With the current state of the economy, chief executives face perhaps the toughest public speaking assignment of all—rallying demoralized employees as they cope with potentially insecure jobs.

To support CEOs in this daunting endeavor, I wrote this post that reveals a series of speech structures used by incredible orators to fire up passions, while giving the reassurance of familiar storylines. It also gives tips on turning a mundane ‘the numbers are looking better’ address into a ‘join me in battle’ big idea.

Now, I’d like to reveal a few tricks that will help you turn your great ideas into a coherent whole. This is your path to crafting a great speech.

Start with the beginning, middle and end

It may sound simple, but it’s vital that you map out your first point, your halfway marker and your rousing concluding thought. Without them, your big idea becomes a firework on a foggy night.

It’s vital to map out the one thought in your speech that will get everyone out of their seat cheering at the end. Tweet This Quote

This is an inherently visual exercise. By that, I mean ditch the Word program and pull out a pad of Post-it notes. Write your big idea on a note at the top of the wall.

Then define where you want to start your story, what the moment of supreme tension in the middle should be, and the thought that will get everyone out of their seat cheering at the end. Hang these three thoughts on the wall. Then, show a few people. If they get it without any explanation, you’ve crafted the core of a very simple, powerful story. Now comes the fun part.

Fill in the story details

It’s time to put meat on the bones, adding the storytelling that leads us from start to middle to end. Again, this is a job for Post-its.

If people ‘get’ it without any explanation, you’ve crafted the core of a very simple, powerful story. Tweet This Quote

It’s critical you turn this into a team sport. You craft a version of the Post-it storyline, then invite colleagues in for a critique. Their primary job is to spot where your story gets stuck or meanders off the path. They also need to hang notes of their own, giving you suggestions on how to make your story flow more evenly.

Speaking of story

If you want to create a speech worth remembering, look for junctures in your Post-it storyline where you can inject personal stories and anecdotes. Not only will these give your audience a much-needed sense of your humanity (vital if you want them to follow you into battle) but they’ll make your speech much easier to remember.

If you want to create a speech worth remembering, inject personal stories and anecdotes. Tweet This Quote

When we work with clients at Your Ultimate Speech, we tell them they should be able to have their slideshow malfunction, their manuscript disappear, and their jet lag kick into high gear, and still give the best talk of the conference.

The only way they can do this is by peppering their talk with personal stories. If you’re nervous about delivering a tough speech to your team, rest assured you’re going to forget bits. The only way through is with stories you can tell in your sleep.

Slides? Depends

When I deliver a keynote, I normally use slides to illustrate and emphasize my point. When the president delivers a tough talk, he doesn’t.

Personally, I think slides are there to entertain. If you have to deliver tough news, entertainment seems less important than forging a powerful bond with your audience. Don’t let slides get in the way.

Inconvenient Truth

Al Gore’s famous hockey stick slide, showing the alarming rate of global warming rising temperatures.

Now, allow me to contradict myself. Al Gore’s hockey stick slide in An Inconvenient Truth was incredibly powerful and entertaining. Heck, every slide in that program was powerful. So, what to do? Read on.

Peer review

Try your speech out on as many people as possible before delivering it to your audience. Tweet This Quote

You want to try your speech out on as many people as possible before delivering it to your audience. This enables you to get unvarnished opinions on your content, stories, and whether or not you should be using slides.

Just as important, rehearsal helps you remember what you’re saying—you simply can’t be reading a battle cry speech out from a sheet of paper.

Coaching goes a long way

The opinions of your confidantes helps. But the opinion of someone trained to make good speakers better is invaluable.

If you have time, have a speech coach watch you rehearse. If you need a speech coach at 5 a.m. the day of your talk, give us a holler. We’re set up for that.

Your audience won’t believe in you if you don’t believe in the words you’re saying. Tweet This Quote


A speech isn’t a play. It’s important to rehearse your lines, but in the end, that’s not what it’s about. Ultimately, this will only work if your audience believes in you. They won’t believe in you if you don’t believe the words you’re saying.

Don’t worry if you get a line or two wrong. Chances are, nobody will remember your lines. They’ll remember your passion. They’ll remember your fire. They’ll remember that somehow, there was something in the air that gave them hope for the future.

Mission accomplished.

A version of this post originally appeared on Marc’s LinkedIn.

About the author

Marc Stoiber

Marc Stoiber

As a brand strategy expert, successful entrepreneur, and award-winning author, Marc Stoiber uses simplicity and creativity to help people discover what’s awesome about their business…and then helps them tell the world. For more on creating your company’s value proposition, connect with Marc on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and sign up for his monthly newsletter. Want to try building your own powerful brand to create unfair business advantage? Try out Marc’s DIY Brand Build Guide.

  • Alessandra Orlandini

    This post about “making your tough times speech,” I found pretty interesting because there have been other posts about making speeches and everyone has brought something new that I never thought of. I especially found interesting the part it says about making this a team effort because I just figured that the person giving a speech is the leader and the people listening are just the audience, its interesting to think giving a speech can be seen as a team effort, however when the author went on it made more sense. He says that when giving a speech if you want to be remembered give a personal story to help relate to people. The one thing that really stuck with me was how if you want others to believe in what your saying than you first have to believe in what your saying, which is totally true. Just from being in school if I ever had to give a presentation on a topic of something that i didn’t not agree with or was not passionate about I found it so hard to speak about it and I know that the people I was speaking to found it hard to follow along with what I was saying. These are good points in giving a successful “tough” speech

  • Alessandra,
    Thanks much for your feedback. I learned a long time ago
    that creative communications is a team sport. Not only do you have to
    craft a message that reflects your idea, but it has to resonate with
    your audience. This applies in design, advertising…and of course
    Although rehearsing a speech in front of your
    employees – especially if the speech is a ‘bad news’ one – is insane,
    you need to rehearse in front of people. There simply is no better way
    to see if your message resonates.
    Easy to say, hard to do. But necessary.

  • Amanda

    I found this article to be very informative especially pertaining to giving an important speech, but I was expecting the article to go full circle by elaborate on how to specifically talk to the employees through an example.

  • If your interested in learning how to become a pro around public speaking, check out one of the organizations I admire most (as well as Your Ultimate Speech mentioned + linked in this post which is awesome!), but also Evoso (www.evoso.com) whose mission is to help people find their voice and speak their truth which at the end of the day, I think bottom lines what we are all set out to do when public speaking. Thanks for this brilliant post Marc (as always!).

  • Question for readers, what is your favorite and most inspiring speech you’ve seen and why? In all time? In the last year? Would love to hear favorites from the crowd! Thanks for sharing!

  • Katie Frank

    I agree, an example would have been helpful. I still think that this article poses some very important and helpful points about speaking. I think it’s very important not to underestimate the power and importance of communication.

  • Michael Kaelin

    This article was very interesting and informative when it comes to giving speeches. I have always believed myself to be a very good speech writer and speaker. This article though, was able to give me a different look at how to not only create a speech, but how to deliver the speech itself. When reading the section “speaking of story,” I realized that many of the speeches I have done in the past have been impersonal at times. I have not done this on purpose, but after reading this I do see how being personal in my speech allows me to really connect with the audience and for them to see me for who I am. Thank you for the article Marc.

  • Kevin Marshall

    I found this article as a fresh reminder of the process of giving a speech as many truly forget the process that it takes to give a speech. Also the reminder about slides, pictures, graph’s, etc. That they should only be used as an addition and to enhance what you are saying. They shouldn’t be your entire speech. This article also gave me a few pointers in your speech and with one you may be nervous for use a personal story, as like it said you won’t forget it. Very smart

  • Victor Ribakare

    The famous speech by Eric Thomas on Never Giving up has to be one of my most favorite. It has stuck with since the moment I heard it in high school. I have implemented the essence of that speech into my every day life. He states “if you want to succeed as much as you would like to breathe (while drowning in the ocean), then you will be successful’. I believe this analogy is really what captured me in this speech. The video that was created with this speech was perfect with the motivational music that was used in the background. Eric Thomas’ speech is one of simplicity and a challenge. I like to be challenged and he does that for me while providing inspiration.

  • Kade Hanson

    it might sounds cheesy but MLK I have a Dream is my number one. We have learned so much about it thought our education as well as knowing how great of an impact it had on the nation and World. The motivation and passion seen in MLK’s work is inspiring to me and i have learned so much on why he is a great speaker and symbol within America.

  • Ruiz Estrada

    I have a lot of favorite speeches but that one I like to mention is Ronald Reagan’s “Address to the Nation on the Challenger”. Yes *the* Challenger. And as sad as the subject matter is, and say what you will about Reagan, he knew how to deliver a speech. I like to bring up this speech because it shows just how powerful and inspiring words can be to a rattled audience. With the right wording, it can instill a sense of comfort within your audience. An example like this shows how far a speech can touch people. It was short, commemorative, and inspiring.

  • Charlie Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator” is definitely inspiring.