Speaking basics and conventions

Speech Building Basics

Spinster contemplate

It’s normal to seek a format for our speeches; we don’t face as much risk of “being wrong.” Unfortunately, formats don’t work; for as many different types of speeches as TMs give, one or even a few formats would be inadequate. There are principles that help, though.

Like all guidelines, these are certainly open to being modified or even ignored. It’s best though, to master the basics and only then to deviate from them to emphasize an idea or fact.

Before we speak we must be introduced. The Toastmaster (or Evaluator in some clubs) should know your speech title, the purpose and objectives of your speech (found in the project description) and its length. In speeches outside of your home club the TM may want to announce who you are, and perhaps why you are qualified to speak to this matter if it’s not immediately clear.

We usually spend about 5% – 10% of the total speech in the introduction where we establish rapport with the audience, introduce the topic and arouse interest. Smile, make a startling statement, or even tell a (pertinent) story.

The conclusion generally should relate to the opening, and like the opening, occupies about 5% – 10% of the total speech time. So, for a five-to-seven minute speech (300 to 420 seconds) the opening and conclusion will each last 30-42 seconds.

In between the opening and conclusion we usually plan to address no more than three points. It often helps the audience follow or premises if we tell them what we’re going to tell them: “we’ll talk now about three ways you can organize your sock drawer.”

The summary may help tie the ideas together: “we’ve talked about organizing by color, by length and by material.” The summary can be part of the conclusion or serve as a transition to the conclusion.

There you have it: an opening that arouses interest, a clear organization that addresses two or three main points, and a conclusion that relates to the opening and calls for action, summarizes the presentation or asks the audience to form an opinion.


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