Have you ever been asked at a family gathering or a meeting at work to “say a few words” in front of everyone? Yeah, I know that feeling all too well. Today I want to share a technique I’ve developed in order to create quick, short and compelling speeches on the fly.
This technique has worked great for me, even when I’ve been given a short heads up! Hopefully, this helps you as well.
I hate public speaking
That’s right. I hate public speaking even in small groups of people, regardless of whether they are family, friends or coworkers – I simply hate it.
Over the years, however, I’ve had to embrace the fact that speaking in front of others is just part of life. Everyone will have to at one point or another. Honestly delivering these short speeches has helped me step outside of my comfort zone and made me a better person (I think).
I am naturally very shy, and sometimes that can be painful. But that’s a different subject altogether. The point is that acknowledging the fact that I’m shy and accepting that unplanned speeches can help me become more comfortable in front of others, is a good thing. Helps me reduce anxiety and not look so awkward at times. These speeches have also helped me better articulate my ideas as it forces me to construct and share a “main idea” with an audience, on the fly!
So, what are you going to do the next time you are asked to say a few words in front of others? Let me show you what I do.
Use technology. Don’t rely on memory alone
First of all, you have to realize that you cannot leave this to memory alone. Always jot the main points down. For this, the easiest thing is to rely on technology, or at the very least good old fashion pen and paper.
If you own a smartphone, chances are you have used it to take notes before. This time is no different. Pull out your favorite note-taking app and just start writing.
Always remember the 3-Step outline
The easiest way to think through the process and simplify it, is to break it down into 3 steps (don’t write these down, just memorize them);
- Main idea
That’s it. You have the main outline of your speech. Now, don’t stare at the app! Just start writing. Anything. Sometimes the best ideas flow when you are in the process. It’s almost like magic, trust me.
The 3-Step outline is super easy to remember as you can see. But before we look at a real example, let’s quickly explore each of these.
Come up with a quick but powerful introduction to your speech. The intro will help set the stage for your main idea and will make your short speech seem more natural. You do not want your speech to seem rushed. Have an intro.
This is the meaty part of your speech. Here you have to decide what you want to talk about. Then break that into at least three points that will give your main idea its body (example in a minute).
Tip: If you tend to get anxious or nervous as I do, then this is the one part of your outline you do not want to forget. Memorize the main idea and all of its components very well prior to delivering your short speech. I’ve gotten so nervous before, that I’ve forgotten my intro and conclusion! But it was the main idea of my speech that kept me from completely having a breakdown in the middle of it. It will always bring you back to your main point, even if you go off on a tangent.
This is your outro. Don’t spend too much time here. This can simply be a “recap” of your main idea more or less. Pretty much self-explanatory.
Example: My New Year’s Short Speech
Now that you have your outline, start jotting down your ideas for the short speech. At this point, you just want to get stuff on paper (on your app actually). Just start writing whatever comes to mind. You’ll edit this later and extract the key points you’ll want to cover.
Let’s look at my short speech for New Year’s 2019 where I applied this very same process. Obviously, I cannot tell you what my final speech sounded like (didn’t go well but I’ll leave this for a later story). But this example will show you exactly what I did, how I did it, and what the gist of my speech was. I have to admit, it’s not the greatest speech, but I was happy with it considering the time I had to create it.
Tip: Don’t worry about spelling at all when you write your short speech. At most, make use of the auto-correct functionality, but that’s it. Don’t waste time trying to check spelling, grammar or punctuation. Just make sure it sounds right in your head and out loud.
- thank you all for being here
- love having everyone here
- I like this time of year gives me a chance to ponder over last 12 months
- this time is perfect – everything slows down
- 2 reasons look ahead, last 12 months, the next 12 months
- be honest with yourself
- you can cheat everyone, but not yourself
- are you heading in right direction
- we only get one chance at life, that’s it
- we had a very special exciting year 2018
- daughter started high school
- son started last year of high school
- the birth of my nieces Amy & isabella
- wedding in the family
- father-in-law home extension built
- beautiful Thanksgiving
- spend your life however – but only once
- here’s to a beautiful, productive and fruitful 2019 for all family
- God bless our families
- thank you
- I like this time a year
- 2 reasons
- special year
- daughter started high school
- son last year high school
- birth Amy & isabella
- home extension
- to a 2019
- God bless
You can see that I omitted several items on my final outline. Some just didn’t make much sense to me. Plus, it was getting a little long and I was afraid of not having enough time to memorize all of it.
It is also super important to mention that as I’m writing my speech, I’m also practicing both in my head and out loud to make sure it sounds right. I’m just repeating it over and over and over again. This also helps cut the fat and edit as I go.
Finally, as you can see that it’s much easier to remember the final outline. As you continue to repeat it over and over, you will automatically memorize it.
Polish it. Improve it. Memorize it.
Once you’re happy with your final outline, it’s time to memorize your speech. To do this, you must find a private place where you can speak out loud (softly, but out loud). For me, this has been a bathroom, a basement, a balcony, a bedroom if I’m at home, or outside if you must.
The key item here is to take 20 minutes and just repeat it over and over, both in your head and out loud. There is no way around this and you must memorize your speech. You do not want to be looking down at your phone every time you start a new sentence. Make it seem natural, improvise a little and memorize it.
Give your speech
You got this! Go for it.
The one recommendation I can give you here is to always be self-aware and notice your timing, make sure you are not rushing through. Stay on point and be sure to look at everyone. Don’t stare at the floor, certainly NOT your phone, or the walls! Make eye contact.
Don’t wait for the next event. Just start practicing right now at home or wherever you are. This will almost certainly ensure your success the next time you have to give an unplanned speech. Get familiar with this process and go through the steps. When the time comes you’ll be ready.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that (like anything else) I only get better with each time I practice. Every time I’m asked to give a short speech, I use it as an opportunity to make this process better, faster, more efficient and effective for myself. Add your own touch, don’t be afraid to improve the process and adapt to fit your own personality.
Delivering a short compelling speech is not easy and I hope this process helps you for many years to come.