Great speeches are much like great songs. Their style, subject, and performance are as unique as those who wrote and performed them. Yet we can all agree they’re incredible pieces of work.
That’s because there are clear common threads we can identify and credit for why we collectively enjoy them.
For a song, it could be its moving lyrics, its catchy melody, or an impossible-to-forget guitar riff.
Much like great songs, great speeches have specific threads that run through them as well. Even though the subject matter, lessons, tonality, and the people behind them are vastly different.
Understanding what makes these speeches impactful can help us improve how we write and perform our own speeches.
Here are 5 key fundamentals you should follow to lay the foundation for a great performance:
#1 A Masterful Delivery
The old saying goes, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it”. And as with any public performance, delivery is key.
If you appear distracted, nervous, uncomfortable, or doubtful, no matter how well your speech is written, it will fall on deaf ears.
“Great delivery” can come in many forms: humble, confident, humorous, inquisitive, self-deprecating, and so on. The beauty is that no single way is better than the other. What matters most is that you prepare and be masterful in your delivery – whichever tonality you choose.
Practice is essential. If you’ve put in the work to write an amazing speech, put in just as much work (if not more) practicing delivering it. Become fully familiar with its phrasings and rhythms, so when it comes time to stand and deliver, you’ll be ready to go.
#2 Be Relatable To Your Audience
If your audience can’t connect with you, they will more than likely tune you out.
In order to be relatable, you have to give a piece of yourself to your audience. Let them know who you are by sharing personal experience, telling stories, and most importantly – being authentically you.
An audience can sniff out a fraud from miles away.
Even if you possess more charisma than an A-list movie star, if it isn’t coming from a place of authenticity, your audience simply won’t be able to connect with you.
Your speech could cover the most mundane topic, but if you are authentic about your passion for it, listeners will be far more generous with their attention.
There is an adage that comes into play when it comes to speeches: “Walk a mile in my shoes.”
Let this mantra run through your head as you prepare your speech-by allowing them to walk in your shoes. You’ll find the audience will be much more willing to listen and absorb what you have to say.
#3 Have a Beginning, Middle, and an End.
Speeches aren’t exactly stories, novels, or screenplays. But great speeches do take something from the storyteller’s toolbox: a beginning, a middle, and an end.
A narrative arc exists for a reason: it pulls people into the story (or speech), makes them invested in the outcome, and reaches a conclusion that offers something of value to those invested. It may be a lesson, enlightenment, an understanding, a resolution to an epiphany, or all of the aforementioned combined.
The inclusion of a beginning, middle, and end might sound like a simplification to some. It is not. Storytellers have applied this to their craft for millennia for good reason: it works.
#4 Cut Down The Word Count
“Brevity is the soul of wit.”, a saying often quoted when learning how to become a more effective communicator. That’s because there’s no bigger turn-off than a speech that goes on forever, repeats itself, and does little to ensure the audience is engaged throughout its entirety.
It is well-known, that political leaders of the 20th and 21st centuries have given speeches that went on for entire mornings, half-days, and even full days. But this practice mainly existed in countries with state-run media where people had no say in what gets broadcasted.
The fact of the matter is, when it comes to speeches, more is not always better.
Take the time to truly analyze your speech. Find portions that give no additional value and cut them out completely. Let it become a lean, mean, value-giving machine.
#5 Have A Clearly Defined Point
You’ve gone through all the effort to write a great speech, but what for? What is the one thing you hope your audience takes away from your presentation?
If you don’t have a clearly defined reason for giving your speech, your audience won’t have a clear reason to listen.
Many new speakers fall into the mindset of throwing a bucket-full of ideas at an audience and hoping one resonates. However, throwing in too many different ideas leads to a clouding of your message. This leads to your audience scratching their heads wondering what your message actually was.
This fundamental is simple to understand but difficult to execute for many: have a clearly defined point and let it dictate your entire speech.
Following these 5 tried and true fundamentals will ensure you’ll have the foundation for delivering a speech that makes a true impact on your audience.