How to write a successful business speech? It’s extraordinary how many brilliant business people don’t get it right. And how simple it is to write something really compelling.
Whether the business speech is at an external conference, an internal meeting or a big pitch, there is a tendency for the speaker to:
- Begin slowly and safely (running through numbers, listing the agenda)
- Structure the speech around a series of ‘key points’ they wish to make (often rising well into double figures!)
- Carry on for too long
- Use phrases like “Another crucial point is …”
- Leave the audience wondering quite what they were meant to focus on or remember.
Getting it right is so simple and satisfying. Here are three tips to ensure you write a successful business speech:
Your main problem is that you know too much about your subject. More than any member of your audience will ever need to digest. So don’t start by listing all the things you need to say. Ask yourself a crucial question:
If there was one thing the audience could remember the following day, what would it be?
That tip alone has transformed the way a number of our clients think about their speeches.
Then put yourself in their shoes. What matters to them? What will hook them in? What’s worrying them? What will inspire? How can you use that understanding to ensure your key message will be heard and remembered?
That’s relevance in a nutshell. Switching the ‘features’ of your subject into ‘benefits’ that will be impossible for your audience to ignore.
So don’t fall into the trap of writing a speech structured around ‘who we are’, ‘what we do‘ and ‘where we’re based‘.
Switch it into “I know what you want to hear” or “I know what’s worrying you” or “If there’s one thing I’d love you to take away from this …”
Relevance alone isn’t enough. Particularly if your audience have heard it all before. You also need to speak to them in a new way.
Originality is easy. It means linking two different things together in a relevant way. Or starting with a story that brings your message to life. You could tell a story or explode a myth.
A client of mine flew to South Africa to give a speech about technological change in her industry. She approached it by talking her audience through her journey, illustrating it with how technology had effected each stage, from booking her ticket to choosing her accommodation. It allowed her to keep it light and self-deprecating, making serious points as ‘evidence’ in an argument rather than just listing them. She received the only standing ovation of the event.
Another client working in property told the story of an octogenarian living in a managed London apartment who shot pigeons with an air-gun from her bedroom window. Original, true and the audience literally couldn’t wait to hear what was going to come next!
Why would you want to speak for an hour if you can get your key message across in fifteen minutes.? There is ample proof that audiences begin to lose concentration somewhere between eight and ten minutes in. It’s no coincidence that TED talks are limited to 18.
Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. How many times have you sat down to listen to a senior executive giving a speech and wished they’d wrapped things up in half the time? Ever felt your mind wandering or started subtly checking emails? There’s just no excuse for wasting anyone’s time simply for the sake of filling a slot. Better to leave them inspired and wanting more.
Because there is nothing worse than a speaker who takes two minutes to introduce himself and then uses long, winding sentences like this one to make a point that could have been made much more clearly in far less time and using far fewer words.
Brevity’s not just about speaking for less time, it’s about using shorter, punchier sentences.
With time to pause.
To collect your thoughts.
And to really EMPHASISE key words.
If you have a long, technical passage …
… split it up like this …
… allowing the dots to give your audience time to absorb what you said last.
Try to avoid convoluted ways of explaining something simple. For example:
“The problem with playing three centre forwards is that each forward is based in the attacking third of the pitch which can leave a massive gap in midfield to be filled by less players, meaning that the defence gets pulled out of shape.”
Could be changed to:
“Selecting three forwards can leave holes behind them in midfield …
… that defenders are forced to cover.”
Finally, remember this sad truth:
A day after you have spoken, few of your audience will remember your key message, fewer still will have remembered your second message, and only a handful will remember more than one example you highlighted.
So see if you can compact a twenty minute speech into fifteen, and don’t worry about being too brief.
If you’d like some help writing a successful business speech, please give us a call. We’ll keep it relevant, brief and we’ll do our very best to be original!
Thanks for reading.