Home Uncategorized 7 Things to do When you Have to Give a Short Speech

7 Things to do When you Have to Give a Short Speech


You can find a lot of advice on how to give a big speech in front of a
big audience. But more often, you’re probably asked to take just a few
minutes to address a smaller group. Here’s how to give a short speech
that will leave your audience wanting more.

1. Strip it down.

There’s an unfortunate temptation in a short speech
to try to cram everything you have to say into a short time. Instead of
trying to make the time fit the speech, however, recognize that you
have to make your remarks fit the time allotted. If you’ve got five
minutes to talk, you shouldn’t have more than three main points.

Key: If your short speech is longer than this article, it’s too long.

2. Plan and rehearse.

applies whether you have five days notice before your speech or 30
seconds. If you’re surprised to be called on to speak, your planning
might consist only of conjuring up your three main points while someone
else is trying to get everyone’s attention and introduce you, but that’s
better than nothing. Ideally, you want to plan everything you’re going
to say, rehearse in front of other people, and rewrite over and over.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that short remarks require less
preparation. In fact, giving a good short speech can be harder than
giving a long one.

3. Cut yourself off.

In the
history of the entire world, I don’t think anyone has ever said, “I wish
that speech had been longer.” So keep track of time, and by all means
don’t ramble. If you’ve run out of time to make a major point, either
work it into the questions people have for you afterward, or send a
follow-up note to the members of the audience.

Key: Take the length of time you’ve been asked to speak for, and cut it down by 20 percent.

4. Use milestones

a five minute speech, you want to organize in roughly one-minute
intervals, and you want to offer milestones to the audience at the top
of each minute. You get one minute for your introduction, during which
you explain what you plan to say. Then you get 60 seconds each for your
three main points. That last 60 seconds can be used either for a short
conclusion, or as a buffer in case you run long.

Key: Use
verbal cues to keep the audience on track. Phrases that seem obvious on
the written page can be much more helpful in oral remarks: “That was the
first point. Now we’ll talk about the second of my three points.”

5. Show. Don’t tell.

a short speech, I generally like to have something physical to show the
audience–a couple of photos, a prop, anything that gives the
audience’s eyes something to focus on. Think of the difference between
announcing, “Yesterday, we signed an important deal,” versus holding up a
ballpoint pen and saying, “With this pen, we made history yesterday
when we signed Spacely Sprockets to a five-year contract.” (Or else,
raise your coffee cup and proposing a toast, rather than just making an
announcement.) It can be a little bit corny, granted, but it’s much more

Key: If you use props, you almost always want to
use them early in your remarks. Don’t distract the audience and have
them wondering what the projector is for, or why you are holding a teddy
bear or a vacuum cleaner (or whatever your prop may be).

6. Make it personal

do not need to bare your soul, but in almost every short speech there
is an opportunity to connect on a personal level with your audience.
Don’t be afraid to allow emotion to enter into your voice if
appropriate. If the news is good, say you’re happy and proud; if you
have to share something sad or infuriating, make your tone and your
expressions match the news.

Key: A few short words can be
enough to make a connection. Simply saying with sincerity something
like, “On a personal note, I’m so incredibly proud of this group” or “I
can’t tell you yet how we will overcome this challenge, but I can tell
you for damn sure we will find a way”–depending on the
circumstance–can be enough.

7. Speak up.

All of your
preparation, cutting, organizing, and emotion goes for naught if people
can’t hear you. If you have good audio equipment, use it. If not, at
least start out by asking whether people can hear your voice. One trick:
Ask the audience to raise their hands if they can hear you well. If you
see a patch of people somewhere without their hands up, you know
there’s an issue you need to address.

Key: Remember that
ensuring everyone can hear is your responsibility. Project your voice,
and if you find that people in the back can’t hear what you have to say
consider moving to the center. If you run into trouble and can’t find a
solution, cut your remarks short, and find a way to follow up later.


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