IF YOU want to improve a speech, you need to record it so you can analyse it.

This means making an audio recording or, better yet, a video recording.

Also make a manuscript of what you actually delivered to a live audience. Then you will be able to do an in-depth review of your speech content, structure and delivery.

Observe what you did

Thanks to technology, recording your talk is getting easier.

Good-quality digital audio recorders are fairly inexpensive.

I use one that is small but powerful, and it records for many hours. It easily loads the recorded data into a computer's hard drive. For best results, also get a lapel microphone.

Should you decide to video-record your programme, you will have the additional benefit of being able to watch your physical delivery.

When I review a speech, I like to use the process which I call focused-replay.

I choose a specific area of delivery and attempt to focus exclusively on that area while listening.

Then I replay the recording and focus on another area. For example, I might focus on:

* rate of speech,

* pitch of voice,

* volume variety,

* effective pauses, and

* use of force and energy.

If I were evaluating my performance on a short five-minute speech, I would replay the whole speech for each area of focus.

If it were a one-hour speech, I might just play a five-to-10-minute segment of the speech.

If I discovered that the segment was totally lacking in the element I was looking for, I would listen to it more.

I would also examine the audience response to the humour in my speech.

Did they laugh where I expected? Did they laugh in places I didn't expect? What were the funniest lines? Which lines fell flat? What was the laughter response ratio (amount of laughter as a percentage of total speech time)?

Note what you said

Now that you have a recording of your talk, it is time to create a word-for-word manuscript of exactly what you said. This includes the flaws.

You will need to type out your talk as you listen to it, or hire someone to create a transcript.

Nearly every speech coach I have met highly recommends making a written manuscript of your talk.

It gives you the ability to take an in-depth look at what you really said.

Keep in mind that although there may be more than one good way to say something, there is usually only one best way of saying it.

This process is designed to help you find the most effective way to word your talk. Read the manuscript and examine your:

* opening,

* closing,

* transitions,

* stories, and

* humour sequences.

On paper, it is easier to analyse the structure of your humour.

Look for the placement of your punchlines. Remember that the punchword almost always goes at the end of a humour sequence.

Veteran speaker Patricia Fripp points out that even non-joke lines have a punch word.

If you are making a serious point, identify the most critical word or phrase and see if it has more impact when placed last. It probably does.

For example, if you said: "We can save $100,000 by moving our warehouse closer to the airport", it would probably be more effective to say: "Moving our warehouse closer to the airport would save us $100,000."

The key point - the punchline - of your statement would be the savings.

Use colour codes

Next, with multicoloured highlighters, read through the entire talk and highlight the humour in yellow.

Mark the stories in red.

Highlight the learning points in green.

Identify the opening and closing segments in blue.

This will give you a colourful map of your talk to see, at a glance, the balance of stories, elements of humour and learning points.

You will also have a visual reference of how much time you devote to your opening and closing segments.

Avoid the temptation to just "wing it" (do it without preparation) when you are giving a talk.

Doing the deep analytical work will produce a better and more memorable speech.

The top professionals find that they never outgrow the need to analyse their talks. And that is why they find themselves at the top.