Building a Framework for Your Speech

For some people one of the first challenges that they face when creating, building or preparing a speech is how to start, how to lay a foundation, what works best for a framework and how to package it up all nice and neatly.  The answers to most of these questions can be found within the pages of your Competent Communicator Manual.  In order to gain full benefit from the Educational Program you are always encouraged to read the instructions for each speech project thoroughly.  If you are using the manual as intended by the time you have completed all ten projects it should be worn out!  In addition, here are some simple rules, ideas, basic principles and techniques that you can apply when you are preparing a speech.

Marshall Northcott, Division G Governor
Marshall Northcott, Division G Governor, Founder’s District

Point 1

Always begin with the end in mind.  Before you begin writing your speech write down one or a maximum of two sentences that describe and/or summarize what you are attempting to accomplish by delivering your message.  (This establishes a primary goal that you can work towards and follow like a roadmap as you build the content.  You might even be able to provide this sentence(s) to the Toastmaster so that he/she can use it for your introduction).  If you invest the time to complete this step you will save a great deal of preparation time and the quality of your content will improve dramatically!  As you are adding ideas and pulling information together every step of the way you can ask yourself, “Does this fit with the message that I want to deliver?”

Point 2

Many of the speaking principles that you will learn as a Toastmaster fall under what is referred to as the “Rule of Three”.  See the next point for an example.

Point 3

When Delivering Your Speech

  1. Tell them (the audience) where you want to go. (Opening)
  2. Take them (the audience) there. (Body)
  3. Tell them (the audience) where you’ve been. (Closing)

Point 4

The average person speaks at 125 words per minute.  When preparing your speech it is always recommended that you write it out.  All computer word programs have a “Word Count” feature.  Follow this formula when preparing in order to calculate your timing.  Each speech has a two minute variance between minimum and maximum time allotted.  Therefore for a 5 to 7 minute speech multiply 125 by 6 in order to get your approximate word count.  (6 minutes X 125 words = 750 words).  When you practice you may discover you speak either faster or slower than this and at that point you can adjust accordingly.  You will also need to adjust your word count if you are delivering humor in order to allow time for the listener to absorb and then react to your jokes and/or punch lines.

Point 5

  1. Opening should be 10% of your speech. (Using the math above that would mean 75 words)
  2. Body should be 80% of your speech. (Using the math above that would mean 600 words)
  3. Close should be 10% of your speech. (Using the math above that would mean 75 words)

The body of your speech should include three key points, stories or ideas that support your message.  (Rule of three)  Following the formula above that means each point would or could be approximately 200 words in length.

Point 6

For maximum effect it is always recommended that at the beginning of your speech you somehow grab the audience’s attention or engage them.  Here are some typical methods used to accomplish this objective:

  1. Ask a relevant question that pulls the audience in. (Ask for a show of hands or a response)
  2. Offer a relevant quote.
  3. Use a statistic.
  4. Share a short story.
  5. Tell a brief joke.
  6. Reference a current event.
  7. Make an observation.
  8. You can also make a silent dramatic gesture or one that is tied to your opening message.

Point 7

Ideas for Your Ice Breaker – do what is most comfortable, make it as personal or factual as you like.

  • Three defining (ah ha) moments in your life.
  • Who you were known as in the past, how you are known as today, how you would like to be known as in the future.
  • Something personal, something professional and something educational.
  • Three adventures, vacations, activities, hobbies, interests that define who you are.
  • Your connection to three places, towns, cities, countries.
  • Something serious, something fun and something audacious.

Point 8

Don’t over complicate the process!  All too often people join Toastmasters because their focus is on improving their communication skills (i.e. public speaking, presenting etc.).  Then they get caught up in trying to create speeches that are very involved and require way too much thought, research, preparation time etc.  People who do this often become overwhelmed because of the amount of dedication and effort required to create and prepare for a speech that is going to wow the audience.  If your number one goal is to get more comfortable as a speaker and presenter then do yourself a huge favor and talk about subject matter that you already know about.  This will drastically reduce the amount of thinking required, your research, preparation time, frustration and stress.  Once you feel you have accomplished your goal of greater comfort then you can stretch yourself and write and deliver speeches that are absolute epiphanies.

I learned all of the information that I shared above as a result of my involvement in and execution of what I have been taught as a Toastmaster.  It is up to you whether or not you choose to follow any or all of these ideas and suggestions.  There may be times when you decide that they will work with what you are attempting to accomplish and there may be other times when you decide to be original and break the mold!

Marshall Northcott, Division G Governor, Founder’s District

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9 thoughts on “Building a Framework for Your Speech

  1. This is awesome, Marshall! Very thorough! I wish I had seen this when I was starting out! I will be sure to share this. Thanks so much!

  2. You are welcome Marie-Noelle! This is something that I prepared when I rolled out a Mentoring Program at my home club and Mentored the Mentors! I’ve used this information in many one-on-one sessions with new Members it really helps them to get on the fact track with their progress. It’s all about setting people up for success.

  3. Good ideas Marshall. I personally think that asking a question is not the most engaging way to start a speech, but it is an easy thing to do for beginners. Personally I start writing a speech by writing the thesis statement and 3 body points. Then I expand on the points, and write the intro/conclusion last

  4. Thank you for you feedback Shelly! I will say this, for my personal style of presenting and in the arena that I tend to focus most of my presentation time, it has been my experience that opening with a question can be an extremely effective way to make a connection with the audience. As a very experienced, well paid professional speaker, presenter and trainer I have often been complimented by individuals that I have presented to when using this technique to kick off a talk. Asking the most appropriate question for the occasion can build rapport and empathy. It can establish credibility and make your message come across more sincere and genuine because in the eyes of the audience you have asked a question that pulls them right into your message. If you ask a question regarding something that the audience can identify with then it can remove barriers or resistance that they may initially have to you or your message. In their mind you get it! You understand them. This may or may not be effective for some speakers or they may prefer to use other approaches. I can fully appreciate that. From my perspective it is always best to have many techniques in your toolbox which allows you to draw upon the right tool for each task.

    • I totally agree with you Marshall. I find this has maximum effect and use it not only as an opening but sometimes in a conclusion, so you can give your audience something to ponder over.

      Thank you for sharing your information as it has come in handy at the beginning of the Toastmaster year.

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