How to Structure a Speech
Have you ever wondered why people stop listening to your speech after two minutes? Perhaps they're confused... Where is this speech going? If you did not tell them at the outset you'll have an enormous job to retrieve them. If you need advice on structuring a speech, it's all in here.
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There are many aspects of a speech which contribute to how memorable it is. The structure is commonly overlooked by the inexperienced speaker.
Well, there are many reasons, but I'd always begin the detective work with the structure.
Over the years I have tried several different speech formats, a number of which I have found effective and I will describe some of the more advanced possibilities in subsequent articles.
However, without a structure, the speech is doomed to become a shambolic ramble of random thoughts.
Have you ever watched the news on TV? Well, of course you have. Did you ever find time to consider the structure? It could not be easier.
It starts off with three news headlines:
1) The Bank of England announced interest rates will rise by a ¼ point
2) A large manufacturer in the Midlands has shed 400 people because of falling demand
3) David Beckham is back in the England team following a year in the footballing wilderness
These headlines essentially signpost what is to come. Why do they do this? Well, if you have a mortgage, another interest rate rise could cost you more money than you had budgeted for. Or if you work in the manufacturing industry, what happens in the Midlands usually has an impact on other aspects of industry. Or finally, anything about David Beckham and football is newsworthy…
The idea of the headlines is to give you a taster of what is to come. TV networks are constantly trying to achieve higher ratings. They are trying to hook you because they want you to stay and watch.
And surely, should we not be doing this with the introduction of a speech or presentation? Of course, we want to grab their attention. If they know what's coming along, they'll be alert to it. It's designed to keep them listening.
When the headlines end, in comes the main body of the news which builds on the headlines.
It tells us that the Bank of England meeting lasted an hour longer than scheduled because further analytical information was required with regards to interest rate trends in Europe. The British rate trend was discussed with the last two years data described by graphs and so on. The theme is expanded to cover the day's potential angles and then moves on to job losses in the Midlands. If the presenter is quick on his/her thoughts, they will somehow try to link the first story with the second.
Now we hear about the details of the company and its history of achievement. The decision to axe jobs will have a major impact on other aspects of the local economy. And as the story develops, we hear comments from those involved. This personalisation of the news has increased viewer ratings because a lot of the comment is from regular people in the street. People like you and me.
So they work their way through the three stories and usually try to end on a high. People like to be informed and entertained and lots of news channels will include a human interest story where for example, a young child demonstrates great character by overcoming a medical or physical problem.
And finally, the news is coming to an end and the presenters recap the main points which unremarkably are the same points as the headlines. But now that the item has been examined there is room for further comment.
Winston Churchill really believed in an introduction, a main body and a conclusion - in that order.
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