The Art of Speaking  

How to build a great speech

Preparing to speak

Wade Paterson/YouTube

Whether you’ve been asked to speak at your friend’s or a family member’s wedding, or you need to deliver a top-notch presentation in front of your customers, it’s difficult to know where to start when it comes to building an effective and impactful speech.

This month I share four tips to help you create a speech that captivates your audience.

Tip 1 – Don’t write it out word-for-word

Writing out your entire speech is a tempting thing to do as a new speaker. Many of us have an incredible fear we will forget everything we were planning on saying as soon as we step in front of the crowd.

While writing out the full speech can be a safety net to counteract forgetting your next line, the problem is that many elements of an impactful speech — such as body language and vocal variety — are removed when you stand in front of an audience and read the words you’ve written down on a page.

Instead, be purposeful with which words you choose to write down verbatim. My suggestion is to fully write down your introduction and concluding sentences. If you practice your speech enough, you likely won’t need to reference these notes, but they can sit on the lectern as a crutch in case you completely freeze in front of the audience when you begin speaking.

For the middle — or “the body” — of the speech, don’t write down everything you’re planning on saying; rather, jot down key words that will trigger your memory about what to generally talk about. If your speech is about your journey as an athlete, perhaps you write down “third grade baseball story,” as one of the bullet points. By seeing that on the piece of paper, it will jog your memory to tell that familiar story, and it will come across as much more natural than it would if you read sentences off of a piece of paper.

We often forget the audience has no idea what we’re planning on talking about, so if we slightly go off of our own prepared script, no one will know.

(One exception to this is if you have a few specific statistics or data points that are important to articulate factually. Feel free to write those down within your notes as well.)

Tip 2 – Start with a strong introduction

Regardless of the theme of the speech, a powerful introduction is a necessary ingredient if you want to win over the audience. Too many speeches start off weakly with the speaker stepping on stage and making small talk or casually introducing themselves before limping into the actual speech.

Audiences will be quick to make their judgements on whether or not your speech is going well. If you capture their attention and impress them in the first few seconds, you have a good chance of holding their attention throughout the duration of the speech.

To help illustrate this point, I’ll use an example of a fictitious speaker named Bob who used to be addicted to gambling, but worked hard to overcome that addiction.

Weak introduction example: Hey everyone. My name is Bob, and for quite a few years I struggled with gambling, so today I’m going to give you a few tips so that you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

Strong introduction example: There I was, standing in front of the roulette wheel. I had already put my money down, there was no going back. All of the money I had taken out of my bank account was on “even,” and as the ball bounced around and landed on a number, I came to the realization that my life was about the change forever.

As you can see, the second introduction is much more powerful and has a higher likelihood of capturing the audience’s attention.

Tip 3 – Choose the right speech body

Every single speech should have an introduction and a conclusion; however, the body of the speech will fluctuate depending on the context.

For example, a maid-of-honour speech at a wedding may have the following structure: Introduction, explanation of why bride is an amazing person, quick story about bride, advice for the groom, conclusion.

A persuasive speech, perhaps delivered to a prospective customer, may have this type of structure: Introduction, first point about why your product is superior, second point about why your product is superior, third point about why your product is superior, expected results if customer switches to your product, conclusion.

As mentioned earlier, your notes for the middle section of the speech should be brief and act as a quick reminder about what you’re planning to speak about next. In the maid-of-honour example, the speaker may choose to write down a few of the words that describe the bride for the first body paragraph, she then may write down a sentence that references the story she’s going to tell for the second body paragraph, finally she could jot down a couple of words that will act as pieces of advice for the groom. These subtle notes will be enough to get the speaker back on track if she forgets what she had planned to speak about next.

Tip 4 – End with a memorable conclusion

The best conclusions, in my opinion, are the ones that come full circle.

Within the second tip, I used an example for an introduction based on a man named Bob who was previously addicted to gambling. An example of a full circle conclusion could be something like this:

The number bounced around and final landed on number 11. The roulette dealer took all of my chips and left me with no money. But what I’ve come to realize is I actually hit the jackpot. While my money was taken away from me, I gained something money can’t buy: self-awareness, discipline and self-control.

If your conclusion ties together with your intro, you will take your audience on a journey and return them to a place of familiarity. In my experience, these are the most satisfying speeches to listen to.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


The importance of vocal variety in public speaking

Vocal variety

YouTube Wade Paterson

Vocal variety, which is the ability to change the volume and tone of your speech to emphasize certain words or sentences, is the underdog of public speaking skills.

When used well, vocal variety can turn a good speech into a great speech. If you think about the greatest speech you’ve ever heard, it likely included a range of vocal variety.

On the other hand, a lack of vocal variety can turn a bad speech into a terrible speech. For example, think about the last time you listened to someone speak for a significant length of time in a monotone. It probably put you to sleep, or at the very least you would’ve found it difficult to concentrate.

In this month’s column, I will break down three ways you can inject vocal variety into your next speech.

Tip 1 – Turn Up the Volume

Perhaps the most obvious thing that comes to mind when you think of vocal variety is raising your voice to make an impact.

If you’re talking about something very exciting in your speech, you should raise your voice to match that excitement. If you’re telling a story that involves a person yelling, you should actually yell to allow the audience to become more immersed in the story.

Raising the decibel level not only adds texture to the speech, but it also has the ability to recapture the audience’s attention. Humans have incredibly short attention spans, so it’s unlikely the audience will be completely focused throughout your entire speech. But if you unexpectedly raise your voice at a strategic time in your speech, it will recapture the attention of your audience.

Tip 2 – Turn Down the Volume

A powerful – but less used – vocal variety skill is to soften your voice.

The idea of this can be scary because it requires a level of vulnerability; however, depending on the context of your speech, it can have a bigger impact on your audience than raising your voice because it is less common.

As an example, if your speech is about a sad subject matter, try lowering your voice and introduce lengthened pauses at key moments. Chances are, your audience will connect deeply with this tactic and you won’t lose their attention.

Tip 3 – Do Something Unique

One of my favourite speeches of all time is a TED Talk titled “If I should have a daughter” by Sarah Kay. The first three minutes and 40 seconds of her speech consists of spoken-word poetry. As soon as the poem concludes, the audience gives Sarah a standing ovation (even though her speech continues for another 18 minutes).

Doing something unique – such as singing or reciting a poem – is a high-risk, high-reward endeavour that, when done right, can transform a great speech into a legendary speech.

If you are someone who is musically gifted, try introducing a few lines of a song into your next speech. If you are a member of a Toastmasters club and are used to giving many speeches, try incorporating a poem into your next speech. While the concept might be scary, this variation from the norm is sure to capture your audience’s attention.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel here.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

How to be a great podcast interview guest

Ace the podcast interview

YouTube Wade Paterson

Have you ever been asked to be interviewed on a podcast, radio program or YouTube series?

If so, congratulations! It’s clear whoever asked believes you will be able to educate or entertain their audience.

While most of the research and heavy lifting falls on the shoulders of the interview host, it’s still a good idea for you – the interviewee – to do some prep work and ultimately ensure the interview is a success.

Here are three tips to help you crush your next interview.

Do your research

Prior to the interview, it’s a good idea to do your homework. If possible, listen to previous interviews the host has conducted to get a sense of the show’s format.

There are several other things to research as well. What is the average length of an episode? Will the interview be video, or just audio? Is the plan to do a prerecorded conversation or live interview? What types of questions does the host typically open with? What types of questions does the host typically close with?

By doing this type of research, you’re far less likely to be surprised or rattled during the conversation, and you can simply focus on delivering great answers to the questions you’re asked.

Find out topics to be discussed

Check with the interview host about what topics or themes he/she is looking to explore during the conversation.
With that said, I don’t think it’s wise to have a list of every single question the host is going to ask in advance.

When you know all of the questions, it’s tempting to overthink and rehearse your responses. Even if the interview doesn’t include video, an audience can tell if a guest is delivering a canned response or a genuine answer. By understanding the overall themes the host plans to explore, you’ll reduce the likelihood of being thrown off while still enabling enough spontaneity to have an authentic conversation.

Another reason you don’t want to bank too much on a certain set of questions getting asked is that good hosts will often ask follow-up question, or perhaps veer the conversation in a different direction depending on your response. As a guest, you should anticipate this possibility so you don’t freeze when asked.

Prepare your equipment and background

Guests who have clear video and crisp-sounding audio somehow come across as more intelligent.

I’m not suggesting you can’t do an interview without professional equipment; however, if you’re going to be doing several interviews it may be a worthwhile investment. Even if your only equipment option is a laptop with an internal camera and microphone, you can still take a couple extra steps to ensure the quality is as good as possible.

If the interview includes video, pick a space to record that isn’t cluttered and has a nice background. If you’re using an internal laptop microphone, be aware of where specifically the microphone is located and be mindful not to make noises that could be distracting to the audience.

I’ve witnessed a few interviews where guests constantly rub their hands against the keyboard creating a loud, irritating sound. If you’re using a headset with a built-in mic, ensure your hair isn’t brushing up against it (thankfully, this is a problem I don’t run into).

I hope these tips help you ace your next interview!

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication in general, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.


You can say a lot, without uttering a word

Master your body language

Facebook Wade Paterson

55, 38 and 7.

According to Albert Mehrabian’s research in the 1960s, these numbers represent the percentages of how a message is interpreted by somebody else when one is communicating emotions and attitudes.

Fifty-five per cent relates to body language; thirty-eight per cent relates to vocal tone and seven per cent relates to the actual words someone says.

Over the years, this 55-38-7 formula has been decontextualized as an umbrella concept to describe how all communication is interpreted. Whether or not body language represents exactly 55 per cent of the way a message is communicated, it’s clear our non-verbal actions play an incredibly important roll when speaking.

As an example, think about the sentence: “I’m so ex

cited to be writing this column.”

First, imagine me saying that sentence with a big smile on my face, an excited tone in my voice and lifting my hands as I speak while maintaining eye contact.

Next, imagine me saying that sentence with my arms crossed, rolling my eyes, mumbling my words, while looking down at the floor.

Although I said the exact same words in both examples, the two interpretations of my intended meaning are completely different.

When it comes to public speaking, body language is one of the most important tools for captivating an audience.
In this month’s column, I share four tips to help you improve your body language the next time you speak in front of a group of people.

Tip 1 – Ditch the Lectern

In situations where you find yourself being asked to give a speech — such as a wedding — there is often a lectern at the front of the room. The average speaker will stand directly behind the lectern, grip both sides of it tightly, then look down to read his/her notes.

Even if there is not a lectern in the room, many novice speakers will hang on to something — perhaps a table or a chair — out of habit when they speak. If you don’t believe me, watch closely the next time you’re at an event where several different people are speaking. I guarantee many of them will hold on to some object while they talk.

While lecterns offer comfort, the problem is that they eliminate the possibility of using effective body language.
If possible, step away from the lectern and face your audience. Keep your arms at your sides and bring them up for emphasis when necessary.

If you need notes, my first piece of advice would be to not write your speech out word-for-word; instead, write down a couple words that will jog your memory and remind you what to speak about. With those minimal words written down, you can still step away from the lectern, face your audience, then casually move back to reference your notes periodically throughout the speech.

Tip 2 – Make Purposeful Movements

While movement can help enhance a speech, it can also be distracting if the speaker is constantly walking around.

Effective body language should focus on purposeful movements that help the audience visualize what you are talking about.

For example, if you’re telling a story about the time you hit your first home run playing baseball, this is a perfect opportunity to implement body language.

As you tell the story of holding the bat waiting for the pitch, you should pretend like you’re actually holding an imaginary bat, swaying it back and forth while staring straight ahead as though you’re waiting for a pitch. Actions like these will help your audience not only understand the words you are saying, but will help them visualize the experience and connect with your story on a deeper level.

Tip 3 – Avoid "The Invisible Table"

I’ve been a member of Kelowna AM Toastmasters for the past six years, and one of the most common mistakes I see among both new and advanced speakers is something we as a club have coined: The Invisible Table.

This term refers to an imaginary barrier that seems to prevent many speakers from simply allowing their arms to rest at their sides while speaking. These speakers are very good at using their hands to help illustrate points that compliment their speech, but then their arms seem to be stuck at a 90-degree angle — often while clasping their hands — throughout the entire speech.

If you’re having trouble understanding what I’m referring to in this written article, check out the YouTube video at the top of this page (starting at 9:05).

Tip 4 – Don’t Block Your Audience

My final tip for maximizing body language while speaking is to be aware of your surroundings and do your best not to block your audience.
Business meetings often have tables configured in a horseshoe or U-shaped set-up. One thing to be mindful of if you’re walking into middle of this area and turning to face your audience, is that you will be simultaneously turning your back to the other side of the room.

While I’m sure you have a great backside, your audience will feel more included in your speech if you do your best to stand in an area where they can see the front of you throughout the majority of the speech.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication in general, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Wade Paterson is an award-winning Toastmaster who is passionate about Impactful Communication.

His columns and accompanying YouTube videos are focused on helping others become more confident public speakers and communicators.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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