Speeches that Grab Your Audience and Don’t Let Go

Ten years ago, the average adult attention span was 12 minutes. Today it’s just five. This is likely due to our constant, rapid-fire clicking from e-mail to Twitter to Instagram and back again. Or maybe it’s because the hectic workplace demands relentless multi-tasking from one project to another. Whatever the cause, most of us can’t focus for long, and this directly impacts one of our specialties, speechwriting.

People are inundated with messages, so if you want them to remember what you say in your speech, you have to make it remarkable, and you can’t waste time getting there.

Have you ever attended a speech that started something like this? “Today we’re going to talk about five strategies to reduce the high school dropout rate … “ Yawn! The speaker would be more interesting if he said, “50 percent of high school students drop out of our largest cities’ high schools each year.” See the difference? His opening statement was a “grabber” that held the audience’s attention. Be sure to use that kind of opening – otherwise, you’ll lose the crowd before you’ve given them one piece of useful information.

Here are some other tried-and-true tips for creating interesting, memorable speeches:

Tell a Story – It’s never enough to just share information – audiences want to be moved by what you’re saying. Tell them a story that will make them laugh, cry or empathize with you. When President Obama and speechwriter Jon Favreau worked on a speech, Obama always started with this question: “What story am I trying to tell?” He wanted an outline with a beginning, middle and end before the detailed writing started.

Connect with the Audience – Ask yourself this question: Why would the audience care about what I have to present? Usually, it boils down to self-interest – they want to know what’s in it for them. “What is the speaker going to tell me that will improve my life?”

Give Examples – They’ll forget your message if you don’t share the how or why of your product, service, cause or mission. People want to know what made you succeed or fail, and if you failed, how you tried and tried again until you got it right. Inspire them by revealing the secrets to your success.

End with a Call to Action – Delivering an unforgettable speech is one thing, but your ultimate goal is to get your audience to do something after it’s over. Give them something specific to do, someone to call or somewhere to go to build upon your message. Your speech should be the catalyst for good things to come.

Keep It Brief – For an audience to stay riveted to your speech, it can’t be too long. Make it as short as possible without losing substance. As Tim Ferriss, former chief speechwriter for Vice President Al Gore, said, “Once you’ve mapped out your speech, remove 20 percent. In all my years of preparing and watching political and business speeches, I’ve yet to hear anyone say, ‘Gee, I wish that speech were longer.’”

GillespieHall knows how to write speeches that are unforgettable, and we train our clients how to deliver them. Contact us today to learn more.

This blog was originally published in September, 2017. It has been updated and republished.

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