Do you want to know my top five writing and speaking tips? Do you want a step-by-step guide to improving your presentations? Read Matt’s book Create a Better Presentation Quickly.
Below are the articles in the How to Create the Best-Speech-of-Your-Life series. Deliver a wedding speech, a job pitch, or a keynote people will never forget. If you’re deep into speechcraft, these articles are for you. If not, read the book.
Best Speech Articles
Click the links below for each article. The text after the link is a brief description of what you’ll learn. These articles are part of an in-depth series on How to Create the Best-Speech-of-Your-Life. If you want quicker speech upgrades, read the book.
First Draft – just write, audience identification, writing habit
Second Draft – purpose, theme, structure, editing
Edit – cut from one page to one paragraph to one sentence
Upgrades – engaging intro, ask questions, memorable, storytelling, humor, powerful conclusion
Evolve – example of a speech changing over time
Get Feedback – finding a mentor, mindset, process
Act – eye contact, movement, gestures, vocal variety
Practice – record audio/video, empty room rehearsal, schedule
Perform * – variables, nerves, adapting, flow
* Articles without links will be posted later once available.
These videos will cover topics in the articles above and the book. Most are five to twenty-minutes long. Videos contain multiple topics. Watch a five-minute chunk if you’re time-constrained to pick up one way to upgrade your presentation.
- Create the Space – Watch my most entertaining story that changed my life in just seven minutes. Read the articles to learn more on the importance of listening in work and relationships.
- Write fast, edit slow – Learn how to quickly communicate using sticky notes or how to edit down with progressive cuts in seven minuts.
This list contains the best book, articles, or other materials I’ve found for learning to become a better public speaker. Not all are directly about speech, but when applied they will grow your skills in producing memorable messages.
- The Writer’s Journey: Mythical Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
- Draft No. 4 by John McPhee
- Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- The Elements of Style by William Strunk
- 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing by Gary Provost
- The Pyramid Principle: Logic in Thinking and Writing by Barbara Minto
- TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking by Chris Anderson
- Words That Work by Dr. Frank Luntz
- Don’t Think of An Elephant! by George Lakoff
- The Creative Habit by Twyla Twarp
- Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
- On Writing by Stephen King
- Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon
- Contagious by Jonah Berger
- Deep Work by Cal Newport
- Perennial Seller by Ryan Holiday
- Write Simply
- Use ordinary words and simple sentences.
- Make your ideas leap into people’s heads.
- Create less friction to absorb and deeply engage with your ideas.
- Write your first draft fast, then edit, edit, edit for days.
- Learning from another Graham article: write like you’re speaking to an audience – meaning don’t waste their time. Cut what’s not necessary.
- Doing a TED Talk: The Full Story
- World Championship Speeches – detailed analysis
- Good leadership is about communicating why
- Read Ch. 1 of Matt’s book for more on why to communicate why
- Six techniques of clear and compelling speech
- Distill your message to fifteen words
- Your audience: Who are they? How do they view the world or the situation? What do they already know about you and your topic? What will they benefit from listening to you talk?
- Your purpose: Why are you speaking to them? What do you want them to know? Why is it important? What are you trying to get them to do?
- Fifteen words: As a result of my [talk], they will understand [this], and respond by [doing that].
- One sentence that will make you more effective
- Similar to fifteen words article
- What’s the one sentence that explains your big idea?
- 12 Life Lessons From Mathematician and Philosopher Gian-Carlo Rota
- What can you learn from a mathematician about speaking? If he’s a master lecturer from MIT like Rota, the first four lessons in this article.
- Every lecture should make only one point
- Never run over time
- Relate to your audience
- Give people something to take home
- Plain Language – I’m not advocating for using plain language all the time. Most of us most of the time could use more plain language to help people understand us more clearly. More plainly, our speech is too complicated. Make it simpler.
- Ten Rules from Words That Work – “It’s not what you say. It’s what people hear…and see.”
- Simplicity: use small words
- Brevity: use short sentences
- Credibility is as important as philosohphy
- Consistency matters
- Novelty: offer something new
- You want to hear them think “Wow, I never thought about it that way.”
- Sound and texture matter
- “A string of words that have the same first letter, the same sound, the same syllabic cadence is more memorable than a random collection of sounds.”
- Speak aspirationally
- “Message need to be what people want to hear…”
- Imagine using the word “imagine” more
- Ask a question
- Provide context and explain relevance
- Give people the “why”
- How to Tell Interesting Stories People Remember Forever
- What did you (or the main character) see, hear, feel, fear, get excited about?
- The best stories are emotive and sensory. They reel you in with details.
- We listen when we see ourselves through the storyteller’s eyes.
- How to find your voice
- Yawn and stretch, roll your tongue around your mouth in front of your front top and bottom teeth – clockwise and anticlockwise. Let out gentle sighs, allowing your breath and sound to emanate as if from your lowest ribs.
- To begin connecting to your breath, either lie down, sit with your buttocks towards the edge of the seat and feet flat on the floor, or stand with feet hip-width apart. Next, place one or both hands on your lower abdomen – thumb(s) on your navel, fingers gently spread in a fan with your little fingers at the bottom. Now, assess your shoulder blades, allowing them to sink downwards and your shoulders to relax. Next, blow out some air (but don’t use your voice yet) using your mouth to make a ‘fff’ sound. You’ll feel your navel move inwards. Once you feel that your breath is traveling low, try inhaling a silent count of four and exhaling on the ‘fff’ to a count of four. Now repeat, but first with a slightly stronger outbreath creating a ‘pshhh’ sound, and then do it voiced, to make a ‘vvv’ sound. You can even play with moving between voiceless ‘fff’ and voiced ‘vvv’, to get a sense of how little effort is needed to turn breath into voiced sound. Then progress to voicing the counting: breathe in through your nose for a silent count of four, then breathe out continuously, counting in your speaking voice the number of seconds (‘one, two, three, four,’ etc) without breathing in between the numbers.
- Next, silly as it may seem, imagine something good to help trick your brain into releasing your voice more confidently, instinctively. So, picture a meeting with a long-lost friend, someone very dear to you. Try simply saying ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’ to them, with all the longing and ease and relief such a greeting can bring, allowing the breath to release with no sound on the ‘h’ before lingering on the vowel (think, ‘Hhhhhhiiiii’). Then switch to include ‘Huhhhhhi’, ‘Huhhhheeeeeyyyy’.
- The secret structure of great talks
- I Have a Dream visual analysis
- Kurt Vonnegut on the Shape of Stories
- Kurt Vonnegut on How to Write a Short Story
- World Championship Speech videos