It’s no secret that great content starts with great ideas. Relax, put on some music, and get out a notebook or sticky notes. Write down all the ideas on your topic that come to mind.
This includes everything you want to mention, i.e. stories you want to bring up or takeaways you want to give the audience. Your notebook or sticky notes may look like a mess, but this is part of the process.
Next go online and search for facts, statistics, etc. about possible topics and see if anything stands out. This stage is all about getting ideas and possible topics down on paper!
Creating a Balance
Now that you have all of your ideas and can start to find some sort of structure (check out the speech structure page if you need help!) it’s important to make sure that your speech is not too much of one element of speaking.
You may have heard of ethos, logos, and pathos before as key elements of persuasion. All three, however, play a part in every type of speech and not just those that are persuasive. Speeches should not be incredibly fact-heavy or simply be an emotional appeal and must use all three elements.
Logos, or an appeal to logic, is best described as using factual rhetoric in a speech. If you make a claim, have evidence that leads the audience to follow a similar train of thought.
Ensure that the structure of the presentation is easy to follow and makes sense. Logos is necessary in all speeches as logical appeal will ensure your audience can follow.
Ethos, or an appeal to ethics, is about creating a connection with the audience by establishing shared experiences or things in common. Use both emotional and factual appeal to give yourself legitimacy.
For example, if I am pitching a new product I may describe ventures I’ve worked on in the past as well as problems everyone has that the product aims to solve.
Pathos, or an appeal to emotion, stimulates your audience through feelings of pain, happiness, nostalgia, etc. People often make important decisions based on emotion and it can be powerful, so use it wisely.
Emotion often plays into a speech in the form of a personal narrative or a touching story about a third party.
A key method in helping people understand your points and resonate with your speech is creating contrast or an opposing perspective to the one you’re portraying. If I am selling a product, describing the way things currently are for a consumer without my product would create a contrast to when I describe my product.
This places a larger focus on the benefits of my product and exacerbates the audience’s need to buy it. There’s no need to contrast every idea – only the ones that you really wish to emphasize. Next, for your most important ideas, think of ways you could contrast them in order to make them really stand out.
Attaching Meaning to Ideas
As you come across each idea or topic in your speech, there is a certain way you feel about it. Maybe this point is in your speech because it is important to you or perhaps you really think it ties together what you’re trying to say. Either way, without attaching meaning to these ideas your audience will not feel the same way about them that you do.
First look at an idea or topic and ask yourself, “How do I want people to feel when they hear this?” As far as content is concerned, you can generate these feelings by attaching a (personal or made up) story to certain topics. If you want to motivate a startup to compete against a large corporation, tell a ‘David and Goliath’ story.
Like with contrast, don’t swamp a speech with stories and ensure the stories that are told are both concise and relevant. Also, don’t be afraid to deviate from the topic you’re discussing as long as the message is translatable. Just because you’re discussing business doesn’t mean your speech has to be about a business, especially if what you’re trying to convey is something universal i.e. “the underdog can overcome all odds.”