Writing a speech is challenging. Not only do you have to write a compelling speech, you have to deliver it in a compelling manner! We want to help you write the best speech possible so we’ve outlined the steps you should take to ensure you write a great speech!
1. Know the Purpose
Knowing why you are writing and giving a speech is the first thing you need to figure out. Are you giving a speech in class for a presentation, running for class office, doing the Maid of Honor speech at a wedding, or something else?
Asking the following question about the speech you’re writing will help you narrow down the scope so that you can start writing:
What is the main point you want to make with your speech? Your speech should have one main point that you want the audience to remember. Trying to include too many points will only confuse your audience. If you’re presenting on Ancient Egypt, you might want to make a point about why Ancient Egypt was foundational for modern civilization. If you’re writing a Maid of Honor speech, you might want to include why the bride and groom make a great couple (even if it includes several points).
How much time do you have to deliver your speech? Sometimes your speech length is prescriptive. Maybe your teacher told you to give a 10-minute presentation or the bride and groom told you that you have five minutes to give the Maid of Honor speech. Start with an understanding of time and then use our speech length guidelines to understand how many words you will need to write for the speech based on standard speeching rates.
Who is your audience? Knowing your audience is also important since some things may be appropriate to say at a wedding (jokes about the bride or groom), but may not be appropriate to say in a classroom full of students and a teacher. Also, the sophistication of your audience can influence the vocabulary you use in your presentation. You wouldn’t use the same words in a Ph.D. conference presentation as you would in a fifth-grade science fair presentation.
2. Write a speech outline
Once you’ve answered the questions above, the next step you should take is to write an outline of your speech. Highlight the main points of each section. Start with just the main points you want to talk about and then add color to each of those points. Feel free to rearrange as you go as your speech is never finalized until it is presented!
3. Write the speech introduction
Writing the introduction of your speech is the most critical part of your speech. If you don’t start your speech off with a captivating intro, people are likely to doze off and miss your entire speech!
We recommend using one of the following in your speech introductions:
Ask the audience to imagine something
Ask your audience to close their eyes and imagine something related to your speech. Try to transport them outside of the current space and time by having them imagine something in the future that may seem near impossible today.
If you’re speaking about climate change, for example, ask your audience to imagine they go to the beach with their grandkids, but the water at the nearby beach is boiling hot because of global warming!
Take a body poll
Most speech coaches recommend having the audience answer a poll, but that only works for a few seconds and may not even get a reaction at all. A better way is to have the audience take part in a body poll where instead of just asking a binary yes/no question, you ask them to represent with their hands a range of answers.
For example, you could ask them “from thumb fully up to thumb fully down, how was your commute this morning?” Or “show with your fingers on a scale from 0-5 how many siblings you have.” Even better if you can get your audience to use both hands for a scale of 1-10, etc so that they drop the cellphone in their other hand!
Establishing credibility is crucial for most speeches regardless of context. Maybe you’re pursuing a Ph.D. in the topic you’re presenting about or maybe you just read that history book your teacher told you to read. Regardless of why you have credibility, you should mention it in your speech introduction in order to inform your audience why you are more knowledgeable about the topic than they are.
4. Write the rest of the speech
Once the outline and introduction are written, it’s time to fill in the rest of the speech. This shouldn’t be as hard as the first part since you’ve already established why you are speaking. Again, you can refer to our speech length guide to understand how many words you will need for various speech lengths.
5. Practice. Revise. Practice. Revise.
Once you have the initial draft of the speech written, practice it! Read it in front of a friend or loved one and tell them that you welcome critiques.
You can also run it through a tool like Natural Readers that will read the speech back to you to make sure it sounds sensible and interesting enough.
As you practice, feel free to revise it. Switch sections around if they don’t make sense logically. Delete sections. Add new ones. Your speech is not final until it’s presented in front of its intended audience.
The important thing to remember while practicing your speech is that you should aim to memorize it unless it is a monologue for a movie script. Speeches spoken from memory tend to sound robotic and will usually disenchant your audience.
6. Present it!
Once you feel comfortable with the content and practice, it’s time to present! Try to do some warm-up exercises before presenting such as power poses or deep breaths to calm any nerves.
Go on, you’ll rock it!