Better public speaking pt4: Diction

Written by Nick Gold on 27 June 2017

A truly great speech must overflow with verve and personality, making even the most mundane topic compelling. Don’t be afraid to incorporate conversational language into the text, it is well known that our minds are pre-disposed to react to this style of delivery.

When your mind thinks it is engaged in conversation it has to pay attention, essentially to prepare a response, meaning this tone will immediately prompt a more engaged audience. 

however slow you think you are speaking, speak twice as slow.

Many of the age-old edicts about public speaking and diction are absolutely true, for example, however slow you think you are speaking, speak twice as slow. You will definitely feel slightly weird delivering the most perfect speech as it will feel very stilted and unnatural as the person on stage.

Embrace it and make sure you are focused on this, or else you run the risk of losing the audience.   


Preparation is absolutely key and practice is essential. Even the most experienced speaker should ensure they are keeping their delivery fresh and continually aspiring to be better. One of my favourite quotes is from the golfer, Arnold Palmer; he said “the more I practice (sic), the better I get” - this idea should unquestionably be at the essence of any great speech.  

I acknowledge, despite how squirm inducing and deeply uncomfortable it is, watching back video footage of yourself speaking is the best way to improve your diction and delivery. Make sure videos you are watching back are both self-filmed ones whilst you are practising, and also up on stage delivering to an audience, as it will help to understand how your diction changes when under pressure.

To summarise, be clear, be confident, be conversational, but most importantly, ensure that the speed of your speaking is regulated. Although this will appear unnatural to your ear, it will allow the audience to digest, engage with and enjoy the speech they are listening to.


About the author

Nick Gold is managing director of market-leading speaker bureau and consultancy, Speakers Corner

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