What Makes A Speech A Good Speech?

What criteria should we use to judge a speech?
What criteria should we use to judge a speech?
Image Credit: Pat Guiney

As is the case with most speakers, we both give and end up listening to many different speeches. After a time, they can all start to blur together. However, because of the importance of public speaking it is our responsibility to listen to each and every speech that we have an opportunity to hear. Our goal should be to evaluate each speech – what is the speaker doing right? What could they be doing better? This all leads to a fundamental issue that is related to speaking: just exactly how should we go about evaluating speeches?

Does The Speaker Have A Clear Message?

When you are listening to a speech, you’d like to be able to understand why the speaker has gone to the trouble of giving the speech. What this means is that you want to be able to identify a clear message or theme to their speech. You want to hear that they have a single unified point or challenge. All too often, this is not the case. The speaker has done their homework and has collected a great deal of information on what they are going to be talking about. Unfortunately, they are now going to share all of that information with you.

When a speaker does this, they are effectively doing a dump of all of their data on to you. The result of this is that their speech really does not have a central point. Instead, the speech that is presented simply contains a collection of partially connected details. As you sit there and listen to a speech that is given in this fashion, you’ll be left asking yourself “Why do I have to listen to this?”

Does The Speech Hold Your Attention?

All speakers know that what we want to be able to do when we are giving a speech is to grab on to our audience’s attention and find a way to hold on to it. That’s why when we are listening to someone else’s speech, we need to determine if they are doing a good job of holding on to your attention. The good news for the speaker is that if they have found a way to present a well-supported, central idea then they should be able to hold on to your attention.

If the speaker makes the mistake and tries to simply unload a great deal of research that they have performed, then they won’t be able to hold on to your attention. Additionally, if they have a poorly organized central idea then they are going to end up losing your interest. Just having a central idea or theme will not be enough to hold an audience’s attention. The speaker is going to have to also both effectively support and then develop it.

When a speaker relies too much on PowerPoint slides they run the risk of losing their audience. When too many slides are used, the speaker may find themselves being driven away from their central theme. They may find themselves spending too much time talking about details that don’t really matter that much to their audience. If the speaker makes the mistake of reading their slides to their audience, then they have almost guaranteed that their audience will be lost to them.

Did The Speaker Have A Good Delivery?

Good content is critical to delivering a good speech. However, it’s not enough. The speaker also has to have good delivery. The delivery of a speech has the ability to enhance the message of your speech. So what makes up a good delivery of a speech? A good delivery not only includes emphasizing the right words and phrases that are most important to the speaker, but it also includes the effective use of cadence and rhetorical devices.

The best speeches seem to be filled with words that just roll off the tongue. Using these tools allows a speaker to have a good delivery and fully express their thoughts and emotions in the speech that they are giving. Every speech needs to have this in some form. A good delivery provides a speaker with a foundation that they can build on in order to create a speech that will be remembered long after they are done speaking.

What All Of This Means For You

As speakers we are often presented with an opportunity to listen to many different speeches. The question that needs to be running through our heads when we hear these speeches is “how are they doing?” In order to be able to judge someone else’s speech’s ability to deliver the benefits of public speaking, we need to take the time to understand what needs to go into making a good speech.

Every good speech needs to have a clear message. There is always the possibility that the speaker is going to show up and dump all of the information that they collected while building their speech on you. If they do this, then they’ll quickly lose you. A speaker needs to have the ability to hold on to your attention. If they present a well-supported idea, then they’ll have your attention. If they do poor job or organize it badly, then they’ll lose you. Finally, every speaker needs to have a good delivery. This is how they are going to make you want to hear what they are saying. They need to emphasize the right places and use the verbal tools that will hold your attention.

Not every speech that we hear is going to be a good speech. However, we’d like to be able to hear a speech and determine if it is a good speech. In order to be able to do that we need to understand what it takes for a speech to be a good speech. Using the criteria that we’ve discussed, we can now judge for ourselves if a speech that we are listening to is any good.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that a good speech can contain multiple main points?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

As speakers we often get a chance to hear other speakers present. Sometimes we’ll be memorized when a speaker puts on a show that captivates their audience. They are able to deliver a powerful speech for a number of reasons. Perhaps they have mastered the art of using body language. Maybe they used props that caught our attention. However, all too often it can be easy to get dazzle by things that are on the surface of a speech and end up overlooking how a great speech is really built: using words. The good news for us is that if we want to create a powerful speech, all we have to do is to pick the right words.