Reading time: 4 minutes Sep 25th 2010

Public speaking is an art form that many would love to master. Whether you need to give a best mans speech at your brothers wedding or you must present an idea at the monthly network meeting, public speaking is a skill many people seek. At present, since I’m busy just having launched the upcoming Charisma Bootcamp, I thought I’d share some thoughts on the matter.

Cicero was a politician of ancient Rome who is widely known for his prowess at public speaking and rhetoric. Having studied some of the greatest speakers from Greece at the time, Cicero became a powerful figure largely through his ability to inspire and move his audience. So, what are some of the keys we can learn from Cicero and his skills of oratory.

Cicero explained that there were five elements important to consider when creating a speech and making an argument. They are:

1) Invention
2) Arrangement
3) Style
4) Memory
5) Delivery

Let’s go through each one and explore how we can use this system.

Invention:

This is exactly what it sounds like. The first key is to ask yourself the question what is the goal of your speech? When you create anything, that is a good question to ask. Once you identify what you want, the next step is to list out all the different ideas or concepts that might help you make this happen. It is a good idea to figure out what is the message you want to deliver to the audience.

Arrangement:

This is how you structure your speech. This is broken up into Introduction, Main Body and Conclusion. Your Introduction should introduce your message, establish your credibility and connect with the audience. It should also capture their attention from the outset. You main body should share fact, evidence, stories, examples using both logic and emotion to influence your audience. You should acknowledge any arguments which counteract your one and dismiss them using logic and reason. The conclusion should then drill home your message and leave them with a good feeling connected to it.

Style:

This is how you write or prepare your speech. The words you use must fulfill the following criteria. They must be simply put, clear, vivid, fit with the expectations of and in the same language as the audience and lastly, the words must sound good out loud. When you read out what you have written you will get a good sense of what sounds good and what doesn’t.

Memory:

This reflects how you manage to remember the key concepts. It is a good idea to practice creating hooks that you attach each idea to. This means try to fit your speech into a story or connect the main concepts to a mind map or picture. This allows you to use a device to immediately remind you of what the next part of the speech is. Often powerpoint or keynote can suffice here.

Delivery:

This is how you actually deliver the speech. Your facial expressions, eye contact and use of your voice are key factors in presenting your speech powerfully. When you tell a story of something that made you cringe, cringe when you talk about it. During your speech keep making eye contact with the audience and stay a few seconds on each of them. Use variety in your tone of voice and pace of speech. Make sure that when you make an important point you slow down and emphasize the point.

So, let’s take the example of making a best man speech.

Invention:

What are the main goals of the speech?
Who do you have to thank?
Who do you have to complement?
What do you want the audience to know and feel?
How do you want to present your relationship with the groom?
How do you want the groom to feel?
What are the best stories you have of your time spent with the groom?

Arrangement:

What joke or funny story can you start with?
How do you want to introduce yourself?
How can you best connect with the audience? What will they relate to?
Where will you do the ‘thank you’ part of the speech?
Which stories will you tell? (usually picking 2 or 3 is perfect)
What order will you tell the stories in?
How will you finish the speech? (sentimental or funny)

Style:

Is the vast majority of your speech something that everyone can relate to?
What do you need to explain in order for everyone to understand the stories?
When you choose the stories to tell, how can you make them more vivid?
When you read the speech aloud, does it sound good?
How can you make it sound better?

Memory:

Use cue cards if you need to with the main keys of the speech written as words to remind you.
How can you link the stories together so that each one reminds you of the next?
How can you remind yourself of all the different people to thank?

Delivery:

How can you tell the stories in the best possible way?
What accents can you do or impersonate to really make the stories more vivid?
How can you include the crowd on any of the jokes?
How can you use variety in your tone of voice to make it more entertaining?


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