Several studies report the audience’s retention of a speech or lecture ranges from a measly 10% to 30%. So if your talk is 20 minutes long, they’ll probably remember about two to six minutes of it -- if you’re lucky. It’s not even a continuous two minutes because people mostly remember snapshots and random quotes. Our world is full of so many distractions, so in order for your audience to retain the information that you are delivering, you first have to break through their natural distractions. You don’t want your audience to just forget about the speech you spent weeks to prepare, right? What good is a well-received lecture if they forget about it as soon as they step out of the room?
Here I share with you the lessons I learned from speaking in different events.
3 Ingredients of an Unforgettable Speech
1. You Know What You’re Talking about, Don’t Give them Leave to Doubt It
What’s the first and probably most common objection that comes to your mind when you hear someone give a lecture or speech?
“Who in the world are you?”
“Do you really know what you’re talking about?”
“How are you qualified to give a talk on this topic?”
Alright, perhaps your internal speech is a bit politer than this, or at least proportional to the incredulity you feel towards the speaker’s point. The point is, you wouldn’t believe; much less take advice, from someone unless you know they’re credible.
Talk about your qualifications and accomplishments early on in your speech. Insert it after your topic’s outline. Unless you’re a keynote speaker who’ll be introduced before coming on stage, you need to do this for yourself.
2. A Logical Structure
Our brain is wired to make sense of things through structure. For instance, we make sense of a movie through a beginning, middle (climax), and ending. A good speech has a logical structure, too.
Studies show people remember up to 40% more of speeches and lectures presented in a structured manner, compared to those presented in an impromptu, somewhat free-form monologues.
But what structure should your speech take after?
Speech, presentation and lecture structure examples:
- Past - Present - Future: Excellent for talks dealing with a timeline or procedure. It can be used for commencement speeches, as speaker usually touches briefly on their past (humble beginnings in their Alma Mater), what they’ve done since graduating, and then finish off with their accomplishments (i.e. the future graduates can look forward to). You can see some examples here.
- Cause and Effect: Good for showing the logic of what happens if you do X. This structure is often used in talks about climate change (i.e. What happens if we don’t conserve water?)
- Comparisons: This structure is often used to show the advantage of one side versus another. For instance, the pros and cons of organic food.
3. Use the “Awwww” Factor to Your Advantage
Even if you let your facts and ideas make the point for you, it’s not wise to neglect your audience’s emotional reaction during your talk.
Remember, most people forget what you say during a presentation. But they’re not likely to forget how you made them feel. The best speakers, those who can get their audience to support their cause, spread the word and actually do something after leaving the room, are those who shape their speeches according to what they want their audience to feel.
For instance, at a keynote speech for a fundraising event for disabled kids, a speaker can play to the audience’s “awwwww,” sobs, and other tear-jerker reactions when they see different-abled kids happily playing in their wheelchairs. You might think it’s manipulative, but it’s all part of the speech. It’s the same strategy politicians use to make you care about their campaign.
Time to Craft Your Memorable Speech
When you’re crafting your next speech, remember that you’re not just speaking for yourself. Effective speakers know their audience -- their desires, goals, problems and insecurities. Use this knowledge to make your speech more powerful and relatable. So, if you want to deliver a memorable speech, use these simple strategies.