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7 Rules for Making Speeches Memorable

Originally published: 04.01.11 by Patricia Fripp


7 Rules for Making Speeches Memorable

Public speaking is a great way to promote yourself and your company. Just be sure to be remembered for the right reasons.

Speak to be remembered and repeated is the advice I give my executive speech-coaching clients. Isn’t that the goal of every executive and sales professional — to be remembered and repeated? For the right reasons?

However, it does take preparation and practice. Focus on mastering these seven rules, and you’ll be on your way to successful public speaking:

1. Speak in short sentences or phrases. Edit your sentences to a nub. Comedian Jerry Seinfeld said, “I will spend an hour taking an eight-word sentence and editing it down to five.” He does this becaue in comedy, the fewer words between the set-up and the punch word (the word that triggers laughs), the bigger the response. In business communications, shorten the sentence to get to the punch word as soon as possible. This is the word that prompts listeners to react or make a decision.

2. Don’t misplace your punch word. It should be the final word or idea in the sentence. This works for Jerry Seinfeld and his comedian brethren, and it also works for business communicators. For example, the otherwise-powerful word “today” can actually dilute a message if it is improperly placed in a sentence: “You have to make an important decision today.” The punch word should be “decision.” So switch


it around and change the noun “decision” to the active verb “decide.” “Today, you have to DECIDE!

3. Perfect your pause. Deliver your punch word and then pause... and pause... and pause. Give your listeners time to digest what you’ve just said. Get comfortable with silence, and don’t be tempted to fill it with “ums” or rush onward.

4. Repeat your key ideas more than once. Don’t worry about being redundant. Instead, worry that tomorrow your audience members will not remember your key ideas.

5. Never read your speech. The audience wants to hear from you. If someone is simply going to read a script or the titles off a PowerPoint slide presentation, you could have stayed home. (PowerPoint is a great visual aid, but not a scripting aid.)

6. Use stories. Help your listeners to “see” your words. Statistics and facts are fine, but make yourself unforgettable by getting listeners to create a movie in their heads based on what you are saying. For example, you might say, “Drunk driving is a bad idea. Let me share with you some statistics on the loss of control drivers experience after even one beer.”

Instead say, “Never, never, never drive drunk! Not even after one beer. I know. My friend Eliot Kramer was absolutely positive that two drinks couldn’t affect his timing and judgment.” (Hold up a single shoe, dangling from its shoelaces.) “Six months ago, he died.”

Later, add some statistics and then conclude with a reference to your powerful story.

7. Say something in a memorable way. Presidents have gifted speech writers to coin ringing phrases for the history books. You can be just as memorable when you think about what you want to say; and then use concrete examples and/or metaphors to express yourself.

Here’s an example from the memorial for 60 Minutes’ Ed Bradley. Fellow reporter Steve Kroft said, “I learned a lot from Ed Bradley, and not just about journalism. I learned a lot about friendship, manners, clothes, wine, freshly cut flowers (which he had delivered to his office every week) and the importance of stopping and smelling them every once in a while.”

Another example, from Mike Powell when he was a senior scientist at Genentech, giving a speech to the Continental Breakfast Club: “Being a scientist is like doing a jigsaw puzzle, in a snow storm, at night, when you don’t have all the pieces, or the picture you are trying to create.”

Try out these seven ideas as you prepare your next presentation so your words will be remembered and repeated. Why else would you go to all that effort?

Patricia Fripp is an executive speech coach, sales-presentation trainer, and keynote speaker on sales, effective presentation skills and executive communication skills. She is the author of Get What You Want!, and Make It, So You Don’t Have to Fake It!. For more information go to www.Fripp.com; call 415-753-6556; or PFripp@ix.netcom.com.


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