Public Speaking

How can you use your voice to take action and to inspire others to take action alongside you?

Top Tips

Often people get nervous about making speeches. But, like lots of other things, a successful speech is all about preparing and practising. Even the world’s greatest speechmakers, like Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, carefully prepared and practised first.

Here are top tips for writing and making a great speech.

Step 1
Think about:
Who is your audience? For example, a school assembly, a public meeting?
What is your topic? Write it down.
How long is your speech? Aim to keep it short. Three or four minutes is fine.
Structure. Your speech should have a clear beginning, middle and end.  
Step 2
Write your beginning (the introduction)  
Beginnings can be difficult. If you’re not sure how to start your speech, just imagine that you are talking to someone about your topic. Speak out what you want to say, record it and then write it down.
Begin with a hook, like a surprising or shocking fact that will attract the audience’s attention. Next, briefly outline what your speech is going to be about so your audience knows what to expect.
Step 3
Write your middle  
Aim for three or four main points.
Use everyday language and keep your sentences short.
Speak directly to your audience. Use the pronoun ‘you’.
Support your points with facts and figures – ‘8 out of 10’ or ‘over 50%’
Make it interesting and sound as if you are interested.  
Step 4
Write your end (the conclusion)
Recap your main points.
Make your ending urgent. Finish with a call to action saying what you want your audience to do
Step 5
Be yourself
Be natural and be yourself.
Aim to speak in your natural voice. Don’t say things that don’t feel natural or right. Find your own style.
Step 6
When you have finished writing, read your speech out loud to check your flow, pace, language and timing.
Try saying your speech without your notes.
Rehearse with friends – ask someone to listen and check your timing.
Practice your speech as often as you can.
Step 7
Do it!
Try not to be nervous on the day. Taking deep slow breaths can help.
Speak slowly and clearly, and pause between sentences. Most nervous speakers speak too fast.
Sound natural, passionate and enthusiastic about your topic. Vary the tone of your voice depending on what you are saying.
Keep eye contact with your audience and try not to look down at your notes.
If you are using a microphone don’t hold it too close.
If you’re not sure how loud to speak, look at the members of your audience who are furthest away as you speak. Your voice will then automatically adjust to the correct volume.

Adapted from Send My Friend to School

There are additional tips for making a presentation or speech here.

Learning to Critique

Watch and discuss Malala Yousafzai’s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, delivered on December 10 2014.

If you have time watch the full speech here:

Even if you don’t understand English, examine Malala Yousafzai’s posture, body language and communication style, and answer the follow questions:

  • Do you think this is a ‘great’ speech? Why / why not?
  • Does Malala Yousafzai use any of the top tips for a great speech? Which ones?
  • Does she use any other techniques you’d like to use in your speech?
  • Does she do or say anything you think makes her speech less effective? What?
  • What can you learn from her speech about how to make a great speech?