How to Make a Speech Memorable: A Guide for Beginning Speakers

Anyone can get up on stage and give a speech. To make a speech memorable takes a bit more effort. Yes, natural charisma helps, but delivering a memorable speech that sticks with your audience happens by practicing strategies that work. That’s what today’s blog article is all about. 

We’ve collected five fantastic strategies from established pro speakers that will help anyone make a speech memorable. These successful, experienced speakers know what works and what doesn’t, and if you follow what they’ve learned, you won’t have to make the same mistakes they did. Helping one another succeed is all part of the spirit of NSA.

In this guide for beginning speakers, you’ll find tips for how to make a speech memorable, along with links to dive deeper into each topic. Once you’re done with this article, you’ll know exactly what to do to make your speech stand out.  


Tip #1 How to Make a Speech Memorable: Engage, But Don’t Overthink it

Audience engagement is the best way to make a speech memorable. Many speakers utilize games and other activities to ensure their audience is involved and paying attention.This is a great approach (more on that in the next tip!), but this first tip is about using more subtle ways to create engagement. 

Because you don’t need to have tons of complex activities throughout, nor do you need to ask your audience to hug their neighbors every 7 ½ minutes to make your speech memorable. 

Instead, you can try to bring in moments of reflection to keep your audience engaged. A great tip for this is to say something like, “You’re going to want to write this down,” right before you share a juicy tidbit. Or, if you’re talking about leadership, you can say something along the lines of: “Take a moment to write down three goals that you have for yourself as a leader,” — a tactic which can be applied to almost any topic or industry. 

For those who are already engaged and paying attention, they will become even more enthralled. And for those who may have gotten distracted  — this is a moment that will pique their interest and bring them back into the fold.  


Tip #2 How to Make a Speech Memorable: Simple Games That Work

This tip for improving your games and engagement activities comes from entertaining keynote speaker and master of ceremonies, Rob Ferre.  For virtual events, because the chat function is readily available, he likes to do an “all play” kind of game that he can easily make specific to each industry. 

As an example of an easy-to-create game, Rob Ferre described a game for an audience of dentists he called,  “Name that Smile,” featuring different celebrities' teeth and smiles. This little game had everyone guessing, interested and engaged. And all he had to do was gather famous smiles, place them on a few slides and keep clicking through. “Reveal” games such as these are easy to do and can be catered to your audience.

It’s also an effective game with a live audience. For live crowds, you can either have the entire crowd yell out the answers, or you can do it “verses” style, which includes calling a few people up to answer onstage.  If you want to increase engagement even more, when you call people up on stage, try assigning different sections of the audience to be their “team.” Team 1, Team 2, Team Blue, Team Red — whatever you want. This gives each side a vested interest in the outcome. Most likely, they’ll pay attention and cheer on their representative like you’ve never seen.  

For even more simple, yet exciting, engagement activities ideas, listen to the entire Speakernomics episode “Next Level Engagement with Robb Ferre.”


Tip #3 How to Make a Speech Memorable: Never Underestimate the Power of SWAG

Consider giving out prizes or SWAG (or Stuff We All Get) to your audience. These items can be used as prizes for certain activities or just given out to all attendees. The bottom line: people love free stuff! 

So, what product of yours can you give away as a prize? Whatever it is, the key to make it that much better in the eyes of your audience is to give it some weight and excitement. For example, say you have written a book. You can give away a hardcover copy to the “winner” of a game, and you can give the runner up the audiobook version. This way everyone walks away with something and that feels good. Now, if you really want to be the hero, take another tip from Rob Ferre, and have an “Oprah moment” where you give everyone in the audience a PDF version of the book for free, 

No matter what you end up giving away, people will love it! The big tip is to give the leadup to the prize a little bit of drama and increased value. This will keep everyone interested and make your speech more memorable. 


Tip #4 How to Make a Speech Memorable: Bring the Audience Into the Story 

We’ve talked about how stories can help to make a speech memorable before. Whenever you tell a story, you want your audience to be inside of your story. You want them to be nodding their heads and thinking, “That’s me!”

How do you accomplish this? 

By using as much you-focused language as possible. This will bring your audience into your story. Phrases such as: “How often have you…” or “Think back to when…” are great little intros that will have the audience inserting themselves into your story, keeping them engaged and hanging on to your every word.

These examples (and more speech-improving tips) come from “THE Presentation Skills Expert,” Patricia Ripp, CSP, CPAE. For more phrases to use to increase engagement with your audience read this article we created covering some of the best ones: “Improve Your Presentation: 3 Ways to Take Your Speech from Good to Great.”


Tip #5: Curate the Experience How to Make a Speech Memorable

Peter Katz, a singer/songwriter (and one of the featured speakers at this year’s Influence conference) provided a few tips on how to enhance the setting to make your speech more memorable. He recommends utilizing semiotics, which is something he learned when studying theater. Semiotics is all about signs, symbols and meaning-making. 

For example, when you go to the theater to see a play or the opera, there will be an entire range of symbols on stage — colors and props that feed into your experience before you’ve heard one note from the symphony or one line from the actors.  What all those symbols do — the chandelier, the red carpet, the vase of flowers — is they signal to the audience that something special is happening here, or, something dangerous is happening over there, and so on. 

As a beginning speaker, you too can utilize semiotics to elevate the experience. If you have a knack for creating beautiful environments, then bring a few props with you to create an instant mood. If you’ve never set a scene before or if it’s not your strong suit, consider bringing a bag of twinkle lights to use if the lighting isn’t great. And if you don’t like the arrangement of the stage, and you have some freedom to re-arrange a little bit to make it more appealing — then do so! It will be worth it.

Curating the experience is a subtle, yet important way you can make a speech memorable. For more tips, check out the complete Speakernomics episode “Maximizing Your Performance with Peter Katz.” 


In Closing…

As a beginning speaker, you might have a great story and plenty of charisma, but to take your speech skills to the upper echelon, it pays to get some tips from those who have “been there, done that!” 

We hope a few of the pro insights shared here stood out to you. Incorporate all of them and you will most certainly make every speech memorable!