How to give a good speech

This page gives learners advice on how to give a good speech or presentation.

Every speech or presentation has two main aspects:

  • What you say (content)
  • How you say it (delivery)

You obviously have a lot of control over the content, because you can plan out exactly what you want to say.

But you can also do a lot to make sure your delivery is effective too. The advice that follows will help you deliver a powerful speech.

  • Remember that listeners usually only have one chance to understand what you are saying. So you must do everything you can to make it easy for them to follow your ideas.

  • The best way to do this is to 'signpost' your speech. At the beginning, say how your speech will be divided up. During the speech, make it clear when one part has finished and the next part has started.

    For example, 'Now that I have explained some of the causes of air pollution, I want to tell you what we can do to reduce the problem.' At the end of your speech, make it clear that you are finished (e.g. by simply saying 'Thank you!').

  • The most important parts of a speech are the beginning and the end. Think about a strong first sentence that will capture the attention of the listener.

    Be calm and confident; give the impression that you are well-prepared and have something interesting to say. End with a strong sentence: make people laugh or give them something provocative to think about.

  • Practise your speech before the big day. In particular it is useful to think about how and where you will stand/sit, and where you will put your materials before and after you have used them.

  • Speak loudly and clearly. Remember that your voice (your intonation) must do the job that punctuation does in your writing. Try not to speak too fast. Never just read full sentence notes - it is boring and makes your speech very difficult to follow.

  • Make sure you can be seen as well as heard. Don't hide behind your sheets or the overhead projector. It is important that every listener feels you are talking to him or her personally.

    Therefore look round the room and try to make eye contact with everyone in the audience at least once during your speech.

  • Be careful not to distract your listeners by swinging on a chair, tapping your feet, etc.

  • It is useful to include visual material with your speech. For example, if you are talking about places, show a map. If you are using numbers, write them for all to see. (It's very difficult for listeners to keep large or many numbers in their head.)

  • If you are going to have audience participation, be very clear exactly what you want from them. Prepare answers to questions that you could expect.

    If you ask a question, be ready for strange answers. And expect to have to answer it yourself.

  • Prepare speech cards at a maximum size of A7. Cards are more flexible than sheets of paper. And they force you to keep the card content short.

    Practise using the cards once or twice before the day of your speech.

Here's a video with more tips, including some useful phrases for various parts of the speech and examples of signposting: How to Give a Presentation .