How to Make an Effective Speech by: Victoria Richardson

When I was in high school, there was one activity I craved to do more than any other. Compete in speech and debate. It gave me an indescribable feeling that burst inside of me when 300 speech competitors clapped when my name was called. The feeling was a combination of humility, pride, and relief. The clap of 300 competitors was a signal that meant the gutwrenching, nerve-racking speeches I gave five times a day paid off and would walk across the stage to receive a reward or better, advance my speech to the national championship.

They say a huge fear in the human population is not dying, it’s public speaking. Yet it is one of the most necessary and valuable skills in life today. Public communication is used in practically every facet of life in almost every profession. Whether you need to communicate with customers, bosses, or employees, the skills of public speaking are used. The desire to speak competitively in front of judges is not a normal feeling to crave, but I and hundreds… thousands of other competitors did because we knew it would benefit us long after the feeling of winning a competition fleeted away.

Constructing and delivering a speech or any type of public address can be daunting, so here are 4 tips for making an effective speech.

1.)Know Your Purpose
Before you even begin any preparation for writing your speech you must decide who your speech is for and what you want your audience to receive from it. This might seem like a given but the more intentional your speech is, the more effective it will be. Ask yourself, what do you want your audience to get out of it? Do you want them to be informed, persuaded, inspired, or entertained? The answers to these questions will determine how your speech is delivered and how it is written. Know the intent of your speech and know your audience. A pastor preaching at a pulpit would give a speech differently than an employee giving a presentation or a teacher in a third-grade class.

2.)Tell The Audience Where You’re Going and How You’re Going To Get There
Road maps have won speech rounds. A road map is a stated outline of your speech. It gives the speech organization and clarity. You will lose an audience if they can’t understand what your saying or where your talk is leading them. For example, say “ today I’m going talk about 1, 2 and 3.” Then begin your speech. Here is a standard roadmap that is effective every time.

First, give your hook. This is a story or anecdote or joke at the beginning of your speech to grab the attention of your audience and build anticipation. It’s hard to lose an audience whose on the edge of their seat wanting to know what comes next.

Then tell them your main points and keep it simple. Don’t have Point 3 Subpoint B, this can get confusing easily. Instead say, “these are my 3 main points.” Then hint at your conclusion. This is similar to a thesis, it’s explaining what your audience is going to gain after your speech. Don’t give it all away though. Remember to build anticipation and maintain attention. In short, tell them what you’re going to say, then say it.

3. Make it Personal
Talk about yourself. You might think the audience wouldn’t enjoy hearing all about you but that’s not true. Why do you think people watch movies and read novels? Because they love the characters. Their love for their favorite characters motivates them to find out what happens to them. Making the audience and readers sit through a movie and a novel. Think of yourself as a character in a story, as your audience gets to know you on a personal level they will be engaged throughout your speech. It would be like a conversation between you and your audience. The best speeches are the ones that are relatable and let you get to know the speaker like you get to know a friend. Don’t use big words that sound artificial to impress your audience. Build credibility by being yourself.

3. Fake it Till You Make it
The greatest fear is public speaking. This is due to a lack of confidence and the fear of being judged. I use to speak with low confidence and everyone could tell. I despised the comment, “just have confidence.” The fact of the matter was I didn’t have confidence and couldn’t just turn it on. For many, to have confidence in something you have to have experience in it. I’m a pretty confident speaker now that I have all this experience under my belt. How did I get here though?

I pretended I had confidence, and that gave me just the right amount of courage to put my foot on the stage. When a speech was finished, I realized that I did not die and no one threw tomatoes at me. Next time I realized that I enjoy speaking, and the time after that I realized I’m actually good at it. In other words, pretend you’re confident and practice in front of an audience. This way you gain experience and then you’ll look up and see that you actually do have confidence.

It’s no secret that I am not a talkative person, some may say even shy. But building my public communication skills has given me the confidence to pursue anything I set my mind to. I am now comfortable in interviews and that has open up job opportunities. It is definitely an important and valuable skill.

Victoria originally posted this article on, and granted us permission to share her article. I had the privilege of coaching Victoria when she was in high school. It is fun to see her passion spill over to continuing to help people grow.