Archive for the ‘Focus’ category

The Vital Element in a Winning Contest Speech

March 28, 2010

“The winner of the speech contest is …!”

Speech contest season is in full swing in many organizations.  As a result, I get to listen to many contest speeches as well as mentor a few speakers through speech preparation and delivery.  The better speeches, the speeches that win at the higher levels of competition, have one thing in common — they are written and delivered with this focus: It’s not about the speaker; it’s all about the listeners!

Even speakers who have good delivery skills often forget that their job is not to impress their audiences, but to give a gift of value to the audience (and thus, the judges).  Such speakers may win lower level contests, but as they encounter stiffer competition at higher level contests, they may wonder why the judges favor speakers who may not be as flamboyant or “impressive” in their speaking styles.  That is because top speakers keep in mind the purpose of a speech.

Here are four steps that can keep a contest speaker audience-centered:

1. What type of speeches appeal best to audiences at the speech contest in which you are competing? Choices are: (a) inspire; (b) persuade; (c) inform; (d) entertain

I have not listed “motivational” speeches in the above choices.  Find out the difference between motivation and inspiration at

The reason for the above question is that audiences (and that includes judges) expect contestants to give speeches that are appropriate to a contest.  Examples of speeches that do not match the contest type are: a serious speech at a humorous speech contest; an entirely humorous speech when an inspirational speech or informative speech is expected; an inspirational speech when an informative speech is expected, etc.

2. What is the general purpose of your speech? Choices are: (1) inspire; (2) persuade; (3) inform; (4) entertain

3. What is the specific purpose of your speech? Here is an easy way to figure that out — Fill in the blanks: As a result of hearing my speech, members of my audience will be ________________ (inspired/persuaded/informed/entertained) so that they will _______________________ (the practical result of the effect of your speech on the listeners).

4. “My” story must have a “You” message.  What that means is that even a personal story you share with the audience must be interpreted so that the listeners feel the take away value in that story for themselves.

Try the above four steps for any speech whether or not it’s for a contest.  You will find out that it really is true: “It is in giving, that your receive.”  When you want more for your audience than you want for yourself, you will discover the joy of truly winning at speaking!

Unleash your communication potential!