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Making a speech? 7 practical pointers

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in Leaders & Managers,Workplace Communication

The finer points of speechmaking from a longtime pro:
  1. Coordinate with the person who’s introducing you. Otherwise, the introduction may be inaccurate or run longer than your own talk. If you’re introduced as someone who needs no introduction, the audience will wonder, “Who?”

  2. Print out your final draft in 24-point black type on heavy bond paper that won’t stick together.

  3. Put the speech in a sturdy folder that will lie flat on the lectern. Don’t use a ring binder: They’re clunky and you have to visibly turn each page, which is distracting. Keep the pages in a stack and slide each completed page over on top of the others.

  4. Never ignore the old chestnut about arriving an hour beforehand to check out the room, the equipment and the lighting.

  5. Don’t start by citing “eight ways to beat inflation” or “10 rules of teamwork.” After the first one, your audience will quickly calculate how long you’re likely to talk, and zone out.

  6. Read the speech aloud more than once if somebody else prepares it. The chairman of a huge corporation, speaking in Washington, D.C., made it painfully obvious that the wording and rhythm were foreign to him. Then, when he was supposed to say “bizarre incident” but said “brassiere incident” instead, all was lost. Another speaker, telling an anecdote he’d never heard before, started laughing so hard he couldn’t finish the story.

  7. When you use a speechwriter, remember to share your success through a thank-you phone call, note or dinner. The writer will need to draw on your appreciation the next time it’s 3 a.m. and the speech is due at 9.
—Adapted from The Speechwriter’s Handbook of Humor, Robert Orben, Marion Street Press.

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