Achieving remarkable results in public speaking may seem an unattainable goal, but is indeed far from that. If you come to think of it, you engage in public speaking quite often in your everyday life: debating, impromptus and even well-prepared speeches are not uncommon when it comes to discussing the latest news, placing an order and negotiating for a discount, saying heartfelt words at the friends’ wedding. It goes without saying, all of these activities will occur on a regular basis in the professional life of a diplomat. With a little bit of luck, or rather some useful tips and regular practice, anyone can master oratory.
Here are some tips on how to make an effective speech:
Details always matter, and making a speech is no exception. There is a number of small tricks which will help you come up with a great speech. They can be divided into two major groups: the ones that you use while writing a speech and the ones that you use while delivering it. What these techniques have in common is that they are all aimed at making a speech emotional, touching and powerful.
While writing a speech you can make use of the following oratory techniques:
EMOTIVE, STRONG LANGUAGE aimed at evoking emotional response to the subject is more than welcome in speeches.
e.g. “One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. “Martin Luther King
LIST OF THREE is widely used as an oratory technique as it has long been proven that the rule of three affects our perception making us notice and memorize things much better when they are grouped in threes. It is a combination of brevity and rhythm that works wonders. Lists of three can be found in advertising slogans, speeches of famous politicians, e.g. “reuse, reduce, recycle”, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. This is one of the oratory techniques that you should learn, practise and master.
CONTRASTIVE PAIR contains two parts which are in opposition, e.g. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules. You learn by doing, and by falling over.” Richard Branson, “ You’re either with us, or against us.”
PARALLELISM is the use of the components of a sentence that are grammatically the same or similar. This adds balance and rhythm to a speech, e.g. “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills…”
ALLITERATION is when a sequence of words start with the same consonant, which gives an utterance a poetic flow, e.g. “And our task today is to take the next steps in preparing Britain for a global future.” Philip Hammond. Better use in moderation and avoid forced alliteration just for the sake of it, as is the case in the following example “nattering nabobs of negativism; pusillanimous pussyfoots; hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history…” Spiro Agnew (former US Vice President)
REPETITION is using the same word or phrase or pattern in multiple sentences. It adds rhythm and a poetic touch to your speech, e.g. “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” Martin Luther King
METAPHOR is a feature of figurative language that directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It is a subtle and artistic form of comparison, which helps create an image of what the speaker is talking about.
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances …” William Shakespeare
“One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of povertyin the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
SIMILE is another creative form of comparison that includes the words as and like. Be careful — there are many fixed English idiomatic similes that have different Russian equivalents, e.g. as hungry as a hunter (голодный как волк), as like as two peas(похожи как две капли воды), as blind as a bat (слепой как крот), etc.
PERSONAL PRONOUNSare preferred to impersonal ones. Use I, you, we, our, us. It creates a sense of togetherness and motivates people, e.g. “We are gathered here today…”, “I have a dream…”, “Your idea is a bad one, your idea is wrong. You don’t know how or why yet, but until you put the idea out there and see it collide with the real world, you won’t know what direction to go.” Mark Randolph (Netflix co-founder)
RHETORICAL QUESTIONS get the audience to think about the subject of your speech and help them arrive at conclusions, e.g. “What about the rat race in the first place? Is it worthwhile? Or are you just buying into someone else’s definition of success? Only you can decide that, and you’ll have to decide it over and over and over. But if you think it’s a rat race, before you drop out, take a deep breath. Maybe you picked the wrong job. Try again. And then try again.” Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook COO)
RHYME, when used in moderation, can make your speech more memorable. You can choose to rhyme the main message and make into a slogan for example, e.g. “‘Screw it, let’s do it’ approach to new projects.” Richard Branson (Virgin Group founder), “This isn’t job done; it is job begun” David Cameron
HUMOUR can easily break the ice and work wonders. The audience that seemed distant and indifferent becomes open and welcoming. This can only be achieved provided the jokes are appropriate. If you see that your jokes fall flat, try the other techniques listed above. “The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honor, but the weeks of fear and nausea I have endured at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation!”, “Delivering a commencement address is a great responsibility; or so I thought until I cast my mind back to my own graduation. The commencement speaker that day was the distinguished British philosopher Baroness Mary Warnock. Reflecting on her speech has helped me enormously in writing this one, because it turns out that I can’t remember a single word she said. This liberating discovery enables me to proceed without any fear that I might inadvertently influence you to abandon promising careers in business, the law or politics for the giddy delights of becoming a gay wizard.” Joanne Rowling, Harvard commencement speech.
It is not only words that add to your speech colour and life. Certain grammar structures can also do the trick. They aim at emphasizing particular words in a sentence.
INVERSION or sentences with the reversed word order, e.g. “Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire” Winston Churchill
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.” Winston Churchill
CLEFT SENTENCES “And yet, it’s only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn” Barack Obama
“It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years.” Barack Obama
“What General Weygand has called the Battle of France is over… the Battle of Britain is about to begin.” Winston Churchill
Not only does it matter WHAT you say in your speech, but also HOW you say it. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. From the very first glance the audience will be making assumptions about your confidence, credibility, common sense.While delivering a speech pay attention to the following
BODY LANGUAGE, or posture and gestures.
Stand up srtraight
Feel free to move around the stage (if you wish)
Look at the people in the room. You don’t have to establish eye-contact with each and every listener though. Never read from your notes unless you want your speech to be a trigger to sleep.