We all want to make an impact. Ensuring our speeches make an impression is the most important goal of most speakers – after all, if we don’t make ourselves memorable, there is little reason in speaking in the first place. If you’re instantly forgotten, you may as well have stayed at home.
Your task is to communicate your message, and make it stick. The good news is that there are plenty of techniques to ensure your speech has impact. These variously involve tricks of movement and gesture, and rhetoric and voice. The most impactful speech will involve all four.
For example, an impactful sentence might fuse a voice of rising pitch delivering the rhetorical technique of repetition – “education, education, education!” – with a decisive gesture and a clear movement from one point of the stage to another. This quartet of methods draws the clearest attention possible to a key moment of the speech – and will ensure it is remembered.
The most important messages in your presentation need to stand out. That is very far from saying that the rest of your speech must be dull – of course, your every moment on stage needs to engage the audience. Rather, your take-home messages need to have a little bit of extra magic.
Sign-posting is key to this: your speech should be structured in such a way that you naturally lead up to, and clearly frame, its key moments. As you go through your remarks, you should place clues along the way, indicating to your audience where you’re headed – and why.
This careful handholding will prime your audience for the most important messages when they arrive, and when they do , the tried and tested tricks of rhetoric will help you to make them count.
Think like a writer: use alliteration and assonance (stringing together words with similar consonant and vowel sounds respectively). Use repetition – most especially the rule of three – to emphasise your most important points. And employ spicy, memorable metaphors or similes to make your points accessible and clear.
Once you’ve crafted your words, speak them well. Use pace and pitch and volume wisely: slow down and enunciate so that the most important things you say are clear. Raise your voice – though don’t shout! – so that people sit up and listen. Capture their attention with how you speak as much as with what you say.
By approaching your key messages as the peaks in your speech, you can build to them more clearly – and ensure they stand out from the rest of your speech more prominently. By making the most of these moments, you’ll have the impact you want – and get the audience reaction you need.