Article Category: Speaker Habits

Speech Analysis #1: How to Study and Critique a Speech


Taking NotesStudying other speakers is a critical skill, one of the 25 essential skills for a public speaker. The ability to analyze a speech will accelerate the growth of any speaker.

The Speech Analysis Series is a series of articles examining different aspects of presentation analysis. You will learn how to study a speech and how to deliver an effective speech evaluation. Later articles will examine Toastmasters evaluation contests and speech evaluation forms and resources.

The Speech Analysis Series

The first in the series, this article outlines questions to ask yourself when assessing a presentation. Ask these questions whether you attend the presentation, or whether you view a video or read the speech text. These questions also apply when you conduct a self evaluation of your own speeches.

The Most Important Thing to Analyze: The Speech Objectives

Knowing the speaker’s objective is critical to analyzing the speech, and should certainly influence how you study it.

  • What is the speaker’s goal? Is it to educate, to motivate, to persuade, or to entertain?
  • What is the primary message being delivered?
  • Why is this person delivering this speech? Are they the right person?
  • Was the objective achieved?

The Audience and Context for the Speech

A speaker will need to use different techniques to connect with an audience of 1500 than they would with an audience of 15. Similarly, different techniques will be applied when communicating with teenagers as opposed to communicating with corporate leaders.

  • Where and when is the speech being delivered?
  • What are the key demographic features of the audience? Technical? Students? Elderly? Athletes? Business leaders?
  • How large is the audience?
  • In addition to the live audience, is there an external target audience? (e.g. on the Internet or mass media)

Speech Content and Structure

The content of the speech should be selected and organized to achieve the primary speech objective. Focus is important — extraneous information can weaken an otherwise effective argument.

Before the Speech

  • Were there other speakers before this one? Were their messages similar, opposed, or unrelated?
  • How was the speaker introduced? Was it appropriate?
  • Did the introduction establish why the audience should listen to this speaker with this topic at this time?
  • What body language was demonstrated by the speaker as they approached the speaking area? Body language at this moment will often indicate their level of confidence.

The Speech Opening

Due to the primacy effect, words, body language, and visuals in the speech opening are all critical to speaking success.

  • Was a hook used effectively to draw the audience into the speech? Or did the speaker open with a dry “It’s great to be here today.
  • Did the speech open with a story? A joke? A startling statistic? A controversial statement? A powerful visual?
  • Did the speech opening clearly establish the intent of the presentation?
  • Was the opening memorable?

The Speech Body

  • Was the presentation focused? i.e. Did all arguments, stories, anecdotes relate back to the primary objective?
  • Were examples or statistics provided to support the arguments?
  • Were metaphors and symbolism use to improve understanding?
  • Was the speech organized logically? Was it easy to follow?
  • Did the speaker bridge smoothly from one part of the presentation to the next?

The Speech Conclusion

Like the opening, the words, body language, and visuals in the speech conclusion are all critical to speaking success. This is due to the recency effect.

  • Was the conclusion concise?
  • Was the conclusion memorable?
  • If appropriate, was there a call-to-action?

Delivery Skills and Techniques

Delivery skills are like a gigantic toolbox — the best speakers know precisely when to use every tool and for what purpose.

Enthusiasm and Connection to the Audience

  • Was the speaker enthusiastic? How can you tell?
  • Was there audience interaction? Was it effective?
  • Was the message you- and we-focused, or was it I- and me-focused?

Humor

  • Was humor used?
  • Was it safe and appropriate given the audience?
  • Were appropriate pauses used before and after the punch lines, phrases, or words?
  • Was it relevant to the speech?

Visual Aids

  • Were they designed effectively?
  • Did they complement speech arguments?
  • Was the use of visual aids timed well with the speaker’s words?
  • Did they add energy to the presentation or remove it?
  • Were they simple and easy to understand?
  • Were they easy to see? e.g. large enough
  • Would an additional visual aid help to convey the message?

Use of Stage Area

  • Did the speaker make appropriate use of the speaking area?

Physical – Gestures and Eye Contact

  • Did the speaker’s posture display confidence and poise?
  • Were gestures natural, timely, and complementary?
  • Were gestures easy to see?
  • Does the speaker have any distracting mannerisms?
  • Was eye contact effective in connecting the speaker to the whole audience?

Vocal Variety

  • Was the speaker easy to hear?
  • Were loud and soft variations used appropriately?
  • Was the pace varied? Was it slow enough overall to be understandable?
  • Were pauses used to aid understandability, heighten excitement, or provide drama?

Language

  • Was the language appropriate for the audience?
  • Did the speaker articulate clearly?
  • Were sentences short and easy to understand?
  • Was technical jargon or unnecessarily complex language used?
  • What rhetorical devices were used? e.g. repetition, alliteration, the rule of three, etc.

Intangibles

Sometimes, a technically sound speech can still miss the mark. Likewise, technical deficiencies can sometimes be overcome to produce a must-see presentation. The intangibles are impossible to list, but here are a few questions to consider:

  • How did the speech make you feel?
  • Were you convinced?
  • Would you want to listen to this speaker again?
  • Were there any original ideas or techniques?
The Speech Analysis Series

Next in the Speech Analysis Series

The next article in this series – The Art of Delivering Evaluations – examines how best to utilize speech evaluation skills as a teaching tool.

This is one of many public speaking articles featured on Six Minutes.
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Comments icon17 Comments

  1. Andreia says:

    I absolutely loved this article. It gave me a major idea of what to write on my speech critique. Great information, organized, and detailed!

  2. Jonathan says:

    Great post. I have to say, it was when I started to do exactly what you say that my skills took off.

    If anyone wants to go farther, just teach a class on public speaking. You do not need a degree to teach continuing ed. It will help you, as some of my students who went on to teach to improve even more. This is because not only are you observing your students for these points. You are actually teaching them how to attain some of these skills.

  3. julieta lemus says:

    oh my god….thank you!!
    i had no idea where to even start my speech analysis!

  4. Eugenia says:

    Excellent article. Will refer members of my club to it.

  5. L.L.E says:

    Your article is very informative. Hope you post more tips on writing a speech and how to analyse it!! 8-)

  6. Thanks for providing this information. I am writing an essay critiquing my own speech in third person. A tough task, but these pointers made it easier. Thank you.

  7. ilahe says:

    i loved this information very much.now i am preparing for my examination and i think this article will help me to get good mark. thanks

  8. Sarah Smith says:

    Great summary/overview on basic things to evaluate while listening to a speech. Will be very much helpful when i have to do evaluations for speech class!

  9. Jamie says:

    Thank you sooooo much for this article!! This is helping me soooo much for my speech analysis!

  10. Setara says:

    Thank you so so much! You are awesome and very helpful plus amazing too!

  11. Great job once again! I liked the clarity with which these concepts were explained. Self explanatory and useful for both novice and advanced speakers.
    Keep it up!

  12. Katherine says:

    Such a great article, thank you!
    It truly helped

  13. Doug says:

    I have to look at this for a class project and really learned some new tips from this.

  14. Annie says:

    This helped immensely; thank you so much!

    1. ayuk esther says:

      thank you, you helped me a lot

  15. Violet says:

    Best article I found for speech critique and analysis. Definitely a place to come back for speech resource.

  16. D.Whalley says:

    Thank you Andrew, great articles and valuable information. I recently joined a Toastmaster’s group and this will really help. Once I figure out how to “tweet” I will be “tweeting” this site to Kwantlen University Students and Alumni.

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w_hanff

William Hanff @w_hanff — Feb 6th, 2012

More ideas on Assessment — Speech Analysis #1: How to Study and Critique a Speech http://t.co/LLq69uqp via @6minutes

ayokoya

Ayoola S. Efunkoya @ayokoya — Aug 23rd, 2012

#SpeechAnalysis 1: How to Study and Critique a Speech http://t.co/C1cO0Dce via @6minutes

madmansmuses

Rebecca @madmansmuses — Sep 6th, 2012

A test of mental alertness! Speech Analysis #1: How to Study and Critique a Speech http://t.co/P6asAcjS via @6minutes

cyberpsycspeaks

CyberPsyc Speaks @cyberpsycspeaks — Oct 31st, 2012

Speech Analysis #1: How to Study and Critique a Speech http://t.co/1aHOupWq

justin_forte

Justin Forte @justin_forte — Jan 2nd, 2013

Having to do presentations, I found this very helpful. http://t.co/hLfWeijC

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