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10 tips to up your public speaking game


10 tips to up your public speaking game. One of the things about being a transcriber is that you become prone to notice rhetorical devices used by public speakers, from politicians to lecturers to comedians. And it’s because transcription is about reproducing both the meaning and the letter of the moment that it is so vital to capture these cunning techniques. After all, a transcript should read like it was originally heard. 

So let’s segue through a few ways you can supercharge your next speech – 

1. Alliteration

Notice what I did at the end of that last paragraph? Alliteration. In other words, several consecutive or almost consecutive words beginning with the same or similar consonants (for example c and k). Several phrases come to mind here: Do or die, dither and delay, fear or favour.

2. Rule of three

Two is company, three is a crowd. But not in speech writing. That’s why Margaret Thatcher famously said “No, no, no”. Saying just “no, no” would have been a rhetorical no no. 

3. Personification

This is what we might actually call anthropomorphism, ie the attribution of human characteristics to non humans. This is what speakers (and writers) do when they talk about the sun smiling and nature punishing us for polluting the planet. But it does stick in the mind like superglue.

4. The double negative

You probably recall your maths teacher bellowing at you week in week out that “a negative times a negative equals a positive”. Well it’s the same principle with words, and for some reason it sounds incredibly effective when said on top of a soap box. And there is not a person who wouldn’t agree with that.

5. Antithesis

Think of antithesis like someone announcing a sudden, often unwelcome, change of plan. The idea is to use the negative to double  the positive. For example, “think not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”.

6. The rhetorical question

Have you really not seen one of these? Yes, they’re the questions that don’t require answers, except for some acknowledgement or laughter from the audience. Did I really just write that?

7. Hyperbole

Hyperbole, put simply, is pure exaggeration. It’s a funny one to pronounce: it can either rhyme with tea or bowl. In any case it’s used as much in everyday conversation as in public speaking, for example “I’ve told you a million times”. Or in the case of a certain former prime minister, to claim that 40 new hospitals are being built, when it may actually only be five extensions.

8. Anaphora

This is like fancy repetition. Anaphora is a string of sentences that start with the same word or phrase. It was a device used by Winston Churchill in one of his most famous speeches:

 “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

9. Lists

Lists are effective in speeches, particular when they are dramatic and monosyllabic. Funnily enough, it’s another one of Churchill’s, this time hitting a sombre note, with “blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

10. The balanced sentence

There are few things quite as satisfying as a balanced sentence. They can come in various forms, but are essentially two syntactically similar phrases, such as “I want doctors with stethoscopes, not bureaucrats with clipboards”. Sometimes it’s just one symmetrical sentence, for instance Theresa May’s “Brexit means Brexit”.  

Final thought

Refine, refine , refine. Use technology to refine your speech by recording yourself speaking, pop the audio through the JUST: platform, and use the tips above to polish up your speech or simply to make notes.


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