“Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them.“ Most people know that what Aristotle advised in the 4th century BC is as true now as it was then – but when they come to structuring their own speeches, they fail to adhere to his rules!
Introduction “Tell them what you’re going to tell them”
You should clearly outline what your speech is about right at the very beginning. Take as little time as possible – no more than 10% of your speech. Providing an outline gives your listeners a clear view of the content to come and allows you to move on to the “Tell them” part – the main body of the speech.
Example: An introduction to a speech about congestion charges – you could open with something like:
“Today I am going to talk about why congestion charges are good for both the health and wealth of city centres, how it benefits businesses and residents alike and how a scheme for our own city will work.”
Body of your speech “Tell them”
Expand on the three points (use the same order as in your introduction) in the body of your speech. This helps orientate your audience – they know where they are in your speech as each point is covered. When you have finished the main body of your speech you should ‘point’ people towards the end – so say something like,
“In conclusion“, “To summarise” or “To recap”.
Your listeners then know you’ve completed the body of your speech and are about to wind up.
Closure “Tell them what you told them.”
Wind up as succinctly as possible – your conclusion should: take up no more than 10% of the total speech time to do it. contain no new ideas or you will cause confusion.
Example: Closure to a speech about congestion charges. Your closure may be something along he lines of:
“In conclusion you can see tat the reduction in vehicle numbers leads to a reduction in pollution which in turn leads to a much healthier populace. The reduction in this unnecessary traffic makes it easier for businesses to get their deliveries in and out of the city and allows public transport to run more efficiently. The money received from the charges is used to further improve public transport and invest in the city’s infrastructure bringing commercial benefits to all. I am sure you will agree that the benefits of the system outlined make it imperative that we introduce our congestion charging scheme as soon as possible.”
Interesting content is of course essential to a good speech, but even the best content will not keep people listening – they need to know where you are going with your speech. To achieve impact and audience attention you need good content and a sound structure. But like everything in public speaking, there is no single right way.
Here, I have given just one example of a structure, a tried and tested method that I have found bring results and makes speeches easier for audiences to follow.