Review: The makings of a great speech
This month we’ve been going over the raw materials that you will build a speech or presentation from. These are the elements that you will bring together, like the ingredients in a recipe, and so I’ve been talking about some basic guidelines to consider when you’re beginning to put your speech together. We’ll look at some of these in more depth later on, but I wanted to put a few tips about support materials in front of you early in the process.
Just to review the high points of what we covered:
- Facts and statistics: Keep them simple, clear and organized. Use as few statistics as possible, but make them count.
- Consider: Cherry-picking the best examples of this kind of data. Most audiences can’t process a lot of numbers and are easily overwhelmed.
- Stories and ancedotes: Stories pack a great impact, but make sure you keep them brief and on-point, or else you may cause your audience to lose focus. Look for a story that can cut through the clutter of data and make your point.
- Consider: Practicing the art of telling a story. Add more of them into your conversation to develop the skill.
- Quotes: The right quotes can communicate ideas, concepts, morals, lessons. Besides keeping them short, make sure the person quoted has credibility with your audience.
- Consider: Using quotes in your introduction and conclusion. They can go anywhere, but I find those the most effective places to use them.
- Excerpts of a printed, audio or video product: Lifting a portion of a magazine article or television show serves the same purpose as a quote and the same rules apply about brevity and source.
- Make sure to cite the source correctly. If possible, use a source that’s know by your audience.
- Interview: Interviewing people for material to add to your speech is an excellent way to get specific, tailored quotes to support your points.
- Remember to leave adequate time for your interview, and make sure you have the interviewee’s permission to quote them.
- Questions: Consider adding questions into your speech in order to direct the audience’s line of inquiry along lines that you will proceed to answer. These can be either rhetorical or real questions, but make sure to answer them clearly and completely in your speech, or you’ll lose the benefit of this tactic.
- Consider: If you’re looking for audience response, you will want to give them permission to answer by speaking out loud or a show of hands, to avoid “dead air” while they figure out whether you want their input or not.
- Humor: A joke or funny anecdote can be one of the best ways to start out your speech or lighten it up at key points. Tell your joke well; rehearse it until you can do it effortlessly. Not only should your joke be funny, but it needs to make a point.
- It’s very important to avoid offending your audience. It is wise to run that part of your speech by an objective third party and get their take on whether it’s a problem.
For legal professionals
- Cases: When citing cases in a presentation, always cite the case twice if you’re going to cite it at all. Repetition reinforces your point. Never put them into PowerPoint presentations — they’re just too hard to read.
- Consider: Referencing them briefly but having more complete versions in a handout for those in your audience who want to read more comprehensively.
- Statutes, legal opinions: In both cases, use the material sparingly and only to drive home a point, to set up an argument, or to teach new law or a set of skills.
- Remember: It’s a rare occasion when you see someone sit up straight in their seat to listen intently to an attorney referencing a statute.
- Citing testimony: Pick out what portion of the testimony you need to communicate your message and nothing more or less. Selecting too much can dilute your point and may even backfire. Be ethical about what portions you lift: taking the testimony out of context is a legal equivalent of yellow journalism.
- Consider: Trying out the depo lines on someone unfamiliar with the case, to be certain you have the impact you wish to have. What may be crystal clear to you may not be so clear to an outsider.
Now that we’ve got a handle on what is going into our speech, we can begin tackling how to organize what you’ve got. We’ll get into that on Thursday — this is definitely the work that separates a great speech from a forgettable one.