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Saturday, June 25, 2011

5 Steps to Writing a Successful Speech

A speech can be nerve racking to write and tongue tying to deliver. Whether you are preparing a speech for yourself or someone else to deliver, there are five steps that can make the process much easier.
1.)    Length of Your Speech - Determine how long your speech should take. If you don't have a time limit, try to keep your speech brief yet informative. Rehearse and time your speech before delivering it. Prune it if necessary. If you'll be presenting a great deal of information, consider using handouts or visual aids to help your audience remember your points. Remember not to cram too many ideas into your speech. Research shows the audience will forget 75 percent of any speech within 24 hours. The important thing during your talk is to repeat and reinforce the key ideas.
2.)    Choose a Topic - Are you there to train, motivate, or entertain? How about a combination of all three? You have to know the purpose of your talk. If you are asked to select a topic for your speech, then pick topics with which you are familiar. Don't choose a particular topic just because it is currently in vogue or merely because you want to sound intelligent – you will fail. The demographics of your audience can influence your topic as well. Know as much as possible about the age, political affiliation, gender, race, ethnicity, education background and personal experience of the majority of your audience. Then plan your speech to suit them. Think about your audience and let your perception of the audience shape the tone of your speech as you write it.
3.)    First Draft - Begin with an introduction that establishes who you are, what your purpose is, what you'll be talking about and how long you're going to take. You may want to include a joke, anecdote or interesting fact to grab the audience's attention. The introduction should make up about 10 percent of the total speech. The conclusion should make up 5 percent. Organize your information into three to seven main points and prioritize them according to importance and effectiveness. Add support to each point using statistics, facts, examples, anecdotes, quotations or other supporting material.
4.)    Another Pass - When preparing your speech, make your notes easy to read by writing or printing them in large, clear letters. Some say writing a speech is in many ways like writing a paper, except that there is no penalty for spelling and punctuation errors. I disagree with this statement. Spelling and grammatical errors can cause the reader (even when it’s the same person who wrote the piece) to err in the delivery. Misspellings can cause mispronunciation. Grammatical use can cue the reader for appropriate pauses and emphasis that when lost can ruin the effectiveness of delivery. Try not to use words you are not comfortable pronouncing or don't know the meaning of because it can lead to a less fluently delivered speech. Write it the way you would like it to sound during the actual presentation. By writing all these out, you won't leave out any good phrases, proverbs or quotes which you want to incorporate in your talk. Remember you are there not to read but present, so go for short sentences. Avoid pompous or big words. Use natural conversational style of language. Don't worry about short abrupt incomplete sentences. Choose strong suitable verbs and direct speech for stronger emphasis.
5.)    Final Copy - Delete points that aren't crucial to your speech if you have too many for your time frame. Start with your most important point. Next, go to your least important point and move slowly back toward the most important. For example, if you have five points with No. 5 being the most important and No. 1 being the least important, your presentation order would be 5-1-2-3-4. Link your introduction, points and conclusions together with smooth transitions. Make certain the conclusion summarizes each of your points, restates your main purpose and leaves the audience with a lasting impression.
Follow these five speech writing tips when you are planning your next speech or presentation. Can you think of any other tips to add?


Rob-bear said...

This is a great post, Sylvia, and very helpful.
Two thoughts.
First, most speakers, even good ones, start to lose their audience around 12 to 15 minutes into the speech. One should be into the conclusion by then, or a bit before.
Second, when preparing an outline, there are other ways than a list. I take a sheet of unlined paper, turn it sideways (so it's in "landscape" format). Then I write ideas, usually just a word or two representing a thought, and draw a circle around each. After a while, I start connecting the circles, as ideas flow together. From that, I develop the outline.
Hope your readers find all this to be helpful Sylvia.

shelly said...

Good advice. Rob-Bear is right about time because you don't want to bore your audience.

Anonymous said...

I think the intention of the speech changes how you write it.

My husband wings it every time. Every single time. And if it is a wedding toast, you can be sure women will be dabbing their eyes and men will be patting him on the back when it is all over.

Love that about him.

Mojo said...

My difficulty is usually in second-guessing my audience, and tailoring the speech to them. There are few things worse than crafting a gem of a quantum-physics joke that nonplusses the massed ranks of second-graders before you.

Nobody likes to have to read "(pause for laughter)" off their card to an accompaniment of deafening silence.

I agree that speech-writing is a lot like paper-writing; I think most speeches have a 'thesis,' a single key concept that you can open and close with, and reinforce in the middle - if people forget 75% of a speech, and there's something you want them to remember from yours, it's probably worth shoehorning it in a few different times in a few different ways.

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

Nice Sylvia! I like to go over it lots of time. I'm obsessive that way.
Thanks for the tips :)

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Unknown said...

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Hannah Jackson said...

Helpful blog about Writing Speech. I appreciate it for sharing.

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