Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How to Give a Great Speech ~ Part One

Earl Nightingale, Guest Author

There are two kinds of public speakers: There are those who are asked to talk to a group and those who, because of their position, are forced to talk before groups — people such as ministers, teachers, executives, and sales managers.

In the first instance ”that is, if you’re asked to make a speech” it means you know something others want to hear. It usually means you’re an expert on some subject, and so people come to hear you because they want to. If your job demands that you talk before groups, you have an even greater responsibility because your audience must listen to you whether they like it or not.

A&SGreatSpeech1But in either case, you can make a good speech with a little preparation. Here are some guidelines.

A good speech is like good conversation

A good conversationalist will make a good speaker. He’s sensitive to the presence of others. His antennae are forever alert, picking up signals from his audience and involving them in his talk.

Good conversation is one of the great joys of human commerce. Good conversation should be like the game of tennis, in which the ball is struck back and forth, with each player participating equally. Bores are like golfers who just keep hitting their own ball, over and over and over again.

A good speaker is able to achieve a marvelous give-and-take with her audience, just as a good conversationalist does with the person she’s with. She recognizes that people in our society desire recognition more than any other factor.

She will ask her audience questions such as, “Do you agree with that?” Then she’ll pause and read their response — by their silence, their attention, their nods, their poking of the person sitting next to them, by their laughter, or by their seriousness at the right places.

If they’re bored, they’ll find ways of showing it, despite their best efforts. If they’re interested, they’ll show that too. And we have a duty to be interesting or we shouldn’t get up there in the first place. That is the task of the speaker, whether we’re the manager of the sales force, in a car dealership, an insurance agency, real estate office, or a large international organization. When interest leaves, the sell goes out of our message.

Our responsibility is not only to create a speech that will lead an audience to a believable conclusion; we must also make the very building blocks of that conclusion as fascinating as we can. It is in this way that we can hold the attention of our audience until we get to that all-important final point. In addition, if we can develop techniques that make our audience feel that we are conversing with them, we will convey that we care what they are thinking — and that will create the emotional climate for them to accept us as favorably as possible.

The single-theme formula

Professional salespeople, marketing experts, and leaders in the advertising profession know the importance of selling one thing at a time. Only catalogs can successfully handle a multitude of items. In a five-minute speech or even a long speech, it’s important to have a single theme, and, like a good salesperson, you pose the problem and then give your solution. At the end, the problem is restated and the solution quickly summarized.

Your opening statement should be an attention getter. For example, you might say, “Scientists all over the world are agreed that the world’s oceans are dying.” A sobering thought indeed. It captures immediate interest, and everyone is thinking, “Why, that would presage the end of the world. What are we doing about it?”

Using an internationally recognized authority as your reference, someone such as Jacques Cousteau, you provide the supporting evidence that your opening remark is indeed true, and then you proceed to outline the possible ways that the disaster might be averted. At the end, you might say, “Yes, the oceans of the world are dying today, but if we can marshal the combined efforts of the world’s peoples, if we can influence every maritime country to pass laws governing the pollution of the seas by oil tankers …” So you end on a note of hope and at the same time enlist the sympathy of every one of your listeners in your cause.

Not all talks are about social problems, of course. You might be talking about a recent fishing trip, in which case, you find something of special interest in the story and open with that. You might say “Ounce for ounce, the rainbow trout is one of the gamest fish on earth.” It’s a much better attention getter and interest stimulator than saying, “I want to tell you about my recent fishing trip.” A few words about the fish you were after, and then you can work in the rest. “Two weeks ago, John Cooper and I decided to try our luck on the White River near Carter, Arkansas. It’s one of the most naturally beautiful spots in the country” and so on. Stay with the trip and that rainbow trout, the hero of your story, and how good it tasted cooked over an open fire on the bank of the river. Then at the close, to more closely link your listeners to the subject, you might say, “If you’ve never been trout fishing, let me recommend it as one of the world’s best ways to forget your problems, clear your brain, and gain a new perspective. And when you hook a rainbow trout, you’re in for one of the greatest thrills of a lifetime.”

Watch your personal pronouns. Keep yourself out of your conversation as much as possible. As with the case of the fishing story, talk about the fish, the beautiful scenery, and your companions, other people you met, a humorous incident or two perhaps, but don’t keep saying, ” I did this” and “I did that.” The purpose of the speech is not to talk about you but rather the subject matter. There’s an old saying that small minds talk about things, average minds talk about people, and great minds talk about ideas. What you’re selling is almost always an idea, even if it’s painting the house. The idea is the good appearance or the protection of the house. The fishing trip story is about the idea of getting away and going after exciting game fish. One idea, well developed, is the key.

Just as a beautiful painting is put together by a thousand brush strokes, each stroke makes a contribution to the main theme, the overall picture. And it’s the same with a good speech.

Read “How to Give a Great Speech” Part Two @ How to Give a Great Speech ~ Part Two!

Copyright © 2015 – Earl Nightingale. Earl Nightingale was the author of Lead the Field. To read more articles by Earl Nightingale, “Life of the Unsuccessful” (Mar/Apr 2006), “The Cure for Procrastination” (Sep/Oct 2005), and “The Strangest Secret” (Nov/Dec 2004), visit today.



Authors & Speakers Network Blog

Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact:, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at:

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  1. […] BONUS Articles: The Importance of the Pause When Speaking A Cheat Sheet for Public Speaking 33 Public Speaking Tips to Keep Your Audience from Falling Asleep How to Give a Great Speech ~ Part One […]

    Pingback by Presentation Prep | Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James — Saturday, September 19, 2015 @ 8:52 am | Reply

  2. […] You may want to read “How to Give a Great Speech” Part One before you read Part […]

    Pingback by How to Give a Great Speech ~ Part Two | Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James — Thursday, May 14, 2015 @ 7:32 am | Reply

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