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Speech Basics

How to Prepare the Address

There is a formula attributed to an old Negro preacher which is worth remembering because it sets the pattern for most speeches:

First, I tells 'em what I'm goin' to tell 'em; then I tells 'em; then I tells 'em what I told 'em.

The particular occasion will determine the time, the formalities, the amount of preparation, and the length of the presentation; but every speech, however short or long, has an


The BODY of the speech is usually worked out first.

As you begin to prepare what you are going to say, ask yourself these three questions

What is the subject, not just the title, of my speech?

What particular points (not more than four) do I want to bring out?

Why are these points directed at this audience?

With this basic information before you, write down all the information at your command to support the points you have chosen. Also write down any arguments you know of which are opposed to your proposition and prepare a rebuttal.

Take as much time as possible for thinking out your arguments at this stage. If there is time, take a week or two for reflection- it will pay big dividends.

Arrange all this material in order for presentation. Your original points, each with its supporting material, must be arranged in a logical sequence. The discussion of each point should lead naturally into the next.

Begin the refining process by measuring all your statements against your answers to the question "Why are these points directed at this audience? "

See that all your statements are within the understanding of your audience. If you are not certain they will be understood, delete them or rewrite them in a simpler form.

Check for double meanings. Guard against unfamiliar big words and "jargon" (the special vocabulary used by people thoroughly familiar with a particular subject, but meaningless to others).

Remove any statements which, on second thought, appear uncouth or in poor taste.

THEN, if it is your first speech, write it all out, not as you would write an article for publication, but conversationally as you would talk.

Now you have the BODY of your speech. To this must be added an INTRODUCTION and a CONCLUSION.

Many successful speakers prepare the conclusion before the introduction.

A good conclusion might be a summary of what has been said, a challenge to action, an appeal for further consideration, an illustration to emphasize the main points, or any combination of these. After you have decided on the form you wish to use, work it out so that it ends with a strong, positive statement. Don't weaken the climax with any further words, not even "thank you" unless you have asked for permission to speak.

When you have completed the development of the body, and the climax or conclusion, you are ready to think about the introduction.

The introduction should be short, and it has two purposes. It should put the audience at ease, and it should let them know what the speech is about. For beginners it is wise to write out and memorize the first two or three sentences.This assures a confident beginning. Many experienced speakers use a short phrase or sentence which the listeners may think of as the topic. 'This is included in the introduction and may be repeated during the course of the speech.

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