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Structuring Your Speech II: Guide Us, O…!

January 2, 2014

LlanfairPG1I know, any old excuse for a Welshman to open his vocal chords…, but these words are actually relevant to my theme here!

It is all about guidance. My last post was about structuring a speech, how each speech should have an emphatic, perhaps dramatic opening and a memorable, perhaps rousing finale. Now I want to say something about the bit in the middle, the body.

This is the meat of a speech. It is where the real content lies. It should best be sliced into two, three or four sections. Best of all is three – psychologists have proven that human beings can best process things in threes.

But most important are the connections between these sections – what is called signposting. There is a standard old maxim in speaking and presenting: tell us what you are going to tell us, tell us and then tell us what you told us. In this way the audience is always given guidance on where you are – and where you’re going – AND it reinforces your message.

Let me give you an example: suppose I am giving a speech on why, in this feminist-dominated world, we men still have our uses.

I could open my speech with, say, a song, like Gerry Halliwell’s: “It’s raining men, hallelujah, it’s raining men, amen…!” Then I could move into the body by saying we men still have our uses and here are three: we tend to the garden, we take out the rubbish and, in comparison to the alternative of artificial insemination, we make the act of procreation more aerobically beneficial.

I then go into detail on how useful we are in the garden. Well, it’s best to keep us away from the flower bed, but we are ok with stuffing the compost heap. Once I finish that section, I say: we men are useful not only in the garden, but in the house too, like in taking out the rubbish. Well, we can’t be bothered with all this recycling business, a box for this, a bag for that, but we are ok with stuffing the rubbish bin. Once I’m done with that, I say: we’ve seen how indispensable we men are in the garden and in the house, but there’s another area where our stuffing abilities can be put to good use…!

In summary, carve up the body of your speech into three and “Guide us, O,…” through it with signposts. Let me sign off on a personal note. I must confess I am hopeless in the garden and I moan incessantly about sorting out the rubbish, but, with regard to the third area of male usefulness, I do offer complimentary evening classes at weekends…!


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