Short speeches are bite-sized speeches. Unlike other speeches, short speeches try to provide consolidated and on-point information.
How long should short speeches be?
Short speeches are about 1 minute to 15 minutes long depending on the situation. Its duration is also dependent on the audience.
Human speech roughly comprises the ability to speak 100-150 words per minute. Depending upon the appropriate duration for a short speech in a situation, one can calculate how many words would be required.
It is advisable to keep at least a 15 seconds buffer while writing your short speech. As When you speak you may emphasize a point, make a joke, or give time to the audience to let a point sink in, all of which take up time, probably around 15 seconds to half a minute.
You are free to add more words depending on your speed of speaking and pace.
At the end of the day, the idea behind giving a speech is to convey a message to your audience
Things to keep in mind while writing,
1-2 Minute Speeches
One-minute speeches don’t leave you enough time to put forth many points, even in their most condensed form. Keeping one unexpected message in mind and making it the central point of your speech can prove to be effective in delivering your speech to your audience.
Quoting stories, anecdotes, facts, and figures to support your idea further can make your speech more impactful.
Lastly, having a simple opening line and restating your main idea in your conclusion should be sufficient to put your idea across.
A short speech for your Facebook audience works best when they are 1-3 minutes long.
A 600-800 words speech would be sufficient for a 5-minute speech.
5-minute speech gives you enough time to introduce your topic and elaborate on it. You can even add a minute to conclude your topic rather than just restating the main takeaway.
Ideally, the initial 1 minute is dedicated to the introduction. It can be an introduction to yourself or to your topic. Having more points can make your speech a little messy. Allocating a minute to each point and then concluding your speech can be an effective way of presenting your 5-minute speech.
Can a speech be too short?
Have you ever looked at a speaker and complained about their speech being too short? Rather opposite, we tend to like the speaker more for having the ability to fit all the relevant information in a short time.
But if you are looking for a specific word count or time duration, then it can be as short as George Washington‘s second inaugural address which was 135 words long.
The idea behind giving any speech is to cover all the important points and not just to keep a check on the timer. It is the quality of your speech that reaches the audience. While the quantity of your speech, i.e., how long or short it is, comes secondary.
If you have been questioning how to create a short speech? and How to write good short speeches? the section below might guide you on how to do so.
Writing spectacular short speeches
A spectacular speech is one that has credibility, an emotional element, and logic.
Writing spectacular short speeches involves the following stages:
|6||Editing the speech|
To make the process of writing short speeches easier for you to understand, Let’s take the example of making a cake. Might as well bake one later!
1. Ideation Stage
Before starting to make any cake, you’d first decide on which flavor of the cake you want to make, right?
In speech writing, this stage is concerned with deciding a topic for your speech.
If you have been given a broad topic, you might have to take a deeper look at what elements you wish to add. It is advisable to go for a topic that interests you the most and the one that the audience would like as well.
You can decide upon the information you want to add to your speech by answering the following questions:
What? includes what the topic is, ie, its definition. What is the problem that you want to highlight? What is the situation in which the speech is to be given?
Who? is concerned with which section of people you will be talking about.
Why? Is concerned with reasoning as to why the topic is to be included and what the audience will gain from introducing this information to them. Hence, this forms your takeaway from the speech.
All these Who? What? Why? questions form the core of the ideation stage.
2. Collection stage
The next step in making a cake is getting all the ingredients we require.
In speech writing, this is the collection stage. Once you have a broad idea of what points you want to add to your speech, you can then go and research those specific topics.
Research plays a very important role when it comes to public speaking. A well-researched speech would be more credible for the audience, making it easier for them to trust your information and you. It also frees us of any biases or stereotypes we may be carrying as a speaker.
Ways to conduct your research
Depending on the purpose of your speech, you can choose any one research methodology or a combination of those given below.
a. Conducting Primary research
Primary Research is when you collect the data yourself. You can do it through surveys or interviews or any other means that is convenient for you.
Suppose you are giving a speech on success and want to add that grades do not affect your likelihood of succeeding in life. You can circulate a small survey asking people who are doing well in their fields about their grades and check for the results yourself.
b. Through secondary research
Secondary research is when you adopt the information or results from someone else’s research.
A plethora of freely available books, newspapers, and other sources online, make the task easier.
However, it is important to check for the credibility of these resources before committing to them in your speech.
A couple of websites that provide resources for free that you can use in your speech are:
- Research Papers: Google Scholar, Shodhganga
- Books: BookBub, Zlibrary
- Youtube: Bloomberg Quicktake, TED
The more diverse your research sources, the broader will be your perspective on your speech topic.
3. Structuring the information
Once you have collected all the information that you need, you might want to give it a proper structure.
The most basic format of writing a speech is:
The introduction includes basic information about the topic like its definition. You can also introduce a problem here.
In short speeches you don’t necessarily have to allot a lot of time introducing your topic, Hence keeping it short is always a good idea.
The body comprises a major part of your speech. It involves a detailed explanation of your topic. It may have a few subtopics that you may want to highlight. If you had introduced a problem in the introduction, then the body would include some solutions to that problem.
The conclusion is the summary of your speech.
While this is a structure we have learned since the day we were taught about speech writing, Another technique to structure and enhance your speech is the one given by Aristotle. It is a persuasive speech technique that includes the use of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.
Ethos is the credibility element, Pathos means emotion, and Logos is the logical component.
I believe a lot of us here grew up privileged. When i say priveleged, we mean you had clothes to wear, a house to live in and food to eat, most probably you also had choices. Now try to imagine a life without those facilities (pathos). About 689 million people today live under poverty (logos). As a social activist and privleged citizen (Ethos), I would like to address the issue of poverty today.
4. Enhancing Stage
The next step in making our cake is to get the right quantity of our ingredients in a bowl and mix them well.
This is the enhancing stage in speech writing, where you add a few things that would enhance your speech overall.
The use of literary techniques conveniently enhances any speech, no matter how mundane it may be. A few literary techniques that you can use are:
A technique in which you take 3 words and group them together for maximum impact. The use of alliteration while tripling can make it even more impactful.
An example would be “His only philosophy of a fulfilling life was to love, laugh, and live.
The repetition of words in threes can also be used to exaggerate or evoke a particular emotion in the audience. This is called a Diacope. An example of Diacope that can be used in your speech on global warming could be: “With global warming on a rise, it is only going to get hotter and hotter and hotter with time.”
b. Cohesive ideas
Cohesive ideas refer to things that help in connecting two ideas. In simple terms, it includes the use of proper connectors like although, hence, and, because, furthermore, and so on.
Although it may seem irrelevant, It brings a sort of structure to your speech by connecting the ideas and forming a link.
An example of using cohesive ideas in your speech is given below:
According to the Evans Data Corporation, there are about 4.4 million software developers in North America. Although Washington, California, and Oregon are the top three recruiters for software developers in the USA; California has more software development positions which could be because of the famous silicon valley being located in North California. The average salary is expected to be around $126937 per year. However, Washington offers the highest salary at 164,000 per year.
c. Taking pauses
Taking necessary pauses is an effective way of getting across your information. It guides the audience on the ideas that you want them to focus on. Hence, It gives due emphasis to important sub-topics in your speech.
This is also an effective way to make your speech longer.
To learn ways in which you can harness the power of taking a pause in your speech, check out the video below.
5. Evaluation stage
Once we have mixed all the ingredients well, the next step in making our cake would be to pour the batter into a pan and keep it in the oven to cook, right?
In speech writing, this step can be called the Evaluation stage.
As you already have the first draft of your speech ready what you can do next is to see where your speech requires improvements. Keeping a timer can help you understand if there is time to add more information to your speech or if you need to compress it a little more.
This is when you decide on your pace of speaking.
After evaluation, If the speech is too short, you might want to add a few more points. Adding in a few stories can also prove to be helpful while engaging the audience at the same time. You can also open yourself up for a question-and-answer session after your speech. This would make your contribution longer with no change that would be required in your speech
For more ways to lengthen your speech, check out Ways to Make a Speech Longer.
And if the speech is too long you jump to the next step.
What do you do when you realize that the top layer of your cake is burnt? Most possibly you will trim that layer while making sure that it doesn’t ruin the shape of your cake.
Similarly, after a few evaluations of your speech, you can start editing it. The idea is to remove anything extra, repetitive, and even flowery words. In case any idea is going off the topic, it can be dropped.
You might also want to change passive voice to active voice.
Other aspects of your speech can be edited depending on the areas that need improvement.
An example of how you can edit your speech is given below
Climate change is here and the issue is only going to escalate quickly with time. 17% of Bangladesh is predicted to be submerged underwater by 2050. A lot of other cities like Mumbai in India, Tokyo in Japan, and New York City in the USA have been predicted to meet a similar fate.
An edited version of it could be:
Climate change is here and the issue is only going to escalate quickly with time. 17% of Bangladesh is predicted to be submerged underwater by 2050. A lot of other famous cities have also been predicted to meet a similar fate.
7. Final touch
Once we have given our cake a good shape, it is time for frosting and sprinkles!
Hence it is time for the Final touch in speech writing.
A few things you can use in your speech to enhance it more are:
a. Jokes: A little joke here or there would help lighten the mood of the audience. However, you must make sure that it is by no means derogatory to anyone.
It is okay if you are not confident in coming up with a joke yourself, You can even quote someone else’s joke.
An example of quoting someone to make your speech humorous is given below:
If in the first go you are not able to succeed in achieving your goals, do not give up right away. After all, it is your resilience and persistence that would eventually help you succeed and achieve your goals. But if at first, you don’t succeed, then skydiving definitely isn’t for you.” (Steven Wright)
A light-hearted and humorous story can also be added to your speech, provided it doesn’t make the speech unnecessarily long.
Ted talk by Vinay Menon is the best example of how you can casually add humor to your speech. He opens the speech by introducing himself when he says that he is both a lecturer and a stand-up comedian. He follows it by saying “So most of you might be complaining about having a poorly-paying job; I’ve got two.”
Self-directed jokes would be a better option than targeting someone else or a community.
b. Quotes: Inserting quotes helps to enhance your credibility, especially if you are quoting some renowned personality.
If for example, your speech is about What is happiness? You might want to add a few quotes by personalities like Dalai Lama or even Buddha to your speech. One such quote could be:
c. Props: Props make any concept easier to understand. It can also increase the likelihood of the audience believing in what you are saying.
While using props, you should make sure to use the prop early in your speech to not distract the audience and have them wondering what the prop is for.
In the video below, would you have believed if Lauren Singer simply said she lived a zero-waste lifestyle? probably not until you see all the waste she has collected in 3 years.
8. Practicing stage
The last thing to do with your cake before you munch on it is to let it set in the refrigerator for some time.
The practicing stage in speech writing is when we evaluate our final speech and practice it so that it sets perfectly for the day when we have to present.
You can practice using any technique that you are comfortable with. A few techniques you can use are:
- Recording: You can practice your speech by recording it on your phone. This will give you an opportunity to go back and check how you did. It would also help in a comparative analysis of your progress. You can compare your first video recorded to your most recent one, to see your improvements.
- Visualizing: Visualizing is a technique that involves visualizing or imagining as if you were giving a speech in front of a crowd. If convenient you can also go to the place where you will be presenting your speech and practice there while visualizing the place to be filled with a crowd.
- Look for a volunteer crowd: If possible you can also look for people who might be happy to help you practice. This volunteer crowd could even be your friends and family members.
Now you don’t need to follow the same steps in speech writing. You may skip a few or even go back and forth, as per your convenience. The thing you need to understand is that there are no set rules for speech writing.
The last step would be to enjoy your cake or in our case, the delivery of your speech.
Delivering spectacular short speeches
The delivery of short speeches can be different depending on the situation. Two broad differences are when you have presented the topic on the spot, that is an impromptu speech. And the second case is when you are given enough time to prepare for your speech.
Delivery of a Prepared Speech
a. Make sure that the audience can hear you.
At times your voice may not reach the ones sitting far behind. It is better to make sure that everyone can hear you before you start your speech. As it will give you time to rectify that limitation at the beginning itself.
This can prove to be helpful especially if the situation doesn’t give you enough time to clarify the audience’s doubts later through a questions and answers session.
b. Simple speech opener
When it comes to short speeches, we often do not have a lot of time to form an initial rapport with the audience.
What you can do is start with an open-ended question. Such rhetorical questions require the speaker to ask a question and pause for some time to let the audience think. It also helps in setting enough curiosity among the audience members to make them listen to what you have to say.
You can also start by adding some humor through jokes as we discussed.
You can further start by bringing the audience’s attention to some fact or statistical information. An example would be “Did you know an estimated 5.6 million people die each year due to poor countries’ lack of access to proper healthcare?”
If you are looking for more opening lines for your short speech, consider watching the video below.
Again, while we know that there is no set time for short speeches, it still doesn’t have the flexibility of elongated time to explain the concept in detail.
Stories are one of the best ways to get the audience engaged. In short speeches, stories can be used to explain a concept. You can structure your speech in a way that conveys a story as well.
Delivery of an Impromptu Speech
While delivering impromptu speeches, you might not have enough time to spare and structure the information in a sequential manner. In these cases, you can follow a few models that might make the task of giving the speech easier for you.
a. PREP Model
The idea is to make a point, and give a reason that supports the point. The reason shall be followed by an example which would then introduce another point.
An example of using the PREP model when giving a best man speech could be
Hello everyone, I am XYZ, the best man of this amazing man who just got married (Point). All it took for me to get this title today was 10 years of ubering this fellow who is 32 and yet sits there proudly with no driving license (Reason). I still remember the first day of college when he made me wait for 2 hrs (Example). This day brings me immense joy as I gladly hand over my driver duties to (Bride’s name) (Point).
b. WWW model
The idea is to start by sharing who you are followed by some information on what you do. This shall be followed by answering the third question, that is, where are you going from here?
An example of the WWW model from a farewell speech could be:
Hello, I am XYZ (Who are you). I had been working as a product manager in this organization for the past 6 years (What do you do) and I’m grateful to all of you who have contributed to my journey here. I realized a few months ago that my contribution towards the work here and that my own venture was not meeting its mark. That was when I realized that it was the right time for me to bid goodbye so as to give my 100% to my own venture (Where you are going from here). Thank you again for such a wonderful working experience; I shall cherish them with me forever.
Short speeches by famous personalities
While there are a number of short speeches by famous personalities, 3 of the most hard-hitting short speeches we would like to take a look at are given below.
These are also some of the most inspiring short speeches of all time.
1. Leonardo DiCaprio
The speech given by Leonardo DiCaprio at the opening of the Climate Summit 2014 is an amazing example of a short 3-minute speech.
The way his speech has been structured is worth nothing. In the initial 1 minute, he introduces how humans have conveniently ignored the issue of climate change as if it were a work of fiction. He then proceeds to explain the grave effects of climate change that have already been observed. Thus establishing the need to take action Now.
He emphasizes the word “Now” to indicate the urgency of taking some action for climate change. This also forms his one takeaway.
He concludes by restating his takeaway in a very impactful manner by saying,
The time to address humnakind’s greatest challenge is Now.
2. Denzel Washington
One of the most motivating speeches of all time was given by Denzel Washington while receiving his image award for outstanding actor in Motion Picture.
The way he uses repetition to emphasize the phrase “Ease is a greater threat than progress,” and the use of tripling in “Keep moving, keep growing, keep learning” is commendable.
Another noteworthy feature of the speech is how he takes pauses and slows down when he wants to audience to focus on the word or the idea that he is talking about.
3. Malala Yousafzai
Malala Yousafzai who is well known for advocating education for girls, during her speech at the 2015 Nobel Concert showed some excellent skills that must be noted and if possible adopted in your speech.
She gracefully observes the room and starts with humor, when she says
Please have a seat, I know you have been standing a lot and clapping and people get tired.
She quotes statistics when she mentions that there are about 57 million children who are out of school, thus establishing her credibility and at the same time making people aware of the grave reality.
Lastly, she establishes one clear takeaway, when she urges the audience,
I want you to think about how can you help, how can you help these children to go to school
Short speech topics
Here is a list of unique short speech topics that you can make use of. The list also caters to short speech topics for students.
|Impact of Media on body image issues||Influence of media on political decisions|
|Benefits of eco-tourism||Why financial literacy should be taught in school?|
|Exposure to violence leads to antisocial behavior||Importance of goal setting in achieving success|
|How fast fashion affects the environment||Why sustainable fashion is the future|
|Environmental pollution is a global concern||Technology has made people lethargic|
|Metaverse is the future||Social media is an end of face to face conversations|
|Music has the power to heal.||Leadership is an inborn trait|
|Stress is not always bad||The retirement age must depend on the industry.|
|Depression is not a disease.||Electric cars are the future|
|Violence in video games is directly correlated to youth violence.||Why should tattoos not be considered “unprofessional”?|
|Should the cost of college be reduced?||Should working from home be the new standard?|
|Grades are not an accurate representation of learning||Xenotransplantation: Future of organ transplantation|
|Benefits of belonging to a religious community||Animal testing should be banned|
Writing and delivering short speeches don’t have any specific rules. You are free to choose a way that suits best for you and your speech.
The only idea is to make the content precise and to the point with little chance of drifting from the topic. Stories, jokes, and props can help in effectively delivering your speech to the audience.
No speech is too short, but it can be short of a meaningful takeaway.