Speech Writing Article

HOW TO MAKE A SUCCESSFUL SPEECH

By Harry Freedman

You’ve been asked to make a speech by your boss and you’re terrified. Considering that the average person regards public speaking to be scarier then death, your fears are completely understandable. Nevertheless, it is possible to make a successful speech with the right tools. It’s also possible you’ll become an astronaut and land on the moon but the odds of either happening are about the same as Richard Simmons wearing enough clothes to look his gender. Neither one is likely, but both are still worth the effort.

So, the first thing to do is to begin writing. Obviously, the more lead time you have for preparation, the more you can do a complete and thorough job…of procrastination. Personally, I like to have at least two to three years notice prior to a speech, so I can waste as much time as possible without actually doing any work.

But once I begin, I work diligently. And then after about five minutes I take a break, so I don’t burn myself out. After a few days I finish a draft, and then I put the speech aside to let it ferment, and then I finish another draft, and after enough drafts, I usually feel like both the speech and I have completely fermented.

Once the speech is complete, the next step is to prepare for the presentation. Since public speaking is an inherently stressful situation, I find that rehearsing under some form of duress eliminates any pre-speech anxiety, such as by pouring boiling hot water all over my body for example. After ten minutes of primal screaming, I generally feel more relaxed about my delivery. For those last minute jitters at the event itself, I’ll accidentally spill boiling hot coffee on my lap, or in its absence, herbal tea. Another effective relaxation method is deep breathing, particularly if you take enough rapid deep breaths as you approach the podium to actually pass out. Once you regain consciousness, the audience is usually attentively standing over you, awaiting every word. This will also enable you to deliver your speech from the more comfortable prone position.

Once you begin speaking, the most important thing is to grab the audience in the first thirty seconds, which is easily attainable by giving out some form of gift, such as free money, for example. In fact, if you give away enough money, the rest of the speech should take care of itself, and may even result in a standing ovation.

Assuming you’ve made a winning presentation, you might consider turning pro. This means negotiating fees. My approach is power negotiating, which means when I first meet a client, I demand $15,000 and hold up a chain saw. And while its important to stand firm on one’s initial offering, at times, compromise may be prudent. So even though it can be embarrassing to have to pay $7,500 to speak, I usually rest easy knowing that my tape sales should easily offset the loss.

Of course, if I really feel like the offer is insulting, rather then rejecting it outright, I’ll simply show up and not make as good a speech, such as by not finishing all of my sentences for example. Or, at the very least, I’ll remove my verbs and prepositions.

Once you do turn pro, the big question is, how do you move up? The most successful public speakers have often achieved notoriety in other careers. And while it’s easy for a big time sports hero to describe how they got to the top, some of the most inspirational speeches come from individuals who have overcome serious self-induced problems, like drugs, alcohol, or a life of crime. And while committing a crime may not be the ideal way to jump start one’s career, it is a well known fact that many serial killers are actually ex-motivational speakers whose sales have simply dropped off.

Harry Freedman specializes in performing corporate put-ons and impostors

“Harry has always done an outstanding job. One of the reasons Harry is so successful, is because he really does his homework. I would recommend him for any event, showcase, meeting, or any other situation, with my highest praise.”

Rainey Foster, Vice President: Leading Authorities Speakers Bureau