Update > Public Speaking

Public speaking


Politics is all about getting your message across. A good speech is one of the best ways to do this. There are other ways, of course, like giving a press conference, sending out a press release, giving an interview or paying a visit to a company or organization.

How to Prepare for a Political Speech

It is extremely important that you prepare for your speech – don’t give in to the temptation to “just wing it.” You can prepare for your speech well in advance by:

1. Knowing your Audience, Speaking Format and Time

Be sure that you know the particulars of your speech before you get there. There’s nothing worse than being prepared to speak for 10 minutes and arriving at a speech where the audience expects you to speak for an hour, or preparing a speech on senior citizen healthcare to deliver to a Boy Scout convention. Be prepared – know who you are talking to and what they care about, how long you will be speaking, and the speaking format involved. Ask some basic questions: Is it just you, or is it a pan- el or roundtable? Will there be a question and answer period?.

2. Knowing your Topic

Ask the group you are speaking to or the event coordinator what topic, if any, they want to hear about. Make sure you know what the topic of the event is so you can prepare your speech accordingly. Then, make sure your speech is well researched and relevant to that topic.

3. Practicing

Whether this is the first time you’ve given the speech or you’ve given it a dozen times before, practice it before you give it. Be prepared for questions the audience may ask as well – don’t let them throw you off guard.

The goal of any political speech is persuasion – you want to bring the crowd around to your point of view, whether that means convincing them to vote for you or that the marginal tax rates in Anne Arundel County, MD are too high. To do this, you need to know your crowd and your topic, and be well practiced to ensure that you are able to drive your message home.

All of these methods, however, give you less control over what will make the news. Here are a few tips for writing and giving a successful speech.

Tips for writing a speech

1. Message, message, message: always first determine which message you want to communicate. What purpose does your speech serve? What do you want to convey to your audience? Only accept invitations for giving a speech if you think it will offer a good platform for disseminating your message. All too often requests for a speech are granted without this condition having been met, purely out of habit or as a favour. That is a waste of time – for the audience as well as the speaker and, last but not least, the speech writer. If you have determined in advance which message you want to convey in your speech, you will be more focused during the writing and compose a speech that will have a more lasting impression on you audience. Every good speech should convey a clear message.

2. A thorough preparation is essential for every speech. What is the occasion? Speeches can be held at a variety of functions: you can give a lecture, a preliminary speech for an open debate or a dinner speech. What will be your subject? Do you have all the necessary information or do you still have to collect data? What do you know about your audience? Who are they, what language do they speak? What are their interests, why do they attend? What do they already know about your subject?

3. Make sure you structure your speech clearly and rigidly. A clear structure is indispensable in any speech. It provides anchor points for speaker and audience alike. After all, when reading a newspaper article, you can always browse back to reread the previous paragraph’s argument. When listening to a speech, there is no way to push the rewind button. All the old advice from classic oratory is still valid: a clear structure is as important in a speech today as it was in antiquity. A good speech is hierarchically composed, carefully building up to a climax sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, applying the same basic scheme used in a novel: after a general introduction the narrative builds up to a climax about three quarters of the way through, which is followed by a conclusion that puts everything into the right perspective. A nice touch is to end with a statement containing food for thought, not unlike the way priests close their sermons with a morsel of wisdom or a snippet of moral advice to ponder on. Helpful structural devices to keep your audience on track are short summaries of what has gone before and what is to follow: “up till now I have talked about...” and “now to my next point, which is...” Always be sure to lavish extra care and attention on the start and the finish of your speech.

4. Use vivid and evocative language. Facts tell, stories sell. Always try to be evocative in your descriptions and use narrative techniques – as though trying to get the audience to picture your story in their head like a film. It is a sure-fire way of getting your message across. Ideally, the audience will find your story so recognizable that it totally identifies with it.

5. Speak plainly. Speeches have to be read out loud, so avoid long sentences. The audience does not have the opportunity to reread a sentence, so everything you say has to be immediately clear. Too many speeches are drenched in jargon, because in many organizations using jargon is the standard way of displaying your expertise and hence enhancing your status. But in a speech, jargon is absolutely taboo. Using jargon or obscure words merely alienates people – the audience will perceive you as a prig or a smart aleck and close its mind to your message. So always, always speak plainly. Does your old auntie understand what you are trying to say? If not, get back to the writing desk!

6. A spoonful of humour makes the medicine go down. Humour and wit are immensely useful tools for enlivening a speech and creating sympathy in the audience. This does not mean your speech should be riddled with hilarious jokes and one-liners – but a couple of witty remarks can really contribute to the success of a speech.

7. Another way to dress up and enliven a speech is the use of rhetorical devices like imagery and puns. Imagery makes your speech more vivid and may add some literary panache. Other useful literary devices are antitheses and parallel structures, alliteration, and three-part lists. Take care not to overindulge in this, but use it where appropriate. Literary devices can help make parts of your speech quotable, enhancing its chances of finding its way into the newspapers. Devices like these have resulted in some of the most memorable political quotes, such as Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country”, or Obama’s “There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United States of America”.

8. Make sure the media use your sound bites. The days of people gathering from far and wide to come and listen to a political speech are over. Nowadays, people get their information from bits and pieces of speeches on the news, so you have to make sure that the media pick up exactly those sound bites you want. There is a common misconception that sound bites or one-liners are spontaneous contrivances, cooked up independently of the speech’s central message, but the opposite is true. A sound bite should grow organically from the line of thought in the speech, from its message. If it does not, it will bear no relation to the speech and never make its mark. you can, however, anticipate which parts of your speech might be picked up by the media as usable sound bites. There are a number of reasons why certain parts will stand a better chance than others. Applause, for instance, makes it easier for journalists to edit and isolate a sound bite. So try to ensure that the line you would like the media to pick up induces the audience to applaud. The British oratory expert Max Atkinson has researched the ways political speeches can generate applause. The major factors he identified were the use of contrasts, three-part lists, logical build-ups to a conclusion, words that refer to the party’s ideological flagships, and the mention of popular party members.

Tips for delivering a speech

Before the speech

Make sure you are on time. Check the room and the technical facilities (is everything in working order?). Shake hands, talk to people. Don’t be nervous – after all, you are the expert here.

During the speech

You can consult your notes, but do not read from paper. Make eye contact with the audience. Make sure to smile and stand straight. Be yourself, do not play-act. Use gestures to emphasize certain emotions. Take your time: you set the pace. Take a sip of water every now and then, or a natural pause. Vary the volume of your voice.

And if you do happen to lose the thread of your story: relax and take a sip of water. Ask the audience whether they have any questions. Repeat your last line, or repeat your central message. Try to distract the audience with a joke.

After the speech

Ask people whether they liked your speech. Make notes for the next time. If the speech has been recorded, watch the recording with your assistants.

Communication Principles of public Speaking


KISS is an anagram for either “Keep It Short and Simple” or “Keep It Simple, Stupid”. KISS is a motto to keep in mind at all times during the course, especially when teaching communication. For instance when drawing up the central message: You have to know exactly what you want to say and be able to express it concisely. Many people can give a lengthy talk and still not manage to convey the core message. They run the risk of getting bogged down in digressions or side-tracked by minor issues. That is not KISS. The core of a message consists of a few sentences defining the main theme of what you want to convey. This central message is brief, but you have to be able to talk about it for hours.


AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. These are the different stages an individual goes through before reaching a decision or taking action. The desired effect of a political message usually is to get the people to do something, to take action – e.g. cast their vote for your party. The message totally overshoots the mark if you ask the audience to make too big a step. That is why in your presentation you have to start by drawing attention, making clear how the desired action is in the target group’s own interest, in order to enhance their willingness (and maybe even desire) to actually take the step you wish them to take.

IDD: Information, Debate and Decision

If you have something to “sell”, whether it is a political message or a vacuum cleaner, these three stages are always pertinent. It is very important that you strictly adhere to the above-mentioned order. If you make a decision first and only then start to provide information and instigate a debate, people will feel they are not taken seriously.

What is the use of debating a decision that has already been made? People will feel misinformed, uninvolved and excluded, and tend to be against the decision regardless of its merits. This makes the opponents’ job very easy, because they only have to latch on to this latent resentment and fear. An example of this was the Dutch government’s campaign to promote the European constitution. The government had actually already made up its mind about this. The information given to the public came too late and lacked coherence, and the debate was subsequently dominated by fear as the government, having lost its authority in the eyes of most people, tried browbeating the voters into voting “yes” by suggesting that a “no” would plunge Europe into chaos.

Drawing Contrast with your Opponents

One of the most difficult problems facing candidates is the problem of contrast. Party programs and messages can be bland and generic, and the voters never understand why one candidate or party is better than another. As a result, voters grow cynical and begin to view democratic elections as meaningless.

In designing your campaign message, you must give your target audience the sharpest possible contrast with your opponents. If you don’t, then your target audience has no reason to vote for you instead of your opponent. In order to ensure that your message has this contrast, you should be able to word it in the following way:

“When you go to the polls on December 17, I want you to keep one thing in mind. The differences between me and my opponent could not be clearer. you can vote for me, who stands for X, or you can vote for my opponents, who stand for Y. What Myanmar and our region need is a lot more X, and a lot less Y. That’s what this election is about, and that’s what you are going to decide. “

When searching for the “XXX” and “YYY”, you may look at the following areas:

1. Values: How is what you stand for significantly different than what your opponents stand for?

2. Policies: What would you do as a member of parliament that is significantly different from what your opponents would do?

3. Experience: How will the differences between your and your opponents’ work and educational experiences influence the way you would behave in office? Often, when values and policies are very similar, experience is the best way to draw contrast -Which candidate is best able to deliver the promised policies or values?

For any particular trait under the above headings, you must craft your message in order to draw the most favorable contrast with your opponents.