Structure in a speech

Structure in a speech

You may be wondering why a blog on speaking would begin with a session on structure. The answer is simple.

Most people do not realise that, unlike written material, oral presentations can go out into the room and get lost. The listeners do not have the script in front of them. They are relying on the speaker’s voice, body language and words to get the messages.

Unless the speaker makes the point very clear, by signalling and signposting where s/he is going, the audience is likely to lose the train of thought of the speaker.

Have you heard of: “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. Tell’ em what you’ve told ‘em.?” It’s good advice. I’d add just a bit more>

Start with an S S. a sizzling start. If you need to greet and introduce yourself, do so. Then pause and say something engaging. The sort of engaging starts include: a quote, (best way to start), a rhetorical question or two, an anecdote to which the audience can relate, some shocking stats or facts, some apparently random but relevant words, or even a request to raise their hand if  A B C. 

Having grabbed their attention, state your main purpose and message and a summary of points you will make.

The body of the speech should consist of topic sentences and evidence to support them. Each point should be linked to the next point. It should sound like a train of thought.

The conclusion is the most important. It needs to be signalled and signposted with words like, “In conclusion.” Or “Let me finish with…” or “And so.” Each one of these should be said loudly and with emphasis, so the audience really listens. The end is the most important because most people remember the last thing you say. So, don’t muck it up by adding “Thank you.” It’s polite and pathetic.

To model what I have just shared, I’ll give you the start of my speech I gave recently in a fial of a Victorian speech competition on “The business.”

“What is the business….of life?

Why, it’s to be happy.

And how do you get to be happy.”

That’s the business of Love.

It’s the business of Laughter.

It’s the business of Labour and its opposite: the business of Leisure.

It’s the business of Learning.

And most of all, it’s the business of Leaving.”

I started a new line each time I paused and by the time I’d finished the introduction, I could tell the audience was ready to follow my clear structure of six points all starting with the letter “L”

So, next time you have a speech, think about your purpose and what is your main message? And, what steps you need to take to bring your audience with you.

Remember, s speech is like a carpet that rolls out in front and rolls up behind. If you want to keep their interest, they need to know where you are taking them.  

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