6 Steps to Writing an Unforgettable Speech

Elevate your next speech's impact by using these 6 storytelling tips sure to enthrall your audience.
July 03, 2013

The main element to writing a speech that gets you and your product or service noticed is creating a message your audience remembers long after the speech is over. 

"An effective speech does more than share information,” says Kristi Marsh, author and founder of Choose Wiser, who speaks to a wide variety of audiences. “A really powerful speech tells a story that leaves a lasting impression.”

Encourage people to remember your business by using the following storytelling tactics when writing your next speech:

1. Be Personable 

Every time Marsh writes a speech, she reminds herself that her main goal is to introduce herself. “It’s all about building a long-lasting relationship with the audience,” she says. “The point of my presentation is to reveal who I am and plant the seed of my message. Write an engaging speech that shares the genuine you, and those in the audience will want to support you regardless of what your product is.”

2. Educate

Concentrate your speech on educating the audience rather than selling, says Mark Robinson, owner of The Synergy Grid and Handicapped Pets.com

“We are so bombarded with advertisements that we've developed mental pop-up blockers,” he says. “If you try to sell the audience something, you become an infomercial they shut out, but if you educate them in a sincere and responsive way and trust them to know if they need your product or service, they will respond positively.”

3. Show Your Passion

“Audiences immediately spot passionate speakers who believe in what they are sharing,” Marsh says. “Always remember that you are taking them on a journey. The most mundane topic can be mesmerizing if it is delivered by a speaker who truly is enthralled and shares the topic like a story.”

Showing your passion helps you follow Robinson’s cardinal rule in presenting: never be boring. “Speeches are a creative outlet of self-expression, like paintings and novels,” he says. “They allow you to be passionate about expressing a piece of yourself, as well as your perspective or vision, and that’s never boring.”

4. Play to Emotions

A great speech isn't so much about what people remember, but how they feel, Marsh says. “Visualize how you want your audience to feel while experiencing your speech, and make everything in your speech support that point, including how you move, your gestures, how you dress, your expressions and inflection.”

The audience may not recall your actual words, but they will recall their emotional reaction to the speech, Robinson adds. “Outstanding speakers craft their speeches based on how they want their audiences to feel at different points in their speeches.”

When he speaks for his HandicappedPets.com business, which offers products and services for special needs and injured pets, Robinson likes to elicit what he calls “the Awwww factor.” This is the response people have when they see photos and videos during the speech that show happy, healthy dogs in wheelchairs. “Eliciting a verbal response from an audience like ‘Awwww,’ ‘Yum’ or ‘Gasp’ is powerful, and the audience remembers,” he says.  

5. Stay on Task and Keep it Brief

Telling an effective story means staying your course and not telling too much. While a few segues off the beaten path can be enjoyable for your audience, for the most part you should keep moving toward your destination, which is to educate them about your product or service. 

Once you've said your piece, avoid padding your speech to hit a certain time range. Instead, fill in with a question and answer period. 

6. Know Your Audience

Those who come to hear you speak will immediately forget your message or not even listen if it doesn't apply to them. Make certain that you know your audience inside and out, advises Robinson, who along with Marsh belongs to Toastmasters, an international membership organization that teaches public speaking skills. 

“We do not speak for ourselves, we speak for our audience,” Robinson says. “What we say is not because we want to say it, it is because we understand our audience and believe that they want or need to hear our message. If your speech is ideal for your audience, they will be compelled and remember your message.”

Keep these storytelling tactics in mind when creating your next speech, and the audience is sure to remember what your business has to offer

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A freelancer since 1985, Julie Bawden-Davis has written for many publications, including Entrepreneur, Better Homes & Gardens and Family Circle.

Photos: Thinkstock