I love money. Let me rephrase that, I love it when there’s no lack of money in my life. Who doesn’t? When I say I love money, I mean that in a literal sense, but also in a figurative sense: I love working with money, creating monthly budgets, tracking the money I spend, and creating new ways to save.
To me, money is fascinating and I love to study the topic. However, I’m not always the best when it comes to putting that knowledge into practice: I buy on an impulse, don’t save nearly as much as I should, and eek, I use credit cards. So, what does all of this have to do with giving a great speech?
I have been eager for some time to change my money-wasting ways, but just didn’t have the motivation I needed to DO anything about it. That is, until I watched a speech by Dave Ramsey. His speech was so phenomenal that I have been working tirelessly ever since to make some drastic changes in my financial life. For me, that speech was life changing. Not only am I motivated to change my own financial life, but also I am determined to change my kids’ financial knowledge to help them secure a lasting, positive relationship with money.
Hearing, and giving, a good speech can be powerful and life changing. So what are the fundamental keys to giving a great speech? There are many, however, I am going to focus on only a few of them in this article.
We all know an eager listener is the best listener. When your audience is open to your message and interested in learning from what you have to say, you’ve won half the battle. If you’re not lucky enough to secure an already-eager congregation, work harder to capture their attention in the beginning and you’re more likely to hold that interest throughout the rest of your message.
First, make a solid point and be prepared to back it up. Most speeches don’t last longer than five minutes and with good reason. Even adult attention spans are short, and unless it’s a topic your audience finds truly fascinating, you’ll need to have a clear-cut point and be prepared to drive it home. If you don’t have a communication goal in mind, your audience will notice. They’ll be unsure about what they’re supposed to focus on and they will have gained little, if anything, from your speech. Avoid tangent talk and rambling without direction. While this advice may seem obvious, many a speaker has forgotten that mantra and lost his or her audience as a result. Dave Ramsey’s whole point was to get out of debt so you can start building wealth. That statement was reiterated in that memorable speech and when I was done listening, I remembered the key points he used to relay and cement his message.
Nothing captivates an audience faster than great real life stories. Adults are really just grown children. You can throw 100 fascinating facts at us, but if we can’t relate, we won’t remember them. No one wants to sit and listen to a bunch of statistics without a framework in which to file them. Again, Dave Ramsey is extremely good at using personal stories to teach his points. I’ve read several of his books and they all use relatable and entertaining personal stories. It’s easy to read a whole book he’s written about money, because they are not only informative, they’re enjoyable to read. Not only do I know what he recommends when it comes to dealing with money, I know why. I know that he went through filing bankruptcy and had to work really hard to change his and his family’s spending habits.
Next, practice, practice, and practice. Nothing will lose your audience faster than stumbling over your words, looking at notes, or even reading your speech. Have you ever been sitting in church and the person talking is literally just talking? It makes for a very long talk. Practice telling your stories, memorize your statistics, and be prepared to present using as few notes as possible. If you have to use PowerPoint, keep it clear and concise. Staring at slides is worse than listening to rambling! Remember, the whole goal is to captivate your audience and keep them with you. I highly doubt Dave Ramsey speaks to an audience without practicing first but he finds a way to make his audience feel like they’re hearing it for the first time, too. Canned speeches may seem solid on some level but unless you’re in court and being held to the legalities of every single word, be natural but practiced and knowledgeable not rehearsed.
We’ve all sat through speeches and talks with Morgan Monotone. Ugh. One tone of voice for any length of time is like nails on a chalkboard. It’s almost painful. Mannerisms involving a varied speech pattern and supportive body language can really help capture an audience. You don’t have to act like a goof ball, but standing up and just blandly presenting something will definitely not captivate your audience. If you’re telling stories, use hand gestures, and have your voice fluctuate at points where it makes sense. There are times where it’s appropriate to use a very soft voice, and if you’re audience is captivated, they’ll be hanging on every word. Be comfortable before, during, and after you present. Plan some personal strategies for calming yourself if you get nervous or off-track: deep breathing exercises, encouraging self-talk, pray, whatever helps you find your calm and reset your focus. If possible, get acquainted with the people in your audience ahead of time. If they’re comfortable with you, you’ll be comfortable, too. Plan ahead by going to the bathroom, having a glass of water handy, and by all means, be sure to spit out your gum!
If you’re excited about your topic, comfortable with your speech content, and confident in your presentation material, your passion will come through. Even if you’re simply summarizing and relaying the points someone else has made in an effort to help others, that desire will be evident to your audience. My life has changed for the better because Dave Ramsay’s well-prepared speeches, and with the right planning, hopefully you’ll be able to do the same for others.