4 Key Tips for Preparing a Speech

If you want your speech to be lively and appealing, these are four key steps you need to apply as you prepare your speech. If you write a speech before delivering, use these four tips as a part of editing your first draft. If you prefer to speak from an outline, practice your talk keeping these principles in mind.

1.  Use Short Words

People find short words easier to understand than long words; especially when spoken. Short words can carry more force in a statement. Even Shakespeare knew the benefit of short words: “Out, out damned spot.” “I come to bury Ceaser, not to praise him.” “Alas poor Yorick, I knew him, Horatio.”

For the most part, use words you would use in everyday conversation. Review your draft and replace as many long words as you can, with short words.

2. Use Short Sentences

Short sentences have the same effect on understanding as short words. Make your sentences short and to the point.

This is generally easy to fix. After preparing a draft of your speech, go back and break the long sentences into shorter parts.

3. Use Personal Words

Words such as: you, me I, they, we will make a talk more direct and add some informality. Audiences respond to the personal much better. They want to know how what you are saying applies to them.

Instead of asking in general, “How would a person respond?” make it specific. Ask, “How would you respond?”

4. Save the Humour for the End

No, not the end of the speech, but the end of the preparation. Unless you’re performing stand-up comedy, the jokes are secondary to your speech. I’ve listened to too many speeches where the jokes did not support the point of the talk. They seemed to be thrown in because somewhere along the line, the speaker heard, “good speakers tell jokes.”

Make sure that you have laid the foundation of your speech and are covering all you need to say. Then, go back and add any appropriate humour to enhance your presentation.

Four simple keys. Apply them as you prepare and edit your speech and you find audiences keen to listen to what you have to say.

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Tips for leaving a good out-of-office message

Whether it’s time to get away from the office on vacation or business takes us on the road, the influx of email or phones messages rarely stops.

A little bit of preparation before you leave will ensure less to worry about on return. A good out-of-office message is a must. A well-prepared message can go a long way to decrease the backlog of messages waiting for you when you get back to work.

A good out of office message has three parts:

  1. Dates of your absence. Let the contact know when you are out of the office. It helps them decide what their next step is going to be; whether to wait for your return or to direct their request elsewhere.
  2. Reason for absence. I like to let my contacts know whether I am on a business trip or vacation. A business trip means I am connected to the office in some way and might be able to respond to a message. If I’m on vacation, I’m out of contact range.
  3. Who to contact in your absence. I try and leave contact information for alternate contacts when I am out of the office; a minimum of one up to as many as are needed.

Just because you leave an out-of-office message, it doesn’t mean that you have communicated to the sender. There are three things you should keep in mind when composing the message. It should be:

  • Complete: give all the detail necessary. Don’t say, “I’m out of the office” or “I’m gone for two weeks.” Make it precise. “I am away from the office starting July 1 and will be back July 15. The same applies to your alternate contacts. Let the sender know who to contact and how to get a hold of them.
  • Concise: keep it as short as possible while still making it complete. Use short, bulleted phrases. People don’t want to be able to read a novel during your out-of-office reply.
  • Clear: make sure it’s easy to understand. Don’t use abbreviations, job titles or internal jargon that will not be understood by everyone sending you a message.

Rather that coming back to a packed e-mail in-box and a full voice-mail box, spend a few minutes crafting a useful out-of-office message and people will be able to redirect or park tasks appropriately.