Foundations first: building a strong speech for full effect.

Speeches can often form an important part of a communications plan. The structure of a speech can make or break its effectiveness, regardless of delivery.

Some advice on how to structure a speech can be found in an often used tool of effective speeches, a quote:

“If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time – a tremendous whack.” – Winston Churchill

Mr Churchill was onto something. To be most effective, a speech should have a structure built on a simple framework.

1. “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever…”

Keep things simple. Keeping the audience engaged is a key challenge for a speech. Too much information or content, and the attention of the audience may wane. Consider what are the key take-away messages, trying to keep it to three at most. A good speech is an introduction to a few important messages, not a drawn out conversation.

2.”…Use a pile driver. Hit the point once, then come back and hit it again…”

Clear messaging is a must. Once the audience is engaged, linking the key messages to a common theme will both help a speech to flow and make it easier for the audience to follow and recall important information. Think of the theme as the best book ever written, and the messages like the characters within. If the story is great, you’ll remember the characters.

3. “…Then hit it a third time. A tremendous whack.”

Finally, end the same way you began. The point of Winston’s quote is to emphasis repetition. By sticking to a common theme, the conclusion of a speech can come full circle and link back to the beginning – reinforcing the important messages – and giving a sense of symmetry. The conclusion is the last thing an audience hears, so by linking it back to the important messages, a speech gets to deliver one last ‘tremendous whack’ that will leave the important information fresh in the mind of the audience.

Read more about speech writing at Ellis Jones.

Talk to us about structuring your speech for full effect.

Image credit: Allen Lai via Flickr