Chances are that most people will be given the opportunity to write, and make, a speech at some point in their lives; whether speaking at a business event or giving a toast for a special occasion.
Whether called upon to deliver a speech in front of a group of 10 or 100, speaking in public can be enough to strike fear into the hearts of even the bravest souls. Often that fear leads to procrastination; only writing the speech the night before, leaving no time to practice out loud. This ultimately turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, the fear of failure becomes real, and a poorly executed speech that falls flat.
One of the best ways to overcome that fear and deliver a killer speech is through adequate preparation: organizing your thoughts, writing the speech,and practicing well in advance.
There are three things you need to know before getting down to writing a speech:
- Who is your audience?
- What is your topic (is this something you need to pitch, or will it be provided to you)?
- What is the length of your speech (and will there be additional time for questions, if appropriate)?
Most of the points above are likely to be given to you, such as who your audience is, and not something you have control over. If you are asked to come up with your own topic, remember that is to be of interest to your entire audience.
Armed with this information, you can now begin the speech writing process with the following tips.
Nailing down your objective
Although it may seem counter-intuitive, start at the end and reverse engineer your speech. In other words, start with the end in mind.
What is the objective of your speech?
- Do you want to motivate or inspire your audience?
- Do you want to persuade or convince your audience on a particular topic?
- Do you have an expertise you wish to share?
- Is your speech about a celebratory event?
Beginning with your end in mind, the objective, will help you to steer your speech appropriately from beginning to end, without losing focus along the way.
Great speech writing starts in the planning: use brain mapping to get all your ideas around a particular topic down on paper. One way to start is by writing down your topic in the middle of a blank piece of paper, set a timer for 15-20 minutes, and then write down all thoughts that come to mind around your subject matter. Don’t discard any thoughts at this point, just let it flow.
When you are finished, group like-minded ideas into sub headings and related content; you will likely find that you have just written the bulk of your speech!
The Basic Structure of a Speech
In a nutshell, there are three basic parts of a speech: the introduction (the beginning), the body (the informative middle section), and the ending.
The introduction needs to grab the attention of your listener, get them excited about what they are going to hear right from the start.
Repetition helps your audience to remember what you told them for a long time to come so start your speech by highlighting what they are going to hear, giving them a road map, before you get down to delivering the information.
Consider your audience and their language
A good speech is written from the audience’s point of view, not the point of view of the speaker, so use a tone and language that is appropriate for the people who will be listening to your delivery.
Select words everybody will understand, remember a speech is delivered orally so write using words that are comfortable for you to speak, no one will be impressed by someone trying to pronounce a complicated word! Keep it simple. Also check the length of your sentences; long, convoluted sentences will confuse your listeners, who will end up tuning out.
Leave out industry jargon, words,acronyms, and terminology that are specific to a business but that may not be easily understood by others.
Write like you speak
How we speak and how we write is often very different; but remember your speech shouldn’t be something that is read off a page but that should be delivered just like you talk.
One way to achieve that goal is to record your voice first (instead of writing out it). Alternatively, read your speech out loud to see if it flows easily and comfortably; make adjustments as necessary.
There are several ways to conclude a speech but a good rule of thumb is to write the ending in conjunction with the introduction, paying special attention to tie the beginning and the end together.
Here are a few interesting ways to conclude it:
- A call to action: a call to action aims to ignite a response and encourages a listener to do something; for example, to join a cause, make a decision, or buy a product.
- A dull ending means your speech will likely soon be forgotten so try telling a powerful story that illustrates the main points of your speech, or gives a lesson.
- End with a poem related to your subject and be sure to change up vocal delivery styles, such as changing the tempo or volume to keep the audience engaged.
Now you have a complete guideline to writing an impressive speech; but you are only halfway there! One of the most important parts is in the delivery so pretend you are giving you speech as many times as possible.
When you run through your speech, stand up and practice projecting your voice and include props and visual aids if appropriate and if you can, do a run through in the room where you’ll be speaking, as well.
In other words, perfecting your impressive speech means practice, practice, practice!