Defining an Effective Speech
Let’s start with the obvious: you know an effective speech when you hear one.
Business meetings, speech competitions or formal events will allow you to realize that speeches are important — the expression of your thoughts is used to convey your ideas to others, which usually results in a motivated and influenced audience.
The act of speaking isn’t new. ‘Golden rules’ and techniques have always come into play, yet the best way of persuasion, entertainment and action is not a one-fits-all.
Types of Speakers, and When to Speak
Speeches are categorized through the environment in which they are used in:
- Moderators are able to both navigate and facilitate an event to their audience, which comes into play in professional settings.
- Persuaders, which vary wildly in style, can sway a crowd of decisions — this is exhibited within scenarios to convince others of their ideals.
- Activists evoke the emotion that can make their audience think, using the elements of great rhetoric and vigor to spread their message.
- Entertainers focus on strong yet humorous language; in every situation, an entertainer must be able to let the audience enjoy themselves.
Cicero’s Five Canons of Rhetoric
Commonly used to define a musical piece where a melody is successively introduced, the Five Canons of Rhetoric follows a general principle to apply within speeches. The canons are separated into Invention, Arrangement, Elocution, Memory, and Delivery.
Invention, or the process or discovery, creates a starting point for speeches; we can start developing ideas by asking ourselves questions, which leads us to find what we know and what we need to know.
Arrangement comes in unison to the building of a speech. Coming in forms such as written structures, transition cues or an organized rundown, your speech will be framed in a simple yet effective manner.
Elocution lies in how you express yourself to your audience — every change in execution affects how a listener will perceive a speech. Your content is also compounded by the fact that despite a subtle switch in diction, the audience can pick up.
Memory is where the essence of your speech is learned, memorized and understood. Without exposure to our own writing and speaking, a memorable speech is somewhat useless.
Delivery makes the greatest use of your content, voice and movement; after all, it is the final stage of preparation. Speeches are a form of communication, so how you communicate in the end is vital.
Quality or Quantity?
Playing a game of time and placing a large emphasis on overloaded content will get results; the audience gives you all the time you need, and prioritizing quantity uses this time to it’s full extent.
On the flipside, using your time to filter through prospects and possibilities allows for meaningful research. Extra time that you use — including digging through research and past events — can reveal a better connection between you, your speech and your audience.
That’s the use of quality.
An overlooked component in a speech is the … pause. Silence is often interrupted with filler words or redundant statements, which only distracts your audience on what is meant to be said. Whether it’s half a second to separate thoughts, or spontaneous pauses to incite tension, the attention of your audience is in your hands.
A pause within your speech is effective when:
- Ideas are bridged without filler
- Listeners are given time to absorb your speech’s contents
- Key phrases are underlined, which creates anticipation
- The speech retains a natural flow
Not every speech needs extravagant slide decks, statistical pie charts or animated videos to accompany them. However, our memory places a greater importance on visual aid.
83% of learning occurs visually, while only 11% occurs through hearing.
Adding visual dimensions also include your physical gestures and how you choose to interact with your audience. The time that we dedicate to visual aid must allow us to stay on the same page with the audience, and not take the focus away from you!
To Speak, To Actuate
There’s no waiting for a time to speak, or an occasion to practice. If something can go wrong, it will; be prepared for slip-ups, unexpected word changes and a lackluster reaction. Too often, speeches become too professional or too stiff due to requirements that may come outside the speech — people come to listen to you, so feel at ease!
- Pudewa, Andrew. “The 5 Canons of Rhetoric.” Memoria Press, 1 Apr. 2016, https://www.memoriapress.com/articles/5-canons-of-rhetoric/.
- Smith, Stephen M., and David R. Shaffer. “Celerity and Cajolery: Rapid Speech May Promote or Inhibit Persuasion through Its Impact on Message Elaboration.” SAGE Journals, 1 Dec. 1991, https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167291176009.
- “15.1 Functions of Presentation Aids.” University of Minnesota Libraries, 8 Nov. 2016, https://open.lib.umn.edu/publicspeaking/chapter/15-1-functions-of-presentation-aids/.