Could more than one thing stop you from memorable public speaking?

Could more than one thing stop you from memorable public speaking?

memorable public speaking Peter BillinghamWhat was the last speech or presentation you heard? Can you remember what the person said? Have you ever sat through a speech and then 5 minutes after leaving the room can’t tell someone else what the subject of that speech or presentation was?

If you can answer yes to these questions, do you think maybe, just maybe, anyone has ever said that about one of your speeches? “Spare the thought!” You say. “Never,” I hear you cry! (I know what you’re thinking, someone else’s speeches, yes, but mine, no!!) Reality sometimes hurts. Good speeches, even very good speeches people forget what we say quickly. That’s why it’s vital you find out how to develop memorable public speaking skills.

If you want to hear a blogcast version of this post click on the player below:

How Can You Make Your Public Speaking Memorable?

How can you make your public speaking memorable? How can you build into your speech writing and presentation planning a simple idea that will help improve the retention of your message in the minds of the audience? I want to give you one idea that can help you become more memorable in your public speaking and it’s simply that … use one idea!

What Did You Say?

I recently listened to a presentation that was about 30 minutes long. But I can’t remember what it was about. Because I am fascinated by public speaking and speech writing I always try to listen on two levels to a speaker, I find myself observing the “how” as much as the “what” of the speech. On one level I am listening to the content of the presentation, the information or teaching that the speaker communicates. On another level, I am looking at the structure and style of the delivery, the way the person communicates with the audience, their eye contact or stage presence for example. This speaker was extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their subject matter. They had certainly researched the topic well. They had made pages of notes and PPT slides and was excited and sincere in wanting to communicate a message that was significant to them and of real value to the audience.

TMI – Too Much Information!

Why couldn’t I remember anything? The problem was that there was just too much information. There were about six strong points and the speaker was trying to cover them all. It would have been much better to keep the five for another day and spend the time concentrating on one key idea. The difficulty comes when as a speaker we often have many ideas, many good ideas, many ideas that have taken hours to develop and we want to communicate them all and hate to cull the words. The key thing that stops most public speaking and presentations from being memorable, is just too much information.

1000 Speeches

Peter Billingham For ten years I was Senior Pastor at NewSong Community Church. Most weeks I had to prepare two speeches that were about 30 minutes in length. That’s a lot of speeches! I can’t remember even a fraction of those speeches and I wrote them! After a few years I learned through Andy Stanley, an outstanding communicator, that if I wanted people to remember what I had said for longer, even for a few hours or if I was being really optimistic, a couple of days, I needed to sum up what I wanted to say into one memorable short and “sticky” sentence. I would do some broad research to give some direction to my thoughts and then I would work on crafting this key sentence first. Sometimes it would come quickly and other times it would take ages to get the words I wanted. But when I had them collected into a memorable phrase or statement, I would then build the speech around that one idea and one sentence. I would hang everything that I was going to say on that one sentence, idea or thought.

Don’t Ask The Question!

For many who may identify with the role of being a Pastor, Sunday lunchtimes are not usually a good time to ask for feedback on that mornings speech! Over the years as I developed my skills, I learned to ask my family, who had no choice but to go and listen each week to me speak, one question, “what did I talk about this morning?” If they could say back the key statement then I would be know I had communicated a message that morning.

Only 35%? Is that All?

People debate continually about the validity of “The Retention of Learning Pyramid.” It claims that when people listen to a lecture (speech) with added audio visual elements, then they can at best retain about 35% of that information. To make that 35% (if you’re lucky) as “sticky” and as memorable as possible, craft a simple but specific phrase that accurately describes one thought you want the audience to remember. For example in a recent speech I gave, the key message I wanted to communicate was how the project we had been working on for many years was ready to produce results. Using the analogy of a ripe fruit tree, my key phrase was, “it’s time to shake the tree!” While I am certain people couldn’t remember much else I said by now, if they could remember that phrase and then link it back to my idea, the message was communicated.

Developing Public Speaking Skills As An Entrepreneur

If you are a public speaker who wants to develop as an entrepreneur or a entrepreneur that wants to develop as a public speaker, don’t have more than one thing stopping the audience remembering your speech. It would be such a shame to know that after all that preparation and planning to write a great speech, taking courage to step up on the stage and feeling the fear and nerves as you deliver that speech, and knowing that after all that effort 5 minutes later no one can remember a word you said! Work hard at getting your one key idea into a memorable phrase and then hang everything else around that phrase. If you do, it will have a huge impact on making your speeches more memorable.

If you have enjoyed this post and found it helpful please let me know in the comments below. It would be great to start a conversation together about being a public speaker and becoming an entrepreneur or alternatively how you as an entrepreneur can develop your skills as a public speaker.

Image Source – Ethan Hickerson via Flickr


Posted on by Peter Billingham in Blog Posts, Leadership, Public Speaking, Speaking Opportunities

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

8 Responses to Could more than one thing stop you from memorable public speaking?

  1. Terry Bennett

    Good post and good advice. I agree that too often I have listened to a speaker but an hour later I can’t remember what they said. As a frequent attendee at New Song I recall how you used to ‘theme’ the whole event to support your message. You used both visual and even aroma to help the listener retain the information. For me Powerpoint presentations are getting a bit dated.

    • Peter Billingham

      Thanks for the feedback, appreciate that! Yes, using the bread machine under the chairs was fun and the day the sculptor came was also a memorable way to build on the theme of a speech. I agree with the PPT point, however some people are still creating great slides to use in presentations, but they don’t usually have loads of bullet points and animations!

  2. Pingback: How To Start A Speech Using Surprisology | Public Speaker & Speech Writer

  3. Paul Johnstone


    Great stuff a simple message delivered so we can all ‘remember’ it


    • Peter Billingham

      Thanks Paul for the comment. It’s “one thing” so many people forget when speaking!

  4. Craig Hadden – Remote Possibilities

    Thanks Peter. That’s fascinating that you wrote 2 speeches most weeks for so long, as a minister. Plenty of practice there!

    And that’s a neat tip to write a “sound bite” first and then develop the speech from that. Normally I write a speech from a core idea, but it makes a lot of sense to make the core idea a memorable phrase in itself.

    To me, it’s also essential that every talk moves people to action, as I wrote here:
    Why present? JFK said it all…

    That would certainly fit with your great line: “It’s time to shake the tree!”

    Perhaps every key message should contain a verb, so not only is the talk memorable, but it also has some measurable impact through audience action. What do you think?

    • Peter Billingham

      Hi Craig – Thanks so much for taking the time to comment and for the feedback, I really appreciate that! The thing is, it’s a good job I have most of those messages on Word because I can’t remember them, bet most of the congregation couldn’t either! It was in that process that I really tried to find a way to communicate better, even if it was only one line they remembered, it was better than none!

      Sometimes it can take ages to get the core idea into that sound bite, but I find it is so worth the brain power because then everything that I want to say in the speech is driven from that point.

      Thanks for the link to the post – ( Michelle writes and has some great posts on her site, I have even guest posted for her!

      Congratulations on a great site! There is some excellent content on the site and I love the clean look and style of the pages, well done. Yes, I do agree – we all want to move people to a point of action of some kind in our presentations and using a verb in the soundbite is a good reminder. Great definition as well about the “effective” and “ineffective” speeches.

      Thanks again for reaching out! Great to connect with you!

  5. Peter Watts

    Too Much Information! Absolutely. From the presentations I see this has to be the number one cause of information-overflow, and it takes nerve to cut back on your content. I think that so often we feel we need to pack in as much information as possible to demonstrate all our hard work. The same advice that is given to writers should also apply to presenters. Edit, edit, and then edit some more!

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