So you have to write a speech about yourself and you don’t know how to do this.
Writing a speech about yourself is really hard. You need to sell yourself. You need to talk about your accomplishments. You need to demonstrate your integrity – meaning you can’t talk about how great you are while maligning your opponent. And if you are in the middle of an election or some other type of competition, you need to be succinct in your words.
So how are you going to do all of this?
Number one: The first thing you have to know is that facts tell, stories sell. If you have ever been to an election speech night, you know that person after person will give a speech about the accomplishments they have had in much the same way someone might run through the bullet points of their resume. That’s boring and it’s nothing listeners couldn’t read for themselves.
So using the adage that facts tell, stories sell, instead pick out one or two highlights of things that you have done and tell a story about a time when it happened. For example, you might be running for town dog catcher.
Hi. My name is Charlotte. I want to be your town dog catcher. When I was thirteen years old, I babysat my brother’s dog and I did a great job. When I was fourteen, I ran a business walking dogs. I ran that successfully until I was 17. At that time I did a certification course in how to catch brown dogs. Using that certification, I had an apprenticeship with Brown Dog Kennels, which I completed when I was 21.
Hi. My name is Charlotte. I want to be your town dog catcher. My first really significant interaction with dogs came when I was thirteen years old and my brother asked me to babysit his Doberman, Katie. Katie was one of the most fun-loving dogs I had ever met and it was a real joy to just hang out with her. But Katie had a bit of a naughty streak, something I didn’t know until the first time I let her off the leash. That was where my real training came in on how to be a dog catcher. I must have chased her through five backyards and a public park before I finally got her back on the leash. I was heavily motivated by one thing: my brother was going to kill me. That was when I knew that if I wanted to survive to see my fourteenth birthday, I was going to need some skills and eventually some training. I got all of those and it’s why I am before you today. (Katie really was my brother’s dog and this really happened. Thankfully he’s not into social media and won’t read this because he still doesn’t know.)
Learn how to tell a story that engages people. People aren’t going to elect a robot. They are going to elect a person. You need to show them that you are a real person who they can like and trust. So learn to tell a story and let that be the mainstay of your speech.
Number two: Find things you are grateful for or people who have influenced you and make them the crux of your story. Not too long ago, I was at a conference where Jasmeet Singh, a politician in BC, gave a speech to the delegates. His speech focussed primarily on his mother and how grateful he was to her for all the things she had taught him. As a result of all the lessons from his Mom, he had been able to focus on his political goals and achieve many great things. Today is thankful for his mother.
Gratitude is a great way of engaging with people around you because it is a universally understood concept. Add to that, everyone understands the importance of being grateful to your mom. His speech captivated everyone in the room. And I want to be clear on why: his story allowed people to connect to him as a person. No one remembered his story or what he was talking about from a political stand point, but everyone felt good and that counted more. People won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.
Number three: Be illustrative if you use statistics. People do not remember details but they will remember metaphors and mental pictures.
Just last year I was able to catch 648 dogs and return them successfully to their owners.
Just last year, I was able to catch 648 dogs. To give you an idea of the magnitude of that number, Canada has 650 Members of Parliament. That is roughly the equivalent of me finding and returning the beloved family pet of each and every MP, except for the two MPs who have cats. I didn’t help them. The rest of them, I helped.
Number four: Be succinct. If you have three minutes to give your speech, plan to end it before three minutes is up. If you have five minutes, it’s the same rule. Don’t go over time. No matter how important you think your message is, learn to stop talking before your time is up.
And speaking of that, if you haven’t been given a time limit, assume it’s three minutes. Unless you are an extraordinary storyteller, you will have a hard time keeping people’s attention past the three-minute mark. Unless you have been given a longer time because you’re, let’s say, running for president, assume less is more.
Not too long ago, I was at a different conference and I asked two of the visiting dignitaries to say a few words. I had ten minutes on the agenda that I needed to fill and introducing them was going to make them feel valued and it was going to fill a gap. I told them how long I had on the agenda. I told them how long each of them had and then the first person started talking.
Eight minutes passed before I managed to break in and thank him. He ate up eight minutes and very little of it was valuable or interesting. It was just long-winded and it stopped the second speaker from having an opportunity to speak. As I ushered them off the dais, the long-winded speaker complained to me, “I thought we would have time for questions.” “Not when you speak for eight minutes,” I said. He looked surprised. “Oh. That sure went fast.”
It hadn’t. It was simply long. So learn to be succinct. If you’re not sure what three minutes feels like, ask someone to give you a time warning.
Number five: Make sure they remember your name. Remember in my speech above, I told you my name straight away. Why did I do that? Because as memorable as your face is, once people are in front of a ballot with ten names on it, your face won’t help them. At the end of your speech, you will need to give them a way to remember your name. I am personally a fan of finding something that will rhyme with your name, but that’s not always possible. I always end my speeches with:
That’s Charlotte, which rhymes with scarlet, my favourite colour.
But if your name doesn’t rhyme, you’ll need to get more creative.
That’s Charlotte, like the spider, but with a web that ensnares humans. (I actually considered this for, like, a second.)
That’s Charlotte, like the princess, only taller. (I considered this one, too. It nearly made the cut.)
You’ll need to be creative but don’t ditch this step because the best speech in the world won’t help you if no one can remember who you are.
One more time so you can remember the steps:
- Facts tell. Stories sell.
- Be succinct.
- Be grateful to your mentors.
- Make your statistics meaningful with images.
- Help people remember your name with something clever.
Writing a speech about yourself will take some practice, but with some effort, you can do it and win your next election, campaign, or interview!
Until next time! Thanks everyone! And remember to always lead with Pure Charm.