1. Know your audience.
First, it is worth remembering who you are addressing so you can tailor your speech. Are you speaking to the general public? Then they will want to hear something approachable and accessible. Technical detail risks being a turn-off for them. Of course, if you are speaking to an industry crowd then you can get into the nuts and bolts.
At the same time, it is wise to think about your audience and what they are expecting to hear: is it an update on your business? A big display of thought leadership? Or are they hoping for something nice and jolly after dinner?
Anything that does not hit or exceed those expectations should be left for another day.
2. Settle on your objective
Now you have thought about who you’re speaking to, it’s time to decide what you want to use this big moment to achieve.
Is this a big product launch, where you need to inform potential buyers, commercial competitors and journalists about your most exciting work yet? A pitch to a smaller gathering seeking to persuade them to buy into your latest project? A media statement seeking to persuade the public that your business is on top of everything? Or perhaps an after-dinner speech where you just need to entertain and leave a few thoughts for people to digest.
Decide on this and so much more will fall into place.
3. Do your homework
You know what you want to tell your audience, so make sure to be across the details. It might seem tempting to stand up and speak on the hoof, but only the most gifted speakers can busk it smoothly. Failing to prepare risks having your big moment unravel due to the lack of material helping you go beyond the first few minutes.
Researching your topic does not just ensure you have enough substance to chew over in your speech. It also means you are far less likely to be caught out later on, whether it’s by a question from an audience member or a journalist on a fact-checking quest.
4. Get your structure straight
Now you have worked out your audience, objective and filled your boots with research, it is time to create a structure for your speech.
This will help order your thoughts in a coherent way and firm up the key points you want to make. The structure should have a logical flow so that even those coming to the topic of your speech for the first time can understand from it alone the gist of what you are talking about.
The structure need only be a series of bullet-points. Each point that comes should seek to lead the reader, and then later your audience, through your story so that the conclusion makes sense.
The types of structure can vary but they all serve the same purpose: to set out what you are there to say in a way that engages your audience best.
So you can decide whatever works best for the occasion. The simplest way to tackle it is three broad points: first set out what you are going to tell them, second tell them, and finally remind them what you’ve just said. This can be endlessly adaptable as a skeleton.
5. Decide on your delivery
You’ve worked out what you want to say, but have you thought about how you want to get it across? Speeches can be delivered in a variety of ways, from the standard script read out on a lectern to a few bullet points on cards to the whole thing being up on an autocue.
Consider what you are like as a performer. Do you thrive when being able to look members of the audience in the eye? Then try to shy away from a full script, as it will require constant attention not to lose your place in the sheathes of paper.
On the other hand, if you’re prone to nerves, you can mitigate that by being strict in the length of your speech so that you stay pithy and to the point. That can have the additional benefit of leading to a more effective speech as if it’s less of a slog getting through for you, it’ll be even easier for your audience.
Now the keyboard awaits with nothing on the screen in front of you except for a neatly-drafted structure. But you can get cracking safe in the knowledge that you are clear what your audience should hear, confident in what you want to say, and set for a successful speech.