How to Deliver a 1 Minute Speech: Tips, Examples, Topics & More

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delivering 1 minute speeches

1 minute speeches can be pressed on you at any point. It might be an impromptu speech, it might be a toast you have been asked to deliver that same evening, or it may be a short speech where you have plenty of time to practice.

Regardless, a 1 minute speech is slightly different from a regular 5-15 minute speech. Besides the literal length of the speech, the way you approach it is also slightly different.

While we will get to impromptu speeches a little later in the article, here, I mainly want to talk about 1-minute speeches where you have time to practice (even if it’s very little)!

Note: Want to take your communications skills to the next level? Book a complimentary consultation with one of our expert communication coaches. We’ll look under the hood of your hurdles and pick two to three growth opportunities so you can speak with impact!

Let’s jump in to the tips and ideas on delivering a killer one-minute speech…

Tips on How to Write & Deliver a 1 Minute Speech

Choosing the topic

In most cases, you will probably already have an idea in mind about what it is you need to speak about depending on who asked you to speak and, more importantly, why did they ask you to do so.

The thing to figure out here is what part of that wider topic do you want to speak about.

For example, if you have been invited to say a few words in a public speaking seminar, people are expecting you to talk about public speaking, right?

But since you only have a minute, you can’t speak about the whole subject, of course!

So your job is to figure out what aspect of this wide topic should you speak about which can be fitted in a short amount of time but is still valuable enough to the audience.

I usually find it helpful to not focus on specifics of a wide topic.

Taking the public speaking example again, don’t dive into things like voice modulation, body language, speech structuring, etc. right now. You simply don’t have the time to do justice to those topics.

Instead, focus on the bigger picture. Ask yourself questions like, ‘Why is the audience even here today? What would they benefit the most from hearing?’. That will give you a good idea of what your main message should be.

Which brings me to my next point…

Focus on 1 message

Even if your speech is 5 or 15 minutes long, you must concise your ideas down to focus on only one message. It’s not just about the time here.

An audience usually forgets everything a speaker says almost immediately after the talk.

To make it easier for the audience to remember and to make your speech more impactful, revolve your entire talk around one core message.

For example, if you’re giving a 1 minute speech on business, focus on one aspect of business. Don’t talk about start-ups, running corporates, finance, marketing, etc. etc.

Just pick one thing that you are an expert in and that your audience will gain the most value from.

And that’s crucially important. To…

Understand who your audience is

I remember when I was asked to speak at my college graduation. It wasn’t because I was valedictorian or anything (my grades sucked!). It was for other extracurricular achievements.

I was asked to keep the speech short, about 2-3 minutes at the most.

When I sat down to write this speech (I had a couple of hours to write and rehearse), I thought that my classmates don’t really care about my achievements. If I ramble on about everything I have done for the college, it’s just not going to add any value to them.

So, by understanding who my audience was, I crafted a speech as a simple acknowledgment, just thanking all the people in the room that day who helped me achieve those things.

I knew that putting out preachy messages or simply showing off wouldn’t be very well received by people of my age at a graduation ceremony.

However, if I were to give the same talk to my prospective employer, I would have definitely listed down and spoken about all my achievements! Because that’s what he/she would want to know about me – how can I as a potential employee add the most value to the company.

It’s all about knowing your audience and crafting the speech accordingly. Otherwise, it’ll just fall flat especially if your speech is going to be as short as 1 minute.

Related article: The Importance of Knowing Your Audience When Delivering a Speech

Research

Yes, research.

I know, it’s only a minutes’ long speech. But the truth of the matter is that you will need to research even more to provide as much value as you can in that short amount of time.

And that ain’t always easy.

So, pertaining to our previous point, start by researching who your audience is going to be. You can read more about how you can understand your audience here.

Then, move on to your topic and research. So, if I were talking about the fear of public speaking, I would research on points such as:

  • Hard data and statistics on people who fear public speaking
  • Famous public speakers
  • How to reduce your fear of speaking
  • Places to learn and practice public speaking

After you have all of this information, you will need to break it down and concise it into a minute by focusing on what’s most important. 

Start writing

Breaking down your speech at the research stage can be difficult. It’s easier to write a 5-10 minute speech as opposed to a valuable 1 minute speech.

So write everything down. Don’t worry about the time right now.

After you’re done with that, write down what is your main point of focus. Ask yourself, what is the one takeaway you want the audience to have?

For example, if you’re talking about social media marketing, you can talk about all the social media platforms, how it has changed marketing, the future of social media, etc.

But you might want the key takeaway for the audience to be ‘Being an authentic brand on social media to gain trust.’

It’s simple, it’s short, it’s just one message. After you have that down, writing the rest of your speech becomes much easier.

Related article: The Ultimate Guide to Structuring a Speech

How do you begin a 1 minute speech?

Usually, a beginning is supposed to be very engaging so your audience is hooked to your talk until the end of the speech.

But in the case of a 1 minute speech, you don’t need to focus much on the opening.

A simple, “I’m going to keep this short” intro works just fine.

In fact, most people prefer shorter speeches.

So starting off with letting the audience know that you are going to keep this short gives them the comfort that they don’t have to pay attention for too long. It also doesn’t surprise them when your talk ends within a minute or two.

Just a note, skip all the ‘thank yous’ and ‘good mornings’ at the beginning of your speech. You only have a minute. So make it count.

How do you end?

End with your main message. It’s as simple as that.

Your audience is most likely to remember the last thing you say even if it’s just a 1 minute speech! So save your core message until the end.

OR – you can mention your main idea in the middle but make sure you end with that as well so it’s fresh in your audience’s mind.

Don’t get fancy with things like ending with a quote or a poem or anything. If you want to read more about ending a normal 5-20 minute long speech, read 5 Ways to End Your Speech With Maximum Impact!

But if you’re giving a 1-2 minuter, don’t get fancy. Instead…

Keep it simple

When you have a short amount of time, it’s hard to get dramatic or add any tricks.

I’ve seen people try to add props and presentations in a 2-3 minute speech and it just doesn’t make sense to me (except on rare occasions).

Your best bet is to keep give a simple talk. Use simple body language and simple words.

You don’t have much time, so don’t overcomplicate.

Add a personal element

Try and add a personal anecdote in your speech. It doesn’t have to be very long of course. Just 2-4 sentences on how you might have experienced what you’re speaking on or why you’re a credible person to speak on said topic.

It adds a personal touch element to your speech and helps the audience relate and/or empathize with you even if it’s just for a minute.

That connection with the audience is what will make all the difference to them remembering your speech and subsequently, remembering you.

Practice

This is a big one (for any and every speech!).

When you’re about to deliver a short speech, it’s tempting to just wing it since you’re only going to be on stage for about 1 or 2 minutes.

But that’s exactly why you need to ensure you utilize that minute to the maximum!

I’ve given short speeches when I have practiced and it’s gone well. When I’ve not practiced, it’s just gone eh.

That’s because no matter how short your speech is and how clear you are with your material in your own head, it’ll be very different when you actually open your mouth on stage!

I understand that there might be times when you just don’t have the time to practice. But even rehearsing the speech softly to yourself as many times as you can before you go out there can prove to be really useful.

Related article: How to Prepare for a Speech When You Have No Time to Prepare?

But whether you have little or more time, use it to rehearse. Your speech will go SO much better than you expect it to and more importantly, it will leave the audience wanting more.

And that’s impactful.

Related article: Surprisingly Simple But Effective Processes to Practicing for a Speech

Avoid filler words

Many times I’ve seen people deliver short 1 minute speeches and because they are so underprepared or unfocused about having one core message to share, they spend most of their speech time going ‘um’, ‘uh’, ‘you know’ over and over again!

If you’re not familiar with it already, these are filler words and breaks the flow of your speech.

When you’re rehearsing, try to be consciously aware of these filler words and avoid them as much as you can.

Sure, a couple of them won’t kill your speech. In fact, it’ll make you look more human!

But excessively using them won’t do good for your message.

The best way to avoid the use of filler words (besides practicing) is to speak slowly. While you have only a short amount of time to speak, don’t pace your voice.

It’ll help you be more in control of your delivery when you speak slowly and steadily.

Related article: 6 Techniques to Stop Saying Filler Words: Eliminate the Ahs & Ums!

Speech Topics for 1 Minute Speeches

Here are some topic ideas for 1 minute speeches under different types of speeches:

Why Success Isn’t Determined By a College Degree
The Essentiality of Networking & Collaborations
AI: Why the Human Touch is STILL Greater Than a Smart One
How Restructuring Your Business Structures Growth 
Is life really possible on Mars?
Same-sex marriage should be made legal.
Morals and ethics are subjective
Sex Education: A responsibility of the parent
Why are grandmoms the cutest?
Investment is not just for rich people.
How eating good food impacts mental health
Calories in vs. Calories Out: Why it’s time to throw out the approach
The positive effects of reading comic books
Paintball: Sport that needs recognition.
The need for adequate sleep

Need more ideas? Watch this video we’ve made explaining the different ways you can brainstorm and come up with an ideal speech topic which is not only unique but also intrigues your audience:

Great 1 minute Speech Examples

Bernie Sanders

With the upcoming American elections, CNN hosted a Town Hall with Bernie Sanders. Now, that being said, let’s leave politics completely out of this.

What I want to focus on here is Sanders’ 1 minute speech within that discussion.

While you may agree or disagree with what he says is not important here. It’s his response to one of the questions posed to him on how he plans on beating Trump that blew my mind.

The speech lasted for about a minute and half at the most. But when you see it, observe the way he fitted so much relevant information into the speech in such a short amount of time.

He focused on one message – how Trump makes promises but does not keep them – and all his other material supported that.

His delivery makes the answer seem rehearsed. Whether it is or not, what we as learning speakers need to take away from this is how well he knew his material.

He even ended his talk with the main message of why Trump should be defeated which kept the core message fresh in the audience’s mind.

Rocky balboa

We all know this speech from the movie Rocky Balboa. It’s the inspiring one he gives his son to make him believe in himself.

The great thing about this one and half minute speech is how powerful it is. Stalone proves how you don’t need 15 minutes to make an impact.

When the right words are spoken in a certain way, a minute or two is enough.

Again, the entire speech is focused around one point which is what makes it so powerful. 

For us learning speakers, the progression of his speech is something that we should takeaway. He starts off slow and generic. But as he progresses, his volume goes up, his face turns aggressive, his words become heavy.

While we should keep it simple, we should not hold our genuine emotions back when it comes to public speaking – even if it’s just a 1 minute speech.

That’s when you get through to people. That’s when you make an impact.

Woody Roseland

Now, there are quite a few motivational 1 minute speeches out there, but I think the above Rocky example makes the point. So this one is slightly different.

It’s a 1 minute TED talk. And the whole idea of the talk is to shed light on people’s shrinking attention span because of technology.

The reason I like this talk so much is because it manages to make a great and relevant point while making me chuckle and it does it all in under 1 minute.

Just goes to show that you need only a minute to entertain people while making a strong, relevant point.

How Many Words Long is a 1 Minute Speech?

A 1 minute speech is usually about 130 to 150 words long. If a speech goes above a minute to let’s say a minute and half, it could go up to 180 to 200 words as well.

While you can use these numbers as a benchmark, don’t use them as a guideline.

Your speech word count can vary dramatically depending on your pace and tonality. Write down everything you want to speak about, then trim that down to only what’s most important. Forget word count.

When you rehearse (even if it’s only for a few minutes in your head), use your judgment or a stopwatch if you have to to get a gist of the amount of time you’re taking.

Remember, in most cases, a 1 minute speech means a short speech. No one’s going to kill you if you go over by 30 seconds or go under by 10 seconds.

However, if you do really need a word counter, this article has broken it down really well.

An Impromptu 1 Minute Speech

clock for Impromptu 1 Minute Speech

Impromptu speeches, where you are given a topic or situation on the spot and have to speak on it for a period of at least 1 minute can seem dreadful (it was for me)!

Even if you’re a quick thinker, having to think of something relevant and logical to say on a topic you have just been introduced to in front of a crowded room can be stressful AF! But if you are put in such a situation, be calm.

There are ways to get about it!

The simplest way I know of to easily speak on a topic is to follow the PREP method.

PREP stands for:

  • Point
  • Reason
  • Example
  • Point

In simple terms:

You state your point, give a reason as to why you stated that point, then you give an example on that point and reason, and finally, you end by stating the point (the main message) again.

For example, if you are asked to give an impromptu farewell speech, you may start off by stating your dismay about leaving that particular place, why you’re sad about leaving, a story about what you’re going to miss the most and concluding with the first point of how you’re sad to be leaving. 

If you’re asked to speak on your favourite cartoon character, your speech could go something like:

“When I was a child, my favourite cartoon character was Captain Planet (Point). Why? Because Captain Planet stood for everything I admired in a hero as a child. His morals, his values, his charisma. He stood for saving our planet from the evils of pollution and deforestation. Earth’s greatest champion! And that’s what I aspired to be (Reason). I remember I used to come back from school every day, fling my bag to the floor, jump on the couch and sing along to the theme of Captain Planet – “Captain Planet! He’s a hero. Gonna take pollution down to zero!” I just couldn’t get enough! Every day, I used to watch him and it would inspire me to do something good for the environment. It would teach me to not litter, to walk more instead of using cars or  to plant a tree once in a while (Example). And that’s why Captain Planet is my favourite cartoon character. He wasn’t just a cartoon for me, he was a hero (Point)!”

If in case these points don’t come to you when you are standing there in front of so many people (it can happen), try and narrate a personal incident around that topic. It’s a simple way to keep talking about something relevant and before you know it, a minute will be up!

Impromptu 1 Minute Speeches for Teachers in a Classroom

1 minute speeches can be a great tool for teachers. The thing about 1 minute speeches is that they act as a method to break the ice and get the creative juices flowing.

When your asked to think on your feet for as short of a period as 1 minute, it gets your brain “warmed up”.

Since these speeches don’t take much time, it’s a quick way to start off a class or a lecture where you want the students to think on their feet or be involved in the subject at hand (and since you can adapt them to almost any type of subject, it’s an extremely flexible exercise).

If you’re giving a class next time, try introducing this element and see the outcome. Do the students feel more creatively vibrant? Do they feel more relaxed and in tune with each other?

Give it a shot! It fits all age groups.

Final Words

In conclusion, 1 minute speeches are not that scary for you glossophobics (not sure if that’s an actual word but it means ‘people who fear public speaking’).

However, they should not be taken for granted as well due to their time span. As you can see with the sample speeches of Rocky and Berine Sanders, 1 minute speeches can have a great impact when done correctly.

If you would like to get a more holistic understanding of public speaking, I highly recommend Chris Haroun’s Public Speaking and Presentation speech online course on Udemy. I truly believe that the more you know about the nuances of public speaking at an overall level, the better your chances of delivering a speech in a way that people will remember, even if it is just a one-minute speech. I’ve done the course myself and it is truly worth it. Do check it out!

The next time you are asked to deliver a short speech, remember to practice, understand your audience, and focus on one main message.

Note: Want to take your communications skills to the next level? Book a complimentary consultation with one of our expert communication coaches. We’ll look under the hood of your hurdles and pick two to three growth opportunities so you can speak with impact!

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