10 minute read.
If you are serious about giving speeches, then you are serious about writing an awesome speech. Here are 100 tried and true methods that I’ve compiled from many sources. I have used a ton of these at one time or another when writing my speeches over the last 2 years.
- Know your audience. Know who you are writing the speech for, before you ever pick up a pen or type a character on a keyboard.
- Plan your speech according to the occasion, event, and audience. Decide whether the tone of the speech somber, serious, informal, or humorous.
- Write with authenticity. Don’t try to write or speak like someone else. Just be you. As long as you’re authentic and you have something interesting and relevant to say, generally you’ll be fine.
- Write as though you are speaking to just one person. Write as if you are talking face to face to an audience of one.
- Anticipate the most obvious questions your audience may have and then answer those questions.
- Your speech title is the most important element. It has been said that 80% of your audience don’t even listen after hearing a weak title. Make sure you have the best possible title.
- Your closing is the second most important element of your speech copy. Therefore it makes sense for you to spend some time making sure your closing drives home the benefits.
- Remember to use the word YOU. Use the word YOU as often as possible. It’s about the audience and the value they get from your speech.
- Makes sure your speech copy flows like water. Your content should read seamlessly. Each paragraph should connect with the previous paragraph. Have a friend or family member read it and give feedback.
- Make it easy for your audience to engage. Don’t assume your audience knows what you are talking about. Spell it out for them.
- Write your speech copy in the same voice throughout the whole speech. Maintain a consistent tone.
- Write in a genuine relatable way. Your audience needs to connect with you as a real person.
- Write your speech for the ear, not the eye. What may look good in writing often does not sound good when speaking it.
- Make it simple. Simple words. Simple sentences. Simple paragraphs. Short words are best.
- Don’t try to impress your audience with fancy or complex words. Write your speech as if a 10 year old could read it and understand it.
- One word, two word, or three word paragraphs are common in good speech writing. This makes your speech copy look easy to read. This is what you want.
- Write as much as necessary for the length of time you have to talk. Only write as much as what you need to get your story across. A good rule of measurement is 3 double spaced pages of speech copy for 5-7 minutes of speaking.
- Remember to use action words. Use more verbs than adjectives. You are writing to persuade or try to make people see things from your point of view.
- Write short words and sentences. Use language as if you are speaking every day. Use Urban Dictionary if necessary.
- Your first sentence is critical. It must capture your audience immediately. Keep it short and effective. A famous quote, profound statement, or rhetorical question works well.
- At the beginning of your speech, report a surprising or shocking statistic related to your topic.
- Your final sentence is just as important. It must compel your audience to act. Use a bold call to action.
- Keep it conversational, but don’t ramble. Write as if you are talking to a person across the table.
- Press the emotional buttons of your audience. Nail your audience’s fear and then provide comfort that fear.
- Tell your audience exactly what to do. Don’t assume they can pick up hints. Never assume your audience knows what to do.
- If you have instructions, make them as simple as possible. For example, “Go to xyz website for more information.”
- Make them a promise. Let you audience know that you are committed to your cause and will follow through on your mission.
- Back up your claims with testimonials and give social proof that your topic is important.
- Write your speech copy with an authoritative voice. Your audience needs to know you are an expert on your topic.
- Create a sense of urgency. Get your audience to feel they need to take immediate action. Give a compelling reason why they need to act right away.
- Answer any objections before they object. This should be baked into your speech copy along with the rest of your content. Write as if you are face to face with one person and he has questioned you about one of your points.
- Inundate your audience with benefits. Hook them with your main benefit in the opening and keep adding more benefits.
- Keep the weakest points in the middle and sandwich them between your strongest points.
- Use bullets to separate your benefits (in your slide deck). Every bullet must have a benefit.
- Right before the closing, summarize and restate the main benefits, starting with the main benefit and then save the best benefit for last.
- Let your audience know why they should listen to you. Make it crystal clear why they should trust you and take action.
- Prepare early. Begin gathering material for your speech right away. As you learn more about your topic, new ideas for writing and organizing it will automatically come to you.
- Research your topic well. Pick up information, connect the ideas, and arrive at insights that make your talk fresh.
- You’ll have an easier time writing if you gather far more information than you need, then reduce it down.
- Arrange your research and notes into general categories and leave space between them. Then go back and rearrange. Fit related pieces together like a puzzle.
- Be audience-centered. Everything you write should be with the needs of the audience in mind. Aim all your efforts at helping the audience understand what you are saying.
- Start at the end first. Write the conclusion of your talk right away. Decide what you want the audience to do or to think as a result of your speech. Then write the talk using that as a guide.
- Make rough drafts first and polish later. Don’t needlessly pressure yourself by trying to write the perfect speech at the outset. The best speeches come only after many rewrites.
- Put your own spin on the material. You may block your creative juices if you think everything you say has to be original. Don’t worry about being unique, just put your personal spin on it. The audience wants to hear your personal point of view.
- Make only three main points if you can. It is always tempting to tell as much as you can about a subject, but this can confuse and overwhelm your audience. Keep your major points to three and your audience will find it easier to follow your speech organization.
- Craft a take-away closing line. When people can’t make it to a talk, they usually ask others, “What did the speaker talk about?” What they say you said is your take-away line. You’d like people to walk out with that nugget. It’s like creating street buzz for yourself.
- Decide the minimum your audience needs to know. What is the very least the audience needs to know about your topic? What is the most critical? Leave out material that would be “nice to know”. You probably won’t have time for it.
- Use the WIIFM principle. WIIFM is when your audience responds to your material by asking themselves “What’s In It For Me?” People are really only interested in material that affects them. After writing any piece of material, no matter how brilliant, apply the WIIFM principle and judge if your audience will care about it and use it.
- Involve your audience. To bring the audience into your talk and to make sure they are engaged, craft numerous interactive techniques. These can be questions, exercises, role plays, verbal quizzes and other ways that get them actively involved with your material.
- Make your writing graphic. Your goal is to make the main points of your writing in the speech stick in the minds of your audience. If someone asks or compliments your speech afterwards, it’ll probably sound something like, “I enjoyed the story you told about your sister.” They probably won’t say, “Your second point in the body of your speech was well thought-out and logical.” So think visually.
- Tell stories. Personal experiences and anecdotes help strengthen your points and help you connect with and relate to your audience.
- Make use of metaphors and analogies to perfectly illustrate what your data or statistics mean.
- Give it rhythm. A good speech has pacing. Write this into your speech that you are speeding up or slowing down.
- Vary the sentence structure. Use short sentences. Use occasional long ones to keep the audience alert. Fragments are fine if used sparingly and for emphasis.
- Use active voice and avoid passive sentences. Active forms of speech make your sentences more powerful.
- Repeat key words and points. Besides helping your audience remember something, repetition builds greater awareness of central points or the main theme.
- Ask rhetorical questions sparingly throughout your speech as a way to attracts your listeners’ attention.
- Use quotes. Good quotes work on several levels, forcing the audience to think. Make sure quotes are clearly attributed and said by someone your audience will probably recognize.
- Write with a smile. Audiences will be able to tell if you are warm and genuine in the way you write. You may begin with an amusing one-liner or thought-provoking anecdote that can immediately connect the audience with you.
- Make your speech natural. Make it seem like you didn’t write it, but that you are speaking it from your heart.
- Write pauses into your speech, when you really want a point to sink in. Silence is very effective at the right times. The audience will automatically take notice by looking at you, straightening up, and cocking their head to the side to actually hear the silence.
- Use inclusive terms for individuals. Point to “our” things, such as “our team”, “our city/state/country”, “our school”, “our work”, etc. Your audience will feel more included and have a sense of belonging.
- Be aware of transitions. Build clear and sensible transitions from one thought to the next. The biggest mistake speakers and writers make is to assume people will follow leaps of logic, place, time or changes of ideas.
- Make clear transitions. Spell out to the audience when you are taking a turn in your thoughts with phrases like: “As an example of this” or “This brings us back to the larger problem of”. Show your audience that your speech is one cohesive work by transitioning clearly.
- Monitor your writing for clarity. Make sure your sentences are crystal clear, you could have a good points are clearly appreciated are not missed.
- Ensure your tone is constant and appropriate throughout the entire speech. If it sounds like three different people wrote it, it’ll be difficult to follow.
- Make sure your language is not condescending or over their head.
- Don’t be tempted to get crass or nasty to get their attention just for the sake of getting attention.
- Write in body cues. Though these ultimately need to be natural and can’t be scripted, making little notes where you might want to emphasize a point with your body or hands can help jog your mind in the rehearsing process.
- Outline the speech on note cards. Since you won’t be reading your speech, it’s a good idea to have a written outline of the presentation as a reference so you don’t leave something out like thanking the audience for their attention and the committee for asking you to speak.
- Narrow your topic. A good speech makes a claim, and it’s about one main thing only. Even if your speech is a wedding toast, your point is that the bride and the groom were meant for each other. Have a specific focus and make sure everything you say supports your main topic.
- Provide enough evidence to support your claims, and check your facts. Use examples from history, current events, and your own life. Consult government sources for statistics.
- Use quotations from experts in the field.
- Don’t overdo quotations. Most of the words in your speech should be your own.
- Read each draft of your speech out loud. Then revise anything that sounds awkward until you are comfortable giving your speech. The point is to sound natural no matter what the occasion.
- Use signposts. What are signposts? Words and phrases like “first of all”, “next”, and “finally” signal the audience that you’re transitioning from one idea to the next.
- When writing your speech, be mindful of the difference between our ability to learn information orally and visually. The average adult reads 300 words per minute, but people can only follow speech closely at around 150-160 words per minute.
- Don’t write an essay. Write with appropriate structure and section it out.
- Use caps, bold, underline, and italics in your speech copy to indicate pace, voice inflection, volume, softness, and emphasis.
- Instead of writing, draw out your speech using a mind map tool or visual map such as Mindjet Manager, Mindjet, or Coggle.
- When humor is appropriate, be subtle and sprinkle it lightly throughout your speech.
- Avoid going for one or two big jokes because they can result in one or two big bombs. If you’re not confident in your ability to mix humor into your speech, don’t do it.
- Avoid going for continuous jokes. It’s probably not improv comedy night.
- Use self-deprecating humor to engage your audience. Everyone loves to laugh. Making yourself the target of the joke creates a humorous speech that keeps the audience highly engaged. Example: “So, even though I knew it was too hot to eat, I bit into the pizza anyway. Because, clearly, I am an idiot who thinks love of pizza transcends any dangerous temperature variations.”
- Use humorous exaggeration to emphasize a point, such as “Then I talked to a woman who’s voice was so high, only the dog could hear it.”
- Use humorous puns, such as “Did you hear about the guy whose whole left side was cut off? He’s all right now.”
- Use humorous wordplay, such as “She brought me a plate of French Fries instead. At least I thought they were French because they had an attitude and wore berets.”
- Write your use of props into the speech, such as “Bring out the rubber glove and pretend you’re about to give a prostate exam.”
- Do not plagiarize. This is unethical and will make you look unprofessional and untrustworthy. You may think you audience will never know, but anyone can look up specific phrases and sentences. Plagiarizing is lazy and lame. Just don’t do it.
- Don’t waste time with fluff. We live in a world of distraction. People retain very little, so get your message out fast. Use a sound bite that will capture the attention of your audience quickly.
- Avoid cliches and platitudes. Just because you hear the phrase “I know, right?” every day from your teenagers at home doesn’t mean your audience wants to hear it.
- Address opposing viewpoints and cite them appropriately.
- Write with gratitude. Be sure to thank your audience for their time and attention.
- Write with balance. Even though you might be trying to persuade your audience to think in a different way, don’t come across as propaganda. Clearly state both sides of the argument.
- Create content from trusted and credible sources. Provide valid information that can be cross checked to avoid inaccuracy.
- Do not agitate the audience by using violent or highly inappropriate words.
- Write about current and relevant issues. It determines whether the audience will be interested in listening to you or not. Outdated and irrelevant matters will not affect anyone.
- Don’t get too hung up on grammar. Use contractions, colloquialisms, and slang if the situation calls for it.
- Don’t write with condescension, patronizing attitude, superiority, or disdain. You are not above your audience. Practice writing with humility and grace.
- Write your speech with confidence! Just as you speak with confidence, approach your speech writing with the same level of confidence.
I hope you got some valuable tips from this list. No one can use all of these tips in every speech. It’s not meant to be a list that everyone can use all the time, but as a resource pool, so that you can take away specific things for different situations. Remember that no speech is ever perfect. It just takes time, practice, and experience, whether you are writing or delivering a great speech.
All the best to you on your next speech. You got this!
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As always, keep leaping forward my friend!