What Is an Autobiographical Speech?

“Don’t think of today’s failures but the success that may come tomorrow,” these were the words printed on Hellen Keller’s highly-acclaimed autobiography, The Story of My Life. She is indeed, a woman who stands by her word. Due to an illness, she became blind, deaf, and mute, but these didn’t hinder her from climbing heights that very few were able to do so. She learned to speak, became the first deaf-blind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree, authored 12 books, and was the recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, United State’s highest civilian honor.

Now take all these facts and read them aloud in front of the mass. 

Autobiographical speeches are essentially your own story, told by you, and narrated before an audience as a speech. While there is no specific occasion on where autobiographical speeches take place, it can be used for various purposes. It can be a college application essay, an introduction in a gathering, the first day of a class requirement, or a personal activity. Now, you don’t need to have a profile as rich and accomplished as Keller’s to qualify yourself in making an autobiography. Everyone has their own life story. What’s yours?

Why Is Talking About Yourself Hard?

If you’re looking for someone who knows you the best inside and out, even what you want for dinner, look no further than the mirror. Who else is the most permanent entity of your life other than yourself? With this said, talking about you should come easy. The need to talk about yourself surfaces in times where you’re undertaking a major task that will mean a great deal for you. The most common cases include applying for college or vying for a job opportunity. The desire to present yourself as someone that’s worthy of their approval adds to the burden. 

The Muse lists three fallacious beliefs on why people find it hard to talk about themselves and how to overcome it:

1. Some believe that there’s a certain way to do it, and doubt if they’re doing it right. This happens because when people are put in a confusing place, they tend to look at someone else’s work and see how they’re doing it. This is not a bad practice and taking in references is highly encouraged. However, the frustration appears when you can’t seem to do it the way others do. That’s why it’s important when you’re asked to write or talk about yourself, the foremost thing to do is just do it. You can, later on, seek best practices and observe how their profiles are structured.

2. Some believe that the goal is to please everyone. No, that’s tad impossible. If you obsess over how your script will be able to get them like you, then you’ll never be able to do it. You can be the most eloquent speaker and have the most fascinating story in the room, and it still wouldn’t guarantee a perfect audience approval. Instead, customize your entry according to who your audience will be and offer them topics that they’ll be able to relate to. As an example, if you’re doing it for your cover letter or your job interview, highlight your professional experience.

3. Some believe theirs won’t matter because a lot of people are already doing it. The fear of being irrelevant among the rest is a fear constantly faced by a lot of people, especially those in the industries where they need to build their name in order to succeed such. You’re already unique because you’re you. No one can have the same story. And while this can be true, your perspective makes yours original.

Dos and Don’ts When Giving Speeches

According to Psychology Today, 25% of the people experience glossophobia or the fear of public speaking. It’s no surprise that it’s common. The very idea of standing in a roomful of people who are expecting to get something from your words and who are relying on your ability to deliver your message well won’t fail to send multiple shocks of fear and doubt down your spine. It’s not an easy task. Before conquering that stage, here are some dos and don’ts that will help you perform your best:

Dos

Do prepare and practice beforehand. It makes all the difference when you get on stage knowing what to do and how to do it.

Do pause and use gestures for emphasis. Identify which parts and phrases on your copy need to be highlighted.

Do speak loudly, even when holding a microphone. Especially if you’re talking in front of a massive crowd, you need to address the people at the very back, and lowering your tone won’t help you with that.

Do know who your audience is going to be, so you’ll know how to phrase your speech according to their level of interest.

Do keep your speech as concise and engaging as possible. The longer your speech takes, the more people will get disinterested. Do bring a copy of your speech on stage, even when you intend to memorize it. It pays to be sure.

Do avoid filler words such as “like,” “uh,” and “uhm.”

Do make improvisations to respond to your audience’s reaction or to give an explanation. You can’t rely solely on your script all the time.

Don’ts

Don’t talk fast. Ensure that your pace is enough for them to understand you.

Don’t use excessive and unnecessary body language or non-purposeful movements. This distracts the audience from listening to your words and will instead focus on your gestures.

Don’t avoid eye contact. In fact, give them often.

Don’t get easily distracted by crowd noises and background distractors.

Don’t show signs that you’re nervous. This makes the crowd fee uncomfortable, as well.

Don’t keep your head bowed on your copy. Face your audience and merely glance at your copy from time to time.

Don’t be stiff and humorless on stage. Smile and be conversational.

How to Make an Autobiographical Speech?

As much as delivering your speech is hard enough, writing what you need to say isn’t easy as well. Deciding which parts of your life story to tell that doesn’t last a lifetime where you end up speaking to snoring attendees may make you anxious and doubtful. Here are some tips to help you:

Step 1: Surround a Single Idea

You can’t stand in front of a gathering and begin telling them everything about your life. That’s highly unnecessary and a waste of time. Besides, no matter how famous and interesting you might, no one would sit and lend hours of their day to listen to your statements. Pick a single theme and start from there. If you don’t know what idea to base your speech upon, assess your audience and the nature of the event where you’re going to present. Are you talking to students? To businessmen? To fellow colleagues who share the same industry as you? After identifying your audience, ask yourself again: what is this occasion all about? By piecing this information together, you’ll get a good glimpse of what autobiographical angle to pick. For example, if you’re going to present your story in front of the class, highlight your life as a student and as a child of the family because it’s something that your audience can grasp and relate to.

Step 2: Decide on Key Points

Now that you have the main idea at hand, it’s time to plot what main points from the topic you would like to include in your speech document. Taking the example mentioned above, as a student, what ideas you might want to share to the class? Your main points can be your childhood experiences, noteworthy accounts as a student, and your family’s life in general. Make sure that key points all correlate with your main idea. This helps you efficiently identify what to include and what to omit from your document.

Step 3: Support Key Points with Details

What makes speeches engaging lies in its details. Those quirky and funny stories, lessons learned from the experiences, and a descriptive narrative of a joyous occasion. Partner your key points with details. This expands your main ideas, which ultimately lays out the story that you want to share. However, remember to control the length of your details. You don’t want to overwhelm a single point with excessive information that may or may not be important. Choose only those that you think may sum up your idea or pick a single occasion as a highlight.

Step 4: Organize Them Through an Outline

Bring everything you’ve gathered and organize them into an outline. This allows you to decide which point should come first and how you piece all them together seamlessly. This determines the entire flow of your speech. Use bullets or Roman Numerals to mark each point. When you’ve finished the outline, turn it into an essay copy or the actual words you’ll be delivering on stage.

autobiographical-speech-narrative

How long should your speech be?

There is no proper answer to this because this depends on the situation. In most cases, a speaker is given a time limit. If you want to know how long your script should be to fit a specific time frame, remember that on the average, a person says 130 words per minute. Estimate your copy according to that. So, if you’re given 5 minutes to stand on a podium, your copy should be around 600 to 700 words.

How to effectively rehearse for a speech?

The best way to practice your speech is to record your practice rehearsal. Observe if you do unnecessary hand and body movements, or if you look too stiff and unmoving. Assess your voice’s modulation and identify whether it’s too loud, too low, or too quirky. You can also have a colleague or a friend come and observe your performance so they can give you helpful tips on how to improve your speech better.

Do you need to memorize your entire speech?

No. But even if you’re bringing a copy on stage, you should still practice vigorously, or you’ll only be reading in front of the people instead of delivering a speech.

How do you differentiate a speech from a presentation?

A presentation usually involves visual aids such as a powerpoint report or a video component. On the other hand, a speech relies solely on spoken words. When a speech is delivered, an audience is invited to listen, whereas, in a presentation, the audience expects to learn.

There’s no easier way to talk about yourself in front of the crowd but to do it. Here’s another tip: be yourself. Autobiographical speeches present you. Instead of looking into someone else’s performance and do as best as they did, do your best to be “you” instead. Let your natural charm shine. When they see your ingenuity, they will appreciate your story more.