Real Leaders

Make a Great Speech: Pretend You’re Drowning

Each week, speech coach and leadership mentor James Rosebush will answer a question on how to improve your public speaking

Claire Harvey, CEO, Claire Harvey Photography asks: “Maybe others have this problem too, but I always have trouble getting started with my speech. Where do I start?” 

Dear Claire,

Have you ever just sat in front of your screen wondering where to start? I know I have, and it’s a good topic for us to discuss. Here’s one way: Imagine you’re drowning and have to pass one last, very important tip to those on shore. What would you be screaming to them? Ok, that’s the starting point. Now, tell a story about yourself or someone you know that is related to that outburst; tell it to your audience. 

Next, build an outline for your speech around what questions you think the audience might ask about that message and story. Why did it happen? Did it really happen? What is the likelihood it might happen to me? Then, state your answers in numbered points. In other words, use three points to reinforce your main thesis and story. Then, ask yourself: “Will my audience be able to repeat my three points and my story to their spouse, partner or roommate when they get home tonight?”  If not, then back to the drawing board. 

This dramatic way of kick-starting a speech can work wonders and will guarantee some value and a little drama, too. Every speech is a performance, so be memorable!  You’re on stage after all — like any actor in a film. See yourself that way and the audience will, too.

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