So You Think You Can Write . . . A Speech?
One of the toughest skills to master is the art and science of crafting a memorable speech. Penning a persuasive prose takes lots of blood, sweat and tears. For many of us though, the appeal of writing a speech falls somewhere between getting a speeding ticket and filing your tax returns.
Still nervous? Speech writing can do that to you. Perhaps you’ve lived with the idea that you were never good with words, and worse, you feared being judged or ridiculed – we’ve all been there at some point in our lives.
Writing a speech is as straightforward as learning to read out loud. The key to writing good speeches lies in using a theme. It is important to decide who will make up your audience. Your perception of the audience shapes the tone of your speech. Speech writing is very personal, as the writer talks about his views, thoughts and emotions. The writer and/or the presenter should capture an audience’s interest with the first or second sentence of the introduction.
A good speechwriter has to envision a goal that he wants to reach with his speech. Being clear and being able to communicate in words that transition easily from one thought to the next will go a long way to impress your audience.
Like anyone who has been involved with crafting a speech, I have had moments when I was at a loss when it came to finding that perfect phrase that “made” my speech. Writing a speech is by no means for the faint-hearted, the shy or the meek. Speeches are all about clarity, structure and seizing the moment.
While speech writing may seem daunting, its rewards make up for all the uncertainties of the writing process.
Here are some tips to help you along:
Know your subject matter. – Ask yourself these questions. Have you done your research? Do you know what you are talking about, and does it have a purpose to the end matter?
Who’s listening? Who will the speaker be addressing? What are the concerns and cares of the people listening? Is there an “elephant in the room” that you need to consider? You must know who your audience is in order to best decide how to affect your message on them.
Keep it short. Since the attention span of most people is rather short, a long speech can take your audience on a one-way ticket to snoozeland. You will lose your listeners if your speech is too long and monotonous sounding. Keep it short and succinct with an added punch.
Use imagery. People remember things when they see images. Using imagery helps to retain the content of your speech and the message you want to get across. Imagery will also keep the audience entertained.
Use famous lines. Reference brings with it many ideas and emotions associated with famous people or life-changing events. You can quote famous lines that reference the Shakespeare, poetry, songs, books, and other speeches. These references bring a lot more with them than just the phrase or quote you use, especially if your audience is familiar with it.
No bombs, please! Keep it simple – don’t use bombastic words. A great example is President Obama’s speeches. His speeches are always written in simple English. When messages are made simple, they cut deeper and have more impact.
End strong. The final impression you make on the audience is the one they will remember. Conclude well. End with a line people will remember, or one that contains the message you want them to remember. Aside from the opening, the ending is the most important line.
Skillful speech-makers are familiar with their written content. The principles for writing effective speeches are the same, whether for a personal speech at a wedding or a high-powered presentation by a politician or celebrity. A well-written speech can drive sales, deepen commitment, motivate hearts and minds, and even change the world.