Making the Already-Good Speech Superb

We always want to improve our presentation skills. Here are some little acts which can take your presentation to the next level. Just one of the following can add quality to your speech.

               Choose a sentence from a significant part of your presentation and find a way to improve it by substituting a more descriptive word or phrase. Before President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the nation to declare war on Japan, he changed the first sentence of his speech from "Yesterday, December seventh, 1941, a date which will live in world history," to "… a day which will live in infamy."  That one-word change resulted in one of the most quoted lines in American history.

               Look for anything significant that happened on the day you will speak. You might be able to work that fact in to relate to your topic. On this day in 1900 the first Mercedes went for a test drive. But of course most remember today, November 22, as the day in 1963 when President John Kennedy was assassinated. Two of the many sites from which you can get a tidbit are and .

               Make one more call. You have already asked the person in charge of the program about the audience and learned unique features of the audience or the surroundings. Make a call to the person who spoke last time, or ask for contact information for a person who will be in the audience. In both cases seek information about the audience from that person's point of view.

               Search one more time on the internet. Once you get to the home page of the client's organization, pick a link to their education program or to the personnel. Look for some information you don't already have. Even if you don't find information you can use, simply reading their materials will give you a better understanding of their culture.

               Use a different search engine to find a new source on your topic. Checking on something besides Google, such as or, can sometimes yield a different nugget of information you might use in the presentation. This effort might also give you another angle on a point to discuss.

               Pick a subheading of one of your points and look for a "how to" or an "explanation of" article. For example, with my topic of presentation skills, I might look for “overcoming stage fright” to seek more information. "How to hold attention" might be a category for my "Be Present When You Are Present" program. Doing this might free you to go in a different direction with the point this subheading supports.

               Pick one less-familiar story or explanation from your presentation and practice that part aloud again. You might ask a friend to listen with the goal of making one suggestion to improve the piece.

               Don't be satisfied with a good speech. Make one more effort and you can change it from good to superb. As Vincent Van Gogh said, "Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together." 

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

Steve Boyd
Steve Boyd
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. Steve won the Toastmasters International Speech Contest in 1970 and was chosen Outstanding Professor of the Year at NKU in 1984, among other awards and honors. Since retiring, he volunteers with nonprofits, spends time with family, travels, preaches occasionally, and enjoys reading and writing. Contact Steve at (859) 866-5693 or at

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