The Ideal Speech in Three Minutes

I’ve listened to thousands of speeches in my career as a university professor, presentation skills coach, and consultant. I recently watched on YouTube a young man give a striking speech that includes all of the essential ingredients of the ideal speech–and he did it all in three minutes.

Purdue University annually conducts a contest among Ph.D. candidates to deliver a short presentation summarizing the research from his or her dissertation. This spring 80 individuals competed, and the winner was Theon Hill, a graduate student in the Communication Department. His dissertation topic was “The Exodus and American Culture.”

Watch the video and see if you can identify the essential components in delivering an effective presentation.

Thelon’s delivery style is dynamic but not too dramatic. He uses his hands and arms to reinforce and describe his ideas. He takes a step when changing direction in his presentation. He has variety in his rate of speech and punches out proper nouns and key phrases. His pauses help the listener realize the emotional impact of what he is saying.

His content includes the necessary parts of an effective speech. He opens with a quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr.,  that leads easily into his main thoughts and gets the attention of the audience. We cannot resist listening to him after that beginning. He states his thesis shortly afterwards when he says, “The story of the Exodus in the Bible is the most influential story in American Culture. “

The rest of the speech underscores this point with specific instances in history, comic book applications, and even a powerful example of the impact of the Exodus story in the design of the Statue of Liberty. His ending is succinct and reinforces the main thought in his presentation.

For a quick reminder of what you can do to have a complete and effective presentation, review Theon Hill’s winning speech.

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

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *