Making a speech memorable
A good speech leaves the audience wanting more. A memorable speech also gives them something to mull over and discuss for some time afterwards.
To be memorable, a speech needs:
A logical structure and progression of ideas.
A speaker has to remember a speech to deliver it and the audience has to remember it to be able to think about it. A logical structure with a steady progression of ideas aids the speaker and allows the listeners to follow the speaker’s theme. One idea leading to another meets audience expectation, is easier to grasp and aids understanding. Going off on tangents, however interesting they might be to the speaker, risks ‘losing’ the audience.
A strong opening and conclusion.
A good opening, such as a startling comment, with an indication of what is to follow, will catch the attention of the audience and ignite interest in the speech. An ending, which restates the theme introduced in the opening, delivers an outcome or a prediction, or makes a personal appeal, will summarise the theme and thrust of the speech for the listeners so it must be worded thoughtfully and delivered with conviction.
Simple descriptive language.
Simple words spoken clearly, and simple phrasing and sentences make it easier for the speaker to deliver, and easier for the listeners to understand a speech. Unnecessary words and complex sentences will confuse the audience. If a speech becomes too difficult for the listeners to follow, they will be easily distracted and quickly lose interest. Remember the KISS principle: keep it simple and straightforward (or keep it simple, stupid). Language which paints word-pictures will aid understanding, give listeners something to think about and keep them engaged. A clear image will stay in the mind longer than a string of words.
Variation in the voice adds ‘colour’ to a speech, and can also help to hold the audience’s interest. The volume can be increased or decreased to emphasise important words and phrases; the pitch and pace of delivery can be varied to establish a mood; and the quality (richness or resonance) of the voice can be altered for dramatic effect, to highlight a quote, or to indicate a transition. Pauses of different lengths in a speech are like punctuation and paragraphs on the written page. They assist the speaker to present ideas clearly and the audience to listen comfortably. Vocal variety and pauses in the delivery can bring out the meaning of a speech, help build suspense, and avoid ‘blah, blah, blah’ monotony.
There are two parts to this. A speaker who appears relaxed and confident, who looks like he wants to be there and delivers his speech confidently will encourage a favourable response from the audience. If the speaker is also able to relate his message to every person in the audience, the audience will want to listen and understand. This is achieved in part by delivering the speech as if addressing one person and making sincere eye contact, and in part by telling a story. A memorable speech always involves transfer of feelings and feelings are more readily conveyed by a story than by facts and figures. Stories get the message across and can be reinforced by using relevant, well-timed gestures. Gestures also add to a speech’s appeal. Conversely, excessive or pointless gestures can distract, whilst a speech without any gesture may lead to loss of concentration.
To finish on time.
Overtime is usually boring time. A speech that is too long must be pruned to cut out the waffle. It is better to leave the audience wanting more than to have bored them, thinking ‘When will this end?’