5 Tips for Exciting Speeches

1. Open Hot, Close Hotter.

To grab audience attention and be remembered, start the presentation with a bang, not a limp, "Thanks, it's nice to be here." The first (and last) 30 seconds have the most impact on the audience. Save any greetings and gratitude until they've already grabbed the audience with a powerful opening. And don't end with a whimper. Remember that last words linger. Unfortunately, many speakers close with, "Are there any questions?" Wrong! Instead, say, "Before I close, are there any questions?" Answer them. Then close on a high note.

2. Get the Inside Scoop.

Attendees at one of my seminars, "How to Be a Coach to Your Client," want to know how they can personalize and add excitement and color to the speeches they craft for others. How, they ask, can they get those invaluable inside stories? I suggested they do what I do--interview the speaker's client's colleagues and family members. These people are familiar with the "stories" the speaker often tells, stories that have already been honed to what I call the "Hollywood model" (characters, dialogue, dramatic lesson learned). What insights and amusing stories can they share? Advise your members to ask others for input that can provide color and energy to a presentation.

3. Try Inside-Out Speaking.

Don't write speeches for people to read. Instead, sit down with them, in person or on the phone, and ask them questions. I do this, pulling out of them their ideas, stories, life experiences, philosophies, and examples through questions. Then my job is to help them organize, wordsmith, and deliver these comments with more drama.

Although the client and I often end up with a script that can then be edited and tightened, the words grow out of our conversations. I call this "inside-out" speaking. My work represents a cleaned-up conversation; one the speaker is going to have with the audience. Of course, a script is not a conversation, but if it sounds conversational, it is far more appealing and much easier to deliver directly to the audience without reading it word for word. Emotional contact is impossible without eye contact.

4. Provide Five Magic Moments.

How are great speeches like classic Hollywood movies? Movie promoters say that a successful film has to have five magic moments for each viewer, though not necessarily the same five. When it does, people will talk about it and add enough energy to a paid advertising campaign to make it a hit.

Be sure each presentation has five great moments--dramatic, humorous, profound, or poignant--that the audience can relive in their minds later and repeat to their friends.

5. Avoid Borrowed Stories.

I urge you to create vivid, personal stories for their presentations. Imagine how I once felt, sitting in an audience of 18,000 people, listening to Barbara Bush describe a great story she had read in Chicken Soup for the Soul--my own story which made the point, "What you do speaks louder than what you say." (Yes, I know Ralph Waldo Emerson said it first.) Did Barbara Bush mention it was my story? No.

But even if she had mentioned my name, I think she missed a huge opportunity with her speech. Back then; I imagined her sitting in bed at the White House, going through stacks of books with a highlighter pen for things to talk about. Since then, I've realized that a speech writer did the research and wrote her words. My point? I'm not upset she didn't credit me. Just disappointed that someone with Barbara Bush's incredible life experiences did not share them. I am sure she had much more interesting recent topics and perceptions than reporting on something someone said to me many years ago. That's how audiences will feel if your members repeat things they've read instead of experienced.

Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE is a San Francisco-based executive speech coach, sales trainer, and award-winning professional speaker on Change, Customer Service, Promoting Business, and Communication Skills. She is the author of Get What You Want!, Make It, So You Don't Have to Fake It!, and Past-President of the National Speakers Association. She can be reached at: PFripp@Fripp.com, 1-800 634-3035, http://www.fripp.com


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