Every great speech starts with an idea, be it for school or work or a TED talk about your area of speciality. We investigate how to get all those ideas from your head to a written speech and then back to your heart. Author of "How to be Brilliant at Public Speaking", Sarah Lloyd-Hughes explains the five steps of speech writing...
Even heads of state and other renowned orators have help in writing a speech. They often have professional speech writers to provide them with great content, but you too can learn not only how to talk but also how to write a speech like a pro.
Here are 5 steps that we take our speakers through when they're writing a speech - and it's the same process as we use for writing TED style talks.
TED talks famously focus on 'one idea worth spreading' and this is what helps them to retain their power. Before you write a single line, figure out what the ONE idea is that you'll shape your talk around.
When your talk has a single focus you'll see huge benefits:
To find your 'idea worth spreading' takes a little time and skill, which is why we've devised a complete programme for speakers who are interested in writing World Class Speeches, like the finest TED speakers.
But if you're just looking for a place to start, these questions will help you get going:
You're looking for one idea that is clear, interesting and hasn't been heard before. Good luck!
Ironically, most speakers completely fail to think about their audience! Yet the best speakers are intimately aware of the needs, questions and doubts facing their audience.
Ask: To whom am I speaking? Before you start writing you first must ask yourself Who is my audience and what are they seeking? Writing a speech for a group of human rights activists would be very different to a speech for business managers. Technology engineers might have a totally different perspective on your subject than a room full of English professors. Thinking deeply about your audience's needs is the quality of a public speaker I call Empathy. It's an important starting point on your speech writing journey.
Ask: Why should they listen to you? Great speech writing is grounded in purpose and message. Consider what qualifies you to speak; what you have to offer the audience that they would not be able to hear from anyone else (we all have something).
Ask: What do you want to leave your audience with? As a result of your Empathetic investigations, what would be your desired outcome as a result of the speech? Decide what your main message will be and continually return to that primary point as you compose your speech. This keeps the audience (and you) focused. As Winston Churchill said: “If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time with a tremendous whack.”
Now you have a clear focus to your speech and an idea of how to communicate that clearly to your audience. That's the skeleton of the speech. It's now time to fill in that skeleton with meaty content:
Another key skill of speech writing is to get the right information in the right order. Think of your speech like a journey up a mountain:
Practice your speech several times so that you can feel comfortable with the material. Try the speech out on camera or to a friend to see which parts are most powerful and which you can take the red pen to.
However skilled you are (or not) at speech writing, remember that you are the magic that makes the speech work. It's your authentic voice that will shine to the audience them and inspire them towards your message.
Follow these speech writing tips, give it some practice and you'll be sure to be a speech writing winner.
But I've collected my years of experience working with world-class conference speakers and TED speakers and distilled it into a simple guidebook that you can access now for just £20 (+VAT).
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