According to Demosthenes, the father of Greek oratory, there are four elements of a great speech.
1. A Great Person
You may not be the president of the United States or even president of your company. You may not have won any awards or public recognition. And few people outside your circle of acquaintances may know your name. But you have to be the best you you can be.
You are the message. And everything about you – your experience, passion, character, and even your sense of humor – shapes how your listeners hear what you say
APPLICATION: You can adapt what your say – changing emphasis here and there, substituting examples or stories when appropriate – to better address the needs and concerns of different audiences. But you have to be yourself because you can’t be anyone else anyway. Let your true self – your best self – come through in what you talk about and in how you talk about it.
2. A Noteworthy Event
Experienced speakers know that the event – the schedule, location, room setup, logistics, etc. – can do more to support or to sabotage your speech than just about anything.
APPLICATION: Know what you’re getting yourself into before you agree to speak. Turn down speaking opportunities that aren’t worth your time or that will reflect poorly on what you or on your topic. Work with the people who are responsible for the event to refine its purpose, schedule, and setup. And always show up early to check out the venue and to make last-minute adjustments.
3. A Compelling Message
A compelling message is an idea with the power to change people’s lives, if only in a small way, expressed in the clearest, strongest words possible.
APPLICATION: Develop one idea per speech. (It’s got to be a good idea, mind you.) And ask yourself, is it clear? Does it address the audience’s concerns? Is it something that the audience can use to better their lives?
4. A Masterful Delivery
A masterful delivery depends on any number of elements, such as planting your feet, making eye contact, and projecting your voice. But it’s more than technique. It’s about projecting yourself.
APPLICATION: The more confident and comfortable you are, the more natural and powerful your delivery will be. So, first of all, do whatever you can to make yourself at ease. Then use your natural gestures and tone of voice, only be a little bit larger and a lit bit louder.
Be yourself – your best self. Make the event, not just your speech, a success. Create a clear and strong message. And throw yourself into delivering it. Then, and only then, you’ll give a great speech.
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