Do you want your speeches to do more than just present information? Successful speeches are written to inform, but also to motivate, inspire and engage your audience. When crafting your next speech, follow these ten essential steps to maximize your impact:
- Know your audience. Learn as much as you can about the people who will be in the room and the event itself. Understanding who they are and why they are attending the event will help you to write a speech that is appropriate – and relevant – for them.
- Identify your objective. Why have you secured this speaking opportunity? If it’s well chosen, it supports one of your organization’s strategic objectives. Be sure you know what that objective is, or help to determine one for this engagement.
- Gather your information. Gather all of the background information you can on your topic and get as familiar with it as possible. This might include reports, briefing documents, existing speeches and interviews with experts.
- Interview your speaker. If you are writing the speech for someone else, it’s extremely important to talk to them – even if you can only get a few minutes of their time. This is your chance to gain valuable insights, facts, personal anecdotes or quotes and a sense of the language that will sound genuine and natural coming from this individual.
- Define one clear message. If you could only deliver one sentence to your audience, what would it be? Create a single sentence that clearly and succinctly captures your message: this is the basis for your speech and everything else you say should support it. Which leads to the next point…
- Decide on your arguments. To begin giving structure to your speech, establish the key arguments or points that support your main message. Your approach depends on your communications objective and may be based on such things as the current challenge and your solution, the reasons for a current situation, a milestone-based report on progress, pros and cons, etc.
- Develop an outline. You now have your main message and key arguments. Create an outline based on these and plan out how the information you have gathered supports and fits into this structure. The content supports each argument; the arguments support the main message.
- Write, write write! With all of the work you’ve already done, this may now be surprisingly easy! Your road map and content are clearly laid out for you, so have fun using your creativity and words to bring it all together.
- Review the content out loud and revise. Once you’re comfortable with a solid draft you must read it out loud. It’s the only way that you’ll get a true sense of how ready your words are to be spoken. This is where you will make changes to remove any awkward phrases and get a sense of which words are powerful, and which are fluff that should be trimmed.
- Add final touches for smoother delivery. When you arrive at your final draft, it’s time for the finishing touches. You or your speaker may find it helpful to have the speech double-spaced and at a large font size (16 or greater). Use page breaks to prevent paragraphs from being split between two pages (which causes a distracting flipping of papers mid-thought). Help your speaker with points of emphasis by treating key words with bold or italics. Some speakers may also benefit from having sentences broken into fragments to encourage more pauses and less reading.
Of course, if you are writing for someone else, require several levels of sign off, or need a great deal of research/fact checking, your speech writing may involve a number of additional steps. However, by following the ten steps outlined in this tip sheet, you will craft a speech that delivers your message, and is relevant and engaging for your audience.