Margaret McGann

How to write a speech

In communications and marketing, public relations, research, speechwriting, writing on February 15, 2010 at 2:24 pm

If you want to work in the communications and public relations industry you’ll have to write speeches. Sometimes students react with the “deer in the headlights look” when I say that but don’t worry it isn’t as hard as you think.

Here are the basics to writing a speech.

First, ask yourself:

What is the occasion and the speaker’s role?

Who is the audience and why are you speaking to them?

What is the purpose of your speech – a funding announcement, a new product, a public opening, an awards ceremony?

Second, do your research:

What type of speech is it?

Funding announcement – why are you giving the money, how much money are you giving and for what purpose?

Awards ceremony – who is getting the awards and why, what is the history of the awards programs?

How long is your speech expected to be?

Who will speak before and after you — acknowledge them.

What will the speakers before or after you be speaking about so you do not duplicate what they are saying.

Who else of note is attending? You might need to acknowledge them.

Third, structure your speech:

Opening

The first thirty seconds of your speech are probably the most important. In that period of time you must grab the audience’s attention, and interest them in what you are going to say.

You can do this in several ways. For example you could ask a thought-provoking question, make an interesting or controversial statement, recite a relevant quotation or even tell a joke.

Tell your audience what you are going to talk about.

Once you have won the attention of the audience, your speech should move seamlessly to the middle of your speech.

Middle

The body of your speech will always be the largest part of your speech. At this point your audience has been introduced to you and the subject of your speech (your opening) and will hopefully be ready to hear your arguments or your musings on the subject of your speech.

The best way to set out the body of your speech is by formulating a series of points (key messages) that you would like to raise. In the context of your speech, a “point” could be a statement about a product, how your funding will help the community or a fond memory of the subject of a eulogy.

The points should be organized with related points that follow one another so each point builds upon the previous one. This will also give your speech a more logical progression, and make the job of the listener an easier one. You can even number the points you want to make (i.e., first, I want to talk about…).

It is always better to have fewer points that you make well than to have too many points, none of which are made satisfactorily.

Closing

Like your opening, the closing of your speech must contain some of your strongest material. You should view the closing of your speech as an opportunity. It is an opportunity to:

  • Summarize the main points of your speech
  • Provide some further food for thought for your listeners
  • Leave your audience with positive memories of your speech
  • Choose the final thought/emotion (i.e., admiration for winners and losers at an awards ceremony etc)

End:

End your speech by thanking your audience and then introducing the next speaker, opening the floor to questions or inviting the audience to enjoy refreshments and mingle.

Do you have any thing you think should be added to this list of basics?

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