drone on and on or go off on tangents, so I keep my closing concise. I like to end with one memorable statement.

Once the opening and closing are written, it is time to outline all the ideas from my brain dumps. This outline becomes the "map" for my speech. It doesn't need to be too detailed at this point. Also, keep in mind that anything can be changed later on as the process progresses. I inevitably reword my opening and closing statements and also my outline as I work on my talk and practice it.

Visually, this is the outline I create to start working on a speech:

  • Opening Statement
  • Brain Dump detail #1
  • Brain Dump detail #2
  • Brain Dump detail #3
  • **Continue with as many Brain Dump details as are appropriate for the speech and time limit**
  • Closing Remarks and Statement

This brain dump and outlining process can work for a variety of speech or presentation types. Brain dumps and outlining are not the only part of the speech-creating process, but they are a great way to start. 

How to Start Writing a Speech