Writing a Great Speech

Your Task

The aim is simple – to connect with your audience.

The key to doing that is to talk about material that engages with people and to avoid ‘fatal errors’:

• Going on for too long
• Anything nasty or off-colour
• Lacking sincerity
• Digressing from the topic
• Being under rehearsed

If you make a competent speech people will respect you. A brilliant one will enchant people. A poor speech will damage your reputation

Why should any audience respect you if you have not respected them?

Respecting the Audience

It’s All About content. If you have material that is of interest to your audience you are well on your way. The key thing is to gather more material than you need and then pare it down. The audience only gets to hear the best bits.

I have a method that always works for me. Let’s imagine I am giving a speech at a ‘big birthday’ for Scott.

I know that my conclusion will be that Scott is a very fine person indeed and that my job is to channel the affection that the other guests feel for him. Good speeches resonate with the audience.

As well as expressing in a cool and witty way what I and other friends feel about him, it would be good if I can share anecdotes that are of interest and illustrate the main point.

Step One – Take a Sheet of Paper 40 minutes

The first step is to get a sheet of paper and smother it with as many questions as you can.

When and where was he born?
Has he any middle names or nicknames?
What things did he get up to in his childhood.?
Who were his friends?
What interests did he develop that lasted into adulthood?
What was the funniest thing he ever did as a child?
Anything interesting happen at school?
What were his best childhood achievements?

And so on….

After you have filled your first sheet of paper with questions, you will probably realise that you don’t know the answers to some of them, so it’s time to think of research.

Step Two – The Research Sheet of Paper 20 minutes

The idea here is to get lots of sources of information to get better material.

For any speech you will be able to start of with some internet search tools and key individuals who provide more information.

Keep going and write out other more specific sources. Using the example of Scott I would think of:

His wife and children.
Other family members.
People who knew him ‘way back.’
Ex colleagues.
Members of clubs he joined.
People who play sport with him.

And so on….

Step Three – Adding Structure to Your Material 42 minutes

Once you have more than enough material for your speech, the next step is to pare it down and get a structure that helps illustrate your key points.

In most social speeches the main point is that the subject is a wonderful person. Other important points are the reasons that support that claim. In the example of Scott mentioned above, these might be that he is:

A good family member
A great friend
An achiever

I think that three points works best.

So…. I have my conclusion about Scott being a great person. I have a stack of information about him from his earliest days onwards. I want to illustrate his character to the audience in a way that resonates with them and to tell them things they did not already know that is relevant but fun.

The key to synthesising everything is where my stroll comes in. Yes, a walk. I walk for just over forty minutes. Nothing much happens in the twenty minutes apart from my mind clearing and getting that nice aerobic feel. During the second half of the walk things start falling into place.

For me it has never failed. Never.

Typically, by the end of the talk I will have got three main points that I need. In addition, I usually get a good ending.

The rest is a piece of cake. I know that if I have the main points and an ending the start will come easily

Step Four Practice = the length of the Speech x 10

Once I have the first draft I like repeating it about ten times. The first few times help iron out any glitches and then it is up to building confidence and poise. Then you will be able to keep the full script in reserve and just use a discrete card with key points as an aid.

Recording the speech on camera is invaluable. You will see flat spots that need pepping up and pauses that should be ironed out. Just keep going until you have something that you are pleased with.

If you have a friend or relative who can hear the finished product, engage with that person. I am lucky as all my immediate family members have great ears. If they say that any part of my speech is dull or wrong for any reason I always pay attention. They are brilliant listeners.

One Last Thing – Making a Good Speech Even Better

A really good speech is memorable – for the right reasons. There are any number of ways of doing that.

Using a gizmo is fun. A friend of mine was speaking to a distinguished group of financiers about some pretty complex stuff. In addition to delivering the technical material in a logical and convincing he thought it was a good idea to have a bit of fun.

When you are talking about investment the idea of the financial bubble is relevant. As the speaker blew some impressively large bubbles using a child’s kit, the audience were persuaded to join in the ‘ I’m forever blowing bubbles’ song. They loved it – who would not?

If you can invoke strong emotion in an appropriate way – that will raise your speech above the ordinary. In the example relating to Scott if I can get over the ‘feel the love in the room’ moment that would be great.

If you share some key information that might change someone’s life, that is gold dust.

If you are hilarious, that is a gift and will make a great presentation but most people do not have that ability and it is generally a mistake to tell jokes if you are not a professional.