Speechwriting 101: Keys to successful speech writing and delivery – Part 1

Picture the scene: You’re at a wedding and the best man is fumbling and mumbling through a poorly-conceived and ill-advised speech. He reads the speech off a piece of paper that makes you wonder just how much one can fit onto an A4 sheet if they write small enough. His remarks are in poor taste and his references are crude and embarrassing for everyone present. The guests’ faces suggest equal measures of horror, awkwardness, and anticipation – anticipation for the speech’s conclusion, that is.

The truth is: No one wants to listen to a bore, and no one wants to listen to someone who is unprepared. If you are presenting a speech – even an informal one – you have to prepare, and you have to consider what you are saying and how you are saying it.

Here’s what you need to know about successful speechwriting:

  • A powerful speech considers the audience. Who is your audience? What is the message you are trying to convey? Why is that message important to that particular group of people? These are some of the most important questions to think about before writing your speech, and while you are writing it too.
  • Work on creating a memorable speech. While people listen to what you say they are also listening to how you are saying it. Provide value and be original as you present your message. You want the speech to be remembered for the right reasons – not because it was a rambling mess!
  • Good speakers keep their audiences captivated, not captive. If you’ve ever sat through a terrible speech, you’ll know exactly what it feels like to want to escape but to not be able to – and you definitely do not want your audience to feel that way about you! A good speaker knows that the key to holding the audience’s attention is to keep them interested and to keep them guessing.
  • Go easy on the quotes and platitudes. An effective quotation is a gem, but you have to know how to use it in support of what you are saying. The onus is on you and your message: You shouldn’t be paraphrasing someone else’s words. Stay away from quotations that have become platitudinous and clichéd – they work against you and your speech.
  • You don’t have to assume the guise or persona of a master entertainer or stand-up comedian and no one is expecting you to! Sincerity, preparation, and enthusiasm are all aspects that you should focus on instead.

 

If you are working on your first ever speech you will have to go through a couple of drafts before homing in on your final version. The tips provided are just the broad strokes. There are also more technical and mechanical aspects which need to be adhered to – but don’t panic: We’ll examine them in Part 2.

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