Making that crucial speech

Last Updated on Friday, 14 January, 2022 at 11:14 am by Andre Camilleri

David Bullock

A good speech can rescue a boring meeting; a bad speech can be excruciating

At this time of year, many of us are called upon to make a festive speech to a captive audience. That is a real privilege and an opportunity to both serve the audience and to be appreciated for the contribution you can make. Some will dread this so let me offer some practical advice.

Don’ts: Avoid unseemly jokes, embarrassing anyone, getting inebriated, religion, politics and slides that amount to “Death by Powerpoint”.

Do’s: Smile, keep eye contact, ensure your content is appropriate. Speak clearly to be heard. Use your voice effectively and use simple and correct language. Dress appropriately. And remember to thank those who should be thanked.

Tips for Success

  1. Preparation and planning

Ask yourself why you were invited. Are you there as a friend, an expert or purely due to seniority? Who will be in the audience? What is their knowledge or level of expertise?

Check out the location and the acoustics. Decide where will be the best places to speak from. Gauge the volume required, allowing for ambient and traffic noise.

  • Purpose, structure and content

Check the purpose and decide the objective of your speech, for example, to help build harmony and goodwill or maybe to give a memorable farewell to a much-loved colleague. Write down key points to be made and any special phrases. Practise voice projection and gestures. Eliminate unnecessary padding and concentrate on a few key points. Plan a good ending.

  • Delivery
  • Visualisaton. Self-belief is enormously helpful so visualise your speech being successful, perhaps with a standing ovation. Close your eyes and see your success. If you can do this from the point of delivery it will be more powerful.
  • Voice. Apart from how loud you need to be, make sure that you modulate your voice, use appropriate pitch and tonality, as well as speed and eloquent pauses to hold attention.
  • Gestures. Your physiology is more important than the words you use. Check your appearance, dress, uniform, as to whether it enhances your authority or detracts. Appropriate gestures can also enhance your message and retain engagement.
  • Prompts. Writing out parts of your speech can help clarify the best way to convey your message and make it memorable. Certainly it helps your confidence and delivery if you write out a Prompt Card with key words or phrases.
  • Maintain eye contact. This is the most important tool in the delivery of your speech. Do not read a speech as this prevents you maintaining good eye contact. You need to cultivate sensory acuity so that you quickly pick up how well you are holding the interest of your audience or losing it.
  • Practise; but practising on your spouse can often be destructive. Practise on your dog – they give you unconditional love.
  • If you need more help get a speech coach.
  • Enjoy it – that’s contagious!

Widely travelled, David Bullock ( has lived and worked in Europe, North America, Southern Africa and the Far East, as well as driving overland from London to Cape Town via Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia and Rhodesia. He has worked for UniLever and BP, as well as running one of the largest and most successful FMCG companies in S. E. Asia. His experience as a public speaker includes addressing major political conferences, being Educational V-P with Toastmasters International and winning numerous awards for impromptu public speaking.

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