Book Review: High Impact Speeches by Richard Heller


I was given this book as a Christmas present from my parents. This is the third book on public speaking I have received as a gift since joining Toastmasters International. Interestingly I don’t get gifts related to my other hobbies.

High Impact Speeches is written for people who write and/or deliver speeches.  Many of the examples are political or business orientated, although the concepts are universal. Richard Heller clearly and concisely describes the logistics, planning, writing and delivery of a well crafted speech (158 pages content + 30 pages of example speeches).

When I set out to review this book my plan was to write some brief chapter summaries (like I did for Teach Yourself Stand-up comedy by Logan Murray), but I found that the book was so packed with information and so succinctly written that I didn’t think summaries would do it justice. Furthermore the book provides its own summaries at the end of each chapter.

I will give you one little taster from the book. I have revisited Chapter 4 several times. In this chapter Heller proposes a simple speech plan that you can use for your high impact speech. It has puts emphasis on clarity and includes optional parts for specific events like debates or ceremonial speeches.

1. Introduction

Thank yous - Thank your introducer, and whoever else needs thanks (organiser, chairman etc.).

Connect - Praise the organisation, Praise the location.

2. Beginning

Demolish the Opposition - If your speech is part of a debate then you should begin by addressing what the opposition has said.

Grabber - A joke/quotation/anecdote – something to grab attention.

Main Themes – Briefly outline the three main themes of your speech (three is a magic number in public speaking. Always have three main sections to your speech).

3. Middle

The bulk of your speech. Address each theme and its three sub themes. Aim to spent the same amount of time on each sub theme.

4. End

Warning – Briefly indicate the end is nigh, to make the audience pay attention. E.g. “In conclusion,”

Recap – As snappily as possible recap your main themes

Strong Finish – End with a bang. This is the part most people will remember.

Do your job – If you are proposing a toast, nominating a nominee, awarding a prize, opening a building etc. do it now.

Simple and effective.

In the rest of the book Heller provides excellent advice about the logistics of delivering a speech, dealing with the media and constructing a press release, rhetorical techniques you should embrace or avoid, and how to avoid being embarrassed by people who disagree with you message.

My advice is to just buy this book. It’s the best book on public speaking I have read.

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