Structure your speech for maximum impact

To create an impact with your speech or presentation, the audience has to “get” the message.  That means they have to be able to hear it and to understand it.  And to do that, first they must listen. 
So the very first step in this whole process is to gain their attention and then keep it, so that they listen, hear what you say, understand it, and then they can be influenced by it  …  which is, after all, the essence of impact.
There are several strategies to keep attention and the one we’re looking at here is designing the structure of your speech.
That structure has to work flawlessly to keep attention, and you can also use it to make you message absolutely clear.
“Tell them what you’re going to say. Say it. Then tell them what you said”And that is so true!! We must take into account that we have such short attention spans. And so do audiences. If we want to make a point that will stay with an audience after they leave the room, we have to repeat and reinforce it throughout the presentation.

The first thing to do is get that attention – arouse it, focus it and keep it.  Don’t waste your breath on the expected or the blah.  If you must begin with something like “Good evening”, then make it different, or unusual.  Here in Australia, we might say “G’day!”  That would be unexpected. Otherwise use your voice and body language to make the greeting unusual, challenging, noticeable.  Use pause here.  Then use an opening that grabs the attention.  You can use a question, a joke, a comment about the people or surroundings or event.  You can make a statement, use a quotation, or simply use body language or gesture.  But choose that opening to grab attention, to align with the audience and their needs, hopes and aspirations, and to lead into your message.

Your introduction to the speech shouldlead into the main pointand give a short background for the points to follow…The body of the speech shouldpresent points that are pertinent and support the theme or premisesupport the points with examples, illustrations, etc.

use different strategies to appeal to different interests and learning stylespresent original ideas or a new approach to familiar materials…The conclusion should:summarise the points and restate them brieflyemphasise the theme or premise againmake the purpose of the speech clearprovide a strong finish for the speech

Your closing is your last chance to create impact, to influence, to call to action.  Make it very clear.
So right through the speech, there has to be a reiteration in as many ways as you can find, and clarification in as many ways as you can think of, of the message you wanted the audience to take with them…to make that message clearly heard and understood. 

(This assumes, of course, that you articulated the impact you wanted and the message you intended to convey at the beginning.  That step is vital – visit my article “Plan to create the WOW factor with your speech or presentation”)
The structure of your presentation introduced your well defined theme, presented that theme, and repeated it to conclude.And you will have given your audience a great chance of remembering it.
© 2005 Bronwyn Ritchie  All rights reserved.  If you would like to use this article, you have permission to use it only in full, and with the following Resource box attached.

Bronwyn Ritchie AALIA AC(ITC) is a librarian, an award-winning public speaker and ITC-certified trainer – and she manages Pivotal Points – resources for the times when you change, pivot, towards a better you and a better life.
For more resources, tips, articles and courses on public speaking visit