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I have many years experience in university classrooms teaching public speaking. I also have a significant employment track record in Washington, DC managing speechwriters and mentoring leaders/executives about how to give speeches written for them. So, it’s true that I know a “thing or two” about correct ways to give a speech if you want to be perceived as credible and trustworthy. If you don’t think in advance about whether you want to be perceived as credible and trustworthy, then no preparation before you give your speech is necessary.

I offer all this knowledge to you use free of charge:


The most simple, yet effective, approach for you to carefully take care of the context for your speech is to maintain a perspective that covers WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, HOW, and WHY. If you answer questions about each, you will understand the context. That understanding can lead to you giving a much better speech compared to not answering any of these questions.


Who are you, the speaker? Are you an authority on the subject you’re going to speak about? Or, are you an average person with typical awareness of the subject? Are you a well-known person? Or, do blend in with everyday people?


Who is your audience going to be? Do you already know them? Or, is this the first time you will see them? Are they familiar with the subject of your speech? Are they more familiar than you with the subject?


What is the occasion? Is this a speech at a lunch meeting? At a dinner meeting? Are you a keynote speaker? Is the speech happening because of some event or ceremony such as a funeral or a wedding or the opening of a new freeway?


Is the date of your speech related in any way to you, to the occasion or to anything else linked to you and/or your speech?


Is the venue of your speech related in any way to you, to the occasion, or to anything else linked to you and/or your speech?


What are the reasons you are speaking at the venue on the particular date and time? There always MUST be reasons that are clear and understandable to your audience or your speech will fail.


Example of How This Works

A little-known event happened in Indianapolis, Indiana on the evening that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. One candidate who was seeking to get elected as President of the United States gave very short remarks that night, changing the lives of many people who listened to him.


Robert Francis Kennedy (RFK) was a United States Senator from New York State. His brother, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was the 35th President of the United States until he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 2963. In 1968 RFK was running to get elected that November as President of the United States.


RFK’s audience in Indianapolis (a predominantly African American city) on April 4, 1968 was black voters who would go to the polls the very next day in the state’s primary. RFK was well-known in every state and was generally considered by black voters as being credible and trustworthy.


This was supposed to be a routine presidential campaign speech to motivate Indianapolis voters to choose RFK in the Indiana Primary on April 5, 1968.


The start time for RFK to speak in Indianapolis was 8:00 pm. By the time RFK’s plane landed in Indianapolis, he was made aware of the assassination of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at 6:00 pm that night in Memphis, Tennessee. RFK arrived at the venue to speak at around 9:00 pm.


The predetermined venue of RFK’s intended presidential campaign speech was the corner of 17th and Broadway in a predominantly African American neighborhood of Indianapolis.


The mayor of Indianapolis asked RFK to cancel his speech that night. It was generally feared that there would be rioting in African American communities once the news about the assassination of Dr. King spread across the nation. In those days there were no 24/7 national all-news networks on cable television.

RFK insisted that he go ahead and speak to the assembled crowd of mainly African American people. RFK gave unrehearsed and unscripted remarks that lasted only five minutes. He opened his remarks by calmly telling the crowd that Dr. King had been assassinated early that evening.

Even more shocking than the announcement was that RFK spoke that night in public for the very first time about his feeling following the assassination of President Kennedy, his own brother. Clearly, RFK connected quickly with that Indianapolis audience with his choice to speak from his heart about his obvious personal suffering following JFK’s murder.

While other major cities erupted in violence, after RFK spoke, there were no riots in Indianapolis. Locally in Indiana, at least, RFK and his remarks were credited with motivating people to dedicate themselves “…to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

RFK won the Indiana Primary the next day and went on in May to win the Nebraska Primary. He then won the big California Primary in June. RFK was assassinated in Los Angeles at the age of 42 after celebrating his California Primary victory.

5 Lessons Learned

[1] As the 1968 RFK remarks in Indianapolis illustrate, it is preferable to speak from your heart rather than from your script. Connecting to your audience with credibility and trustworthiness must happen no matter what else happens or your speech will not be considered a success. The best-written script will not win your audience over. You must do that on your own while you stand there in front of them speaking to them.

[2] The running time of your remarks is not as important as the impact of what you say. Yes, it is possible to motivate people to choose to change their behaviors with remarks that run fewer than ten minutes.

[3] Colorful PowerPoint slides will never help you if you do not win your audience over. You probably should avoid using any visual aids at all. You may accidentally distract your audience and cause them to focus on the screen and your PowerPoint slides rather than focusing upon you.

[4] You need to make eye contact with those who are listening to you or they will stop paying attention to you. Staring down at your script will cause your listeners to stop paying attention to what you are saying to them. If you come across as too rehearsed (phony) or too unrehearsed (sloppy), you kill your chances for establishing your credibility and trustworthiness with your audience.

[5] Not everyone is going to change the course of history with their remarks made in public. So, do what you can do and don’t take on too much. Aim to connect with your audience with your credibility and trustworthiness. If you do that, you will be remembered as an effective public speaker.