Make A Speech Memorable

Let’s get down to business. How can you make it easier for your audience to remember your speech? The most important thing you’ll need to do is capture their imagination.

To get started, think about a movie or book that has stayed with you over the years. Great writers and film makers know how to grab your attention and keep you on the edge of your seat. How do they do it?

The Intro: Memorable books and films grab you from the very first sentence or opening scene. There is a mystery that captures your imagination.  Take a look at the opening scene from Jaws, for example.

In this case, it’s the sudden death of a beautiful girl swimming in the ocean. The cause of the death is not seen in the introduction, but it will become clear and take center stage in the movie. The audience wants to know what happened to her and whether it can be stopped.

When you take the stage, it’s best to avoid the traditional self-introduction. The people attending your presentation already know who you are.

If need be, have the person who introduces you establish your credibility, or have that background information available in a handout as people come in. It’s your job to grab their attention with a startling, profound, funny, or otherwise engaging beginning, or hook.

The Hook: Writers and screenwriters have a central story, or idea, to share. They have chosen to spend a great deal of time and money and physical, and emotional labor to tell you about it. They believe it’s important and worth the effort. What is your central idea? What do you want your audience to walk away knowing, believing, or doing? Do you believe in the idea yourself? Why?

The Audience: Writers know their audience. With some exceptions, movies and books are targeted at a very specific audience.

They know what their audience cares about and what will inspire them. They use this knowledge to inform the creative choices they make when presenting the story. Who is your audience and what inspires them?

The Sequence: All stories have a beginning, middle and end. Some storytellers choose to move in chronological order, while others have flashbacks, prequels, sequels, and or an afterword.

Think about what order will have the most impact. Is there a surprising ending that can be told first, followed by the backstory? Or is chronological a better order? What would be most engaging from your audience’s perspective?

The Spice: Visuals are like spice. They add something special to your speech. But if over-utilized, they will drown out the central message.

Limit your visual to no more than one new one every ten minutes. Like great passages in books and films, they make ideal transition markers between important points. Make the image bold and keep the words on the screen to a minimum.

The Wrap: Both your introduction and conclusion should comprise about 15% each of your speech. You’ve spent a lot of time on your presentation and want people to leave with something memorable. This is the time to conclude the story you were telling, present a call to action, remind the audience of your central point, or wow them with a compelling quote or testimony. Go out strong!

Finally, remember that the attendees came to hear you. This already give you an edge. Take that as your starting point and make the rest happen by doing the work ahead of time to engage your audience with a memorable speech. Try using some of these tips the next time you are invited to speak and let me know how it went.

What are some of your favorite ways to make a speech memorable? I would love to hear them!

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PowerPoint Failures During A Speech

You’re doing great! It’s about 2 minutes into your speech and you’ve never felt more confident.

You started with a strong opening and, just as practiced, you stepped away from the podium to take advantage of the large stage. You have been looking up behind you to draw the audience’s attention to your PowerPoint slide with it’s bright colors and clear bullet list of points you are making.

You turn to make eye contact with your audience and – what? — they are all looking down at their phones or whispering to each other.

Your confidence goes out the open window and you lose your place. You struggle to regain the audience’s attention and barley make it through your presentation, speeding through the words so you can get off the stage.

What happened?

You worked really hard to plan your speech and make sure your audience could keep up with you through your slides.

You know that visuals are an important tool to engage your audience. You’ve read up on public speaking tips and thought you had all the bases covered.

Let’s take a look at why PowerPoint presentations sometimes fail and what you can do to prevent it from happening to you.

  • – What is the purpose of a slide in a speech? It shouldn’t serve as a teleprompter, causing you to turn your back on the audience for extended periods of time. If you’re going to use slides, make sure they are there to simply emphasize or illustrate a point you’re making. A single bold image will have much more impact than a paragraph of text.
  • – How much is too much? There should never be more than six words on a slide and the font size should be larger than 30 pt so your audience can see it easily. Try not to use more than one slide for every major point you are making.
  • – Color, if you need to use it, should be simple and there for a reason. It should highlight or emphasize an element of the slide. Too many colors are a distraction.
  • – Image quality counts. Choose your images carefully. The stock graphics that come with PowerPoint are tired and outdated. Make sure the image you choose is sharp and clearly relates to the point you are making.

Finally, think about when you will display the image. If you have selected a good one, put it up just as you transition to a new point in your speech. Use it to grab your listeners’ attention and make them curious about what you’re planning to tell them.

Then make your point and tie the image to your idea. Helping them associate you and your idea with an image makes it easier for them to remember you later.

PowerPoint slides and visuals in general are a great way to keep your audience focused as you move through your speech. Just don’t let them take your place as the center of attention.

Try taking a recent speech you gave or one that is coming up and review these tips to improve your results. Let me know what you think.

I would love to hear about your success and challenges in using PowerPoint in your presentation!

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Have you ever gone to a class or a presentation prepared to just listen or perhaps jot down a thought or two, only to be been bombarded with slide after slide of text, making you feel as if you had to get it all down? You may have left feeling as if you had drowned in a sea of information with nothing to think about after you left and a few pages of scrawled notes.

Slides are meant to punctuate your presentation, not outline it or display it nearly word for word. Remember: slides and visuals in aren’t for you. They are for you audience.

Slides with several bulleted points are too busy for the audience and takes their attention off of you. But when used correctly, slides can underscore the most important aspect of each section of your speech in your listeners’ mind.

What’s In?

Consider your audience. No more than six words on a slide, according to speaker and entrepreneur Seth Godin. And nothing on the lower quarter to third of the bottom of the slide.

Remember, depending on the setup of the room, many of your audience members may be seeing your visuals over the heads of several rows of other people. What about the design element? Find a font and color combination you like and stick with it throughout your presentation.

A powerful photograph paired with a few words can help your message resonate.

What’s out?

An entire document. Too many words will be lost on your audience and most of them won’t even be able to see it from their seats. Long lists or entire sections of your speech don’t belong.

Never, ever turn your back on your audience to read from the slide. It’s just as important as ever to make eye contact as you talk.

A good rule of thumb is no more than 10 slides for a thirty minute presentation. Even fewer is better.

Saving the Best for Last

Create your slides after your presentation is written. This will allow you to pull out a few key points you want to emphasize rather than focusing on the content of your speech at the same time you are creating slides.

Think of it as using a highlighter to mark the most important parts of an article and take a look at Nancy Duarte’s tips for creating great slides.

What Next?

Take advantage of a speech you recently gave where you wanted to use slides but weren’t sure how to, or did use slides but weren’t entirely happy with the outcome. Use some of the tips we discussed as well as this great beginner’s guide to master slide basics and see what you can come with.

You can also sit down with your speech and go through it highlight the points you want to illustrate. Transfer each point to one side of a small card or Post-It note and, on the other side, write down no more than three words that describe what you want to illustrate. You can use those words to look for images later.

Send me an example of one your slides that you’re most proud of. I would love to know how it went in the comment section below!

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Top Ten Tips for Presenters

Hello and welcome! Today I’m going to do a top ten countdown, reviewing the topics we’ve been covering. If you have been reading my tips for public speaking for a while, you’ll know we’ve covered a wide variety of tips in the last few months.

If you’re new to, you can get an idea of the kinds of topics I discuss here.

Let’s look at ten of the tips that will help you on your way to speaking with no fear.

  1. 10 – Know your material. Practice is crucial to success. It’s important to be generally comfortable with your subject, but there is no substitute for practicing your speech until you can give it without detailed notes. Joining a Toastmasters Club in your area will give you an opportunity to practice speaking on a regular basis, too.
  2. 09 – Keep your visuals simple. If you plan to use Power Point, Prezi, or any other kind of slide, limit it to those that will highlight your main points. Keep the words to a minimum and use bold images that drive your point home.
  3. 08 – Don’t read your speech. It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to fall back on detailed notes or wordy slides when you are nervous. That’s why tip #10 is so important! The easiest way to lose an audience’s attention is by focusing on notes instead of on them.
  4. 07 – Move around the stage. Don’t plant yourself in one spot. Moving around as you speak allows you to directly engage different sections of the audience and it keeps them engaged as they track your movements.
  5. 06 – Vary your voice. Use volume and tone to change your speech patterns and emphasize important points. Changing your voice when you talk will keep your audience’s ear. This is especially important in tip #5.
  6. 05 – Tell a story. Using a story to make your point is one of the best ways to keep your audience interested. Weaving the parts of the story through your presentation will hold their interest and keep them wondering what will happen to your story’s characters.
  7. 04 – Put yourself in the audience. What would you want to hear if you were in their seat? Are you selling something or trying to influence opinions? What do they need to hear and see to be convinced?
  8. 03 – Use gestures, but don’t plan them. Allow yourself to use your natural gestures. Planning ahead and inserting them as you talk makes you look stiff.
  9. 02 – Ask the audience if they have questions. Questions give you a chance to take a break from speaking and encourages the audience to stay engaged. It takes the spotlight off you briefly, as well.
  10. 01 – My number one tip is to have fun! Remember that the audience is on your side. They want you to succeed! Let your enthusiasm for your subject show and your audience will love you.

What tips do you have for successful presentations? I would love to hear from you!

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How to Develop An Effective Speaking Voice

Welcome back! I hope you’re getting ready for a wonderful holiday season. I’m here today to talk with you about your speaking voice.

When giving a presentation, people are often focused on how they are dressed and what the audience will think of their appearance. Their voice frequently takes a back seat and only becomes noticed when they start talking and don’t like what they hear. It’s easy to let nerves and emotions overwhelm you and have a negative impact on how you sound.

Let’s look at some of the ways you can improve your voice and use it as an effective part of your public speaking tool kit. What happens when you are asked to give a presentation or know you need to have a difficult conversation and are nervous about it?

Fighting Your Nerves

The first thing that many people experience is butterflies in the stomach and a feeling of nervousness, often well in advance of their speech. The earlier you gain control of your nerves, the more confident your voice will sound when the time comes for you to speak.

One way to do this is through breathing. Whenever you feel nervous about your upcoming talk, try this: breathe in through your nose for four seconds, hold the breath for four seconds, and then breathe out through your mouth for four seconds. Controlled breathing helps lower your heartbeat and calm your nerves. Use this technique shortly before you take the stage to steady your nerves and voice.

Know Your Material

Preparation is an important factor in developing a memorable speaking voice. Be sure you know your material inside and out and are able to talk about it without your notes. This kind of in depth knowledge allows your brain to relax and your voice to sound steady and confident when you speak.

Hit the Brakes

Next is speed, a problem for many less-experienced speakers. Talking so fast that people can’t understand you is one of your body’s responses to fear. Your brain wants you to get through the speech as quickly as possible in order to get you off the stage and away from being the focus of a crowd. It’s related to the fight or flight affect you are likely familiar with.

Practice and experience are your best weapons against speed. When you are rehearsing, try this: say a series of numbers aloud and write them in the air with your finger as you talk. This is about the speed at which you should speak. Work on matching this speed with the pace of your words as your practice.

Adjust the Volume

Finally, adjust your vocal volume to the size of your audience. Next time you speak to a group, pay particular attention to the audience and their body language. Is anyone in the back straining to hear you? Or is your voice too loud for the people in the front? If you are using a microphone, you may need to adjust it. If not, make use of the space to move around as you talk and make sure you volume allows everyone to hear you.

Take a look at Robert Love’s tips on how to use the proper volume.

I would like you to try out the four-second breathing technique we discussed above. You can use it to calm your nerves in any stressful situation, not just public speaking. The more you use it, the better you will be at calming yourself before a public speaking event.

Give it a try and let me know what you think. And if you have more tips on improving your speaking voice, I would love to hear them.

Send me an email and tell me your tips!

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Giving A Persuasive Speech

If you haven’t already, at some point you will find yourself needing to give a persuasive speech or presentation.  Whether you want to pitch your product or service or convince a civic group to take a position or action on a controversial topic, the guidelines are the same.


Remember The Basics

In your zeal to be a persuasive speaker, don’t forget the basics of great speaking.

Know your audience: Why are they there and what do they need? What you want them to know or do when they leave?

Speeches are made to be spoken, not read: Know your material well and make eye contact with the people you are talking to.

Keep visual aids simple: No busy slides. Just a few words, if any, per slide. Don’t use them as cue cards for yourself.

Know Your Goal

Knowing your audience helps with knowing your goal and using that information to plan an effective speech.

Will your audience be open minded? Hostile? Skeptical? Will they already have a basic understanding of the subject or will they need to be educated?

In many instances, it will be a mix of all of these.

Use Emotion

After you explain the basics of your topic, use emotive language to inspire your audience. You can tell an engaging story that illustrates your point. Try using action-oriented verbs and descriptive adverbs in your speech, especially in storytelling.

There is a great deal of science behind how people can be persuaded, including appealing to their emotions.

Be Believable

It’s important that your audience believe in you in order to get them to believe what you are telling them. Do they know who you are and what your motives are? If they believe you are entirely self-serving, they won’t be eager to buy in.

Speak from the heart and tell them why you, personally, are supporting your cause or what drives you in your business. They need to know that your goals are similar to theirs and that your cause or service is worth their time and effort.

Use Scaffolding

Just like a building under construction, your presentation needs structure. It should follow a logical line of reasoning that leads to the conclusion you want your audience to support. An outline is a helpful tool to use in developing the flow of your speech and order of your arguments.

State what you believe or want and then provide supportive arguments or examples that underscore your belief. Make it easy for your audience to mentally follow your logic from beginning to end.

One good strategy is to open with a compelling statement, such as “When you leave here today, you will understand why our services will turn your prospects into long-term clients that will bring their peers with them.”

It’s Your Turn!

Do you have a persuasive speech coming up or one that you gave recently that can be improved?

Sit down with your speech or subject and create an outline. Start with an opening statement that will capture the audience’s attention. Create a list of possible points you can make that will direct them to conclusion you want to leave them with. Then craft a closing sentence that restates your main point.

Use the comments section below to let me know how it turns out!

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Skip These 5 Things During Your Speech

Welcome back! I spend a lot of time talking with you about what to do as a public speaker. We’ve covered many of these, such as the best way to begin a speech, end a speech, motivate your audience, use visuals, and much more.

Today I want to flip that on its head by taking a look at some don’ts. Spending some time thinking about and practicing the “don’t” half of “dos and don’ts” can help you break any bad habits you might have. Let’s jump right in.

Don’t apologize.

When you take the stage or podium, your audience is rooting for you. They want to be engaged and entertained. They want to know more about you and what you have to say. Don’t kill that momentum right out of the gate by telling them that you aren’t a good speaker!

Don’t try to be perfect.

As the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good. Don’t waste time rehearsing over and over and over with the goal of delivering a flawless speech. It’s more important to know your subject well enough to be able to talk comfortably about it. Michael Nuendorff talks about the importance of not trying to be perfect.

Don’t read your presentation.

Your audience is there to hear you and what you have to say, not read. If they were there for a reading, you could have easily sent them an email or handed out a flyer. They want to hear what you think about the subject. Your presence includes more than your voice. It’s your engagement with them through your gestures, stage presence, facial expressions, and everything else you bring with you that they want to experience.

Don’t race through your presentation.

If you are especially nervous, take a couple of deep breaths and release them on the way to the front of the room. When you face the audience, smile and relax before you begin speaking. We spoke previously about how to use a pause effectively and one of the ways was at the beginning of your presentation. Having some water nearby if it’s possible can help you take a moment to slow down once or twice during your talk. It is all too easy to turn a 20-minute presentation into a 10-minute one and leave the audience in the dust, wondering what you just said. Practice slowing down and making eye contact with individual people as you speak.

Don’t try to be someone you aren’t.

Just be yourself. If you’re not a truly funny person, don’t try to be a comedian during your speech. There is nothing worse than a joke badly told. Being your own honest self is the most effective path to audience engagement.

In a nutshell…

  • – Be yourself
  • – The audience is rooting for you
  • – Hit the brakes if you’re talking too fast
  • – You aren’t perfect (Don’t pressure yourself to be!)
  • – Consider your audience; why are they there and what do they need from you?

Do you have any “don’ts” to add? Let me know what you thought about today’s topic!

Please leave a comment below or let me know any questions you have. Give these hints a try and let me know what you think!


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Mind Mapping: Picture Your Speech

Mind mapping is an effective and powerful tool to remember your speeches. It is the easiest way to put and keep information in your brain, it literally maps out your thoughts.

Using this technique is also more interesting and fun than just memorizing a script or note-cards.

To start, write down your topic or central idea in the middle of your page. From your center, you start adding branches, using one word or image at a time. With each new word or picture, your brain will start making connections. Each fact or idea is written down and linked by curves, thus creating a map of relationships. The more images you have the better; as images have a much greater impact than words. Also, adding color to your map adds excitement, energy and interest.

“The mind map will change your life” – Tony Buzan

Why it Works

The purpose of this technique is to facilitate ideas and concepts and to capture and ingrain these ideas in our brains. Our brains like to work in a way that deals with connections and associations and can connect memories or information to literally thousands of other ideas. Also, our brains perform in a circular fashion.

Even though most people still use lists to organize thoughts and ideas, it is far more effective to use a mind map as it will access all parts of your brain and will get out all applicable information. The trick is to not over complicate things, the simpler you make things the easier it will be to let your thoughts connect and the more you will remember.

One key thing to keep in mind is to only write down one word or image at each branch. If you do more than that, you will complicate things and disrupt the connective flow. When you are creating your map, you are drawing connections between information, highlighting important pieces which gives you the opportunity to remember vast quantities of information. The fact that you physically created your map helps you visualize it when you are giving your speech.

In the video, How to Use a Mind Map, Tony Buzan explains how to effectively use this technique.

Visualize Your Ideas

Mind mapping is essential for tapping into your ideas on a much deeper level than just writing down bullet points or lists. You will be able to prioritize key pieces of information which you find the most relevant. Allowing yourself to visualize your ideas will greatly support the flow of your speech.

I encourage you to utilize the mind map method in your next speech to unleash your brains potential in creativity and memory.

In Closing

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Using Humor In Your Speech

Learning how to effectively intertwine humor in your speech is essential to establishing yourself as a notable speaker. We all want to entertain our audience effortlessly but you need to use sound judgement when using humor; sometimes it is appropriate and sometimes it is not.

Using humor can be effective in almost any speech, it can be a good way to break up tension or lighten up the mood. It can also be used to break the ice; speakers that employ humor connect quicker with their audience and are deemed more likable by their listeners.

“Humor is treacherous. It can charm, coax, and persuade, but it can also distract, baffle or alienate the audience.” Eugene Finerman

Also, you can use humor to add variety to your speech to keep your audience interested. Weave in jokes or a funny, small story or anecdote to your topic to keep the flow of information balanced.

However, you should always make sure that your joke fits in with your topic. No matter how funny that joke was that you heard the night before, refrain from using it if it does not apply to your topic.

How to Use Humor

  • Plan your humor according to your audience– The professional level and overall age of your listeners will play a huge part in what will be appropriate and conversely what might be offensive. What listeners will find funny will vary with different groups, so do your research beforehand.
  • Laugh at yourself– Although no wants to see you put yourself down constantly in your speech, the audience does like to see some vulnerability in the form of humor. You can add this by telling a funny story about something that actually happened to you and this will increase your credibility with your audience by making you seem more real.
  • Keep working at it– Using humor in a speech can be difficult, proper use takes time to develop. Try to use steady and gradual improvement to avoid a “flop” and major

How Not to Use Humor

  • Do not try too hard- We have all witnessed someone that uses humor or tries to tell a joke that clearly was recycled from someone else and it is awkward. If you try to use humor that is not your style, it just doesn’t work and is not funny.
  • Do Not Make the audience the “butt” of your jokes – Nobody wants to be the target of anyone’s jokes, it is offensive to most people.
  • Be on the safe side – Do not make jokes about race, sex, religion or politics. For most people, these are sensitive subjects and should be left out of your jokes.

The Video Use Humor in Speechs by Toastmasters International shows you some do’s and do not’s of using humor in your speech.

Implementing humor in your speech is not easy and can be very intimidating. However, if used correctly you can create rapport with your listeners or if used incorrectly you can create a wedge.

My challenge to you is to break out of your comfort zone and use these tips in your next speech to engage your audience and make them laugh!

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Perfect Practice – The New Rules For Giving A Speech

Practice does not make perfect anymore according to the new methods being embraced by today’s most effective communicators.

Instead, the new rules are more casual and direct such as you practice to perfect your talk. For example, you need to practice in front of a trusted audience to get good feedback and make adjustments according to their reactions.

“It takes one hour of preparation for each minute of presentation time.” Wayne Burgraff

Practice out Loud the Way You Will Give Your Speech Live

Although this won’t make you perfect, it does produce a lot of benefits. Reading your speech out loud may expose flaws that you may have missed in your editing. This will also allow you to gauge your excitement level for your topic, are you excited about or bored?

Also, you will be able to gauge your timing and boost your confidence by rehearsing your material.

There is no “right way’ to Give a Speech

The hard and fast rules of public speaking are changing and the days of boring lectures are over. In fact, speeches and presentations will become more interactive in the coming years.

Find your authentic style, what works for you, and doesn’t work for you and tweak it accordingly. Practice different ideas in front of your trusted test audience and get their honest opinion.

Find Your Own Voice

When preparing for your speech, pay attention to the tone of your voice and practice how you want your voice to sound in your speech. Your voice is an important element to how your listeners will judge your attitude, credibility, and sincerity. You can vary your pitch, rhythm and volume for emphasis and work expression in.

You need to do that throughout your speech or your voice will become monotone which will give your audience the impression that you don’t care about the message you are delivering.

Use Honest Even Harsh Feedback

To really gauge how you are doing, always solicit feedback even if you know it is going to be bad. You should make people aware that you really want honest feedback.

It could sting for a second but the best way for us to learn is from our mistakes. You may be repeatedly making a mistake that you are totally unaware of and since people don’t like to offer criticism no has ever told you. If you are doing a fabulous job and keeping everyone interested, your peers will be happy to tell you.

This is the wonderful thing about practicing in front of trusted individuals is that  you don’t have to worry about the pressure of a large audience and you can be practice being yourself.

Do not Practice in Front of the Mirror

Forget what everyone has always told you, practicing in front of the mirror does not work. This can sabotage your speech in a negative way if you are becoming self-conscious by focusing on flaws. The negative feelings can leave you less than enthusiastic to deliver your speech. Also, you will try to remain in full view of the mirror and this will limit your movements.

When preparing for your next speech remember to forget about a lot of the outdated rules you have learned and practice with the idea that practice does not make perfect but you practice to perfect your talk.

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