The key to presenting the perfect speech is preparation and practice. World leaders don’t just stand up and make up a speech on the spot - they carefully prepare beforehand. They even employ people to write their speeches, although remember, this is not an option at school! Speech is basically an oral discourse. But students should also know how to write a speech.

An effective speech needs to: 
  • Use the English language skillfully - as you have time to prepare your speech in advance, you can show off your English language skills and vocabulary.
  • Be memorable - former Prime Minister Tony Blair was famous for making a speech that included the phrase “Education, education, education”. This use of repetition made the speech memorable and helped his audience identify his key point.
  • Make people think - you may have heard of Martin Luther King who repeated the phrase “I have a dream” when he campaigned for equal rights for black Americans. This was a speech designed to inspire and connect with his audience.

Your listeners will switch off if they can’t hear you. Use a loud and clear voice, and if you’re unsure if your audience can hear you at the back - just ask “Can you hear me at the back?”

If you speak too quickly, you won’t be clear. If you speak too slowly, your audience is likely to go to sleep. Vary your pace for effect and use dramatic pauses where appropriate.

Pitch and tone
If you speak like a robot, in the same boring tone, your audience will quickly drift off. Speak naturally and use the pitch of your voice to show your emotions.

Facial expression
You don’t have to gurn at your audience! But if you don’t look like you’re interested in what you have to say, your audience won’t be either.

Gesture and movement
Again, keep it natural, but if you stand like a statue, you won’t be very interesting to watch or listen to. On the other hand, too much arm flapping and leg hopping will distract your audience from the point you’re trying to make.

Visual aids
Use them, but use them effectively. They need to be big enough to see, interesting to look at and relevant to what you are talking about. Don’t be tempted to make a big poster to hide behind!

Choose words that are interesting, descriptive and appropriate to your audience. Don’t baffle your audience with jargon or slang or lots of big words that are too difficult for anyone else to understand.

If it’s appropriate to your audience and task, try to use Standard English. You don’t have to be too formal or put on a silly accent, just speak in a way that is easy for everyone to understand.

Getting over nerves
Most people feel nervous about speaking formally in front of other people.

Here are some tips to help you conquer your nerves:

  • Write your speech out in full and read it several times - this will help you gain confidence in the content.
  • Prepare small cards with key points of your speech. By now you should be familiar with your speech so these points will help you keep to your structure. Avoid the temptation to read your speech in full - the idea is to test your speaking skills, not your reading skills!
  • Practice your performance before the real thing. Try practicing at home on your own, and then in front of family or friends. If you have visual aids, be sure to practice using them.
  • On the day, take a deep breath, smile and try to enjoy it.