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How to Make an Effective Speech in Public

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An effective public speech lingers long after the speaker has left the stage. People from all occupations -- teachers, students, politicians -- make speeches to inform or inspire their listeners. A company financial presentation is an example of an informative speech. A eulogy at a funeral could be an inspirational speech, while a sales pitch is a persuasive speech. If you want your audience to pay attention, learn to prepare, construct and deliver an effective speech.


Analyze the speech setting, including the audience size and acoustics. Ask the organizers for a copy of the agenda, which should contain the approximate start and end times for your speech.

Evaluate the audience background because it will help you shape the message. For example, if you are speaking to a nontechnical audience, remove abbreviations and jargon from your speech.

Assess the objectives of the speech. For example, a technical symposium presentation seeks to inform, while a church sermon tries to inspire. A small business owner's year-end presentation informs employees of this year's performance and motivates them to reach higher next year.


Write the introduction, which should be less than two minutes of a 10-minute speech. It should establish credibility and outline one or two key points. Start an informative speech with an overview of what you are going to say. Begin a persuasive speech with a relevant fact or a personal anecdote. Simplicity is often the best way to establish credibility. For example, President Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address Nov. 19, 1863, started with the simple words "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation."

Prepare the body of the speech. In an informative speech, elaborate on the key points mentioned in the introduction. Use relevant examples to illustrate your points. Use visual images in a persuasive speech, such as Martin Luther King's use of "fierce urgency of now" and "meeting physical force with soul force" in his Aug. 28, 1963, "I Have a Dream" speech.

Write the conclusion. Summarize the key points in an informative speech. End persuasive speeches with a call to action or a memorable phrase. For example, President Ronald Reagan ended his Jan. 28, 1986, Challenger disaster tribute by paraphrasing poet John Magee's memorable words: "slipped the surly bonds of Earth … to touch the face of God."


Practice the speech. Memorize at least the introduction and the conclusion. Talk to a few members of the audience before the speech to ease some of your nervousness.

Use body language and gestures to complement the words. Do not point at your audience or use clenched fists to make a point. Gestures should be natural and purposeful. Do not wander aimlessly onstage. Move forward to make a point and sideways to transition between themes.

Make eye contact. Look at each section of the room -- left, right and center -- and hold your gaze for five to seven seconds.

Vary your vocal tone and pitch. For example, use a soft and reassuring tone at a commemoration service but a strong and demanding tone at a political rally.