Tips for Making a Good Speech
Pete Willsman, September 2017
Note - Speakers from the floor are usually only allowed 3 minutes.
The makings of a good speech:
- Thorough preparation. Set out your aims and plan the structure. Assemble a few choice facts but don't overdo it - speeches that are a list of facts turn the listeners off.
- Write the speech out in bold clear writing; always use short punchy sentences and shorter words rather than longer.
- Try to find a startling beginning or try working backwards from a stunning conclusion.
- Develop an easy and logical progression of ideas.
- Brief personal anecdotes can be helpful for illustrating a point.
- Properly rehearse the speech several times in front of friends.
- Time the speech to the precise minute.
- Remember everyone is nervous before giving a speech to Annual Conference. This is natural.
- At the outset say who you are and give your organisation. Indicate which resolution(s) you are speaking in favour of/against.
- Stand easily. Avoid making distracting gestures. Don't move about - the microphone has a short range.
- Often a major argument is built up or emphasised by rhetorically asking three short questions/making three bullet points and raising the voice as you do this.
- Vary the pitch.
- Pauses for effect are a useful tool.
- Clarity of speech, so the audience understands each word.
- The knack is speaking to listeners and not at them.
- Conclude with a flourish.
- Matter, Manner and Method
- Preparation, Practice, Pace, Pauses, Pitch and Punch.
Finally some Don'ts
- Learn your speech by heart and then recite it.
- Speak so quickly that your listeners can't follow.
- Speak in a monotone.
- Harangue or shout.
- Give lengthy statistics.
- Patronise your listeners.
- Over-use slang expressions.
- Use jargon.
- Contrive to introduce humour or tell off-colour jokes. If a joke falls flat, ignore it and continue.
- Be apologetic.
- Name dropping should be avoided.
Movers and seconders of CMs (and CLP rule changes) should get together and aim to make their speeches complement each other, rather than repeating the same points. But vital points are worth repeating in both speeches. Votes on rule changes are always by card vote. At other times delegates have the right to demand a card vote and this right is set out in the CAC's advice booklet issued to delegates.