Writing a speech is definitely one of the most intimidating experiences that anyone can encounter. Unless you are well-versed on your topic as well as your audience preparing a speech can be a very daunting task. You'll find that many people even consult speech coaches to aide them in overcoming their fears and learn the best means of sustaining a crowd while still delivering a powerful message.
Speeches though, essentially, are forms of writings and require clarification and detail of primary writing elements such as; audience and purpose, thesis statement or main objective, supportive points and concepts, and clear introductions, bodies and conclusions. In addition to these basic components a good speech also considers aspects of delivery such as tone and body language. So to begin formulating a well-crafted speech the first step is to get to know your audience.
Know your audience
Knowing your audience and how to address them can make the biggest difference between a successful speech and a foiled one. There are many personal occasions to present a speech and different academic and professional venues as well. If your speech is for academic purposes
for example, try to learn more about the people you will be speaking in front of-for example; Are they college students in their late teens and early 20's? Or are they professionals in a certain discipline with a wide range of ages from 20-60? Also do they represent a specific minority such as parents that have children with disabilities or students pursuing a specific scholarship or academic program?
In asking these and similar questions you are taking the first step to speech preparation by formulating an audience profile. A quick checklist to get you started can be seen below.
- Create an audience profile by summarizing the information mentioned previously such as; age range, professional background, education, specific or common interest etc.
- Identify key points or phrases that would please or 'work over well' with the particular audience or crowd.
- Determine the benefit factor for the audience and answer the question; Why should they listen to me?
The second and third points are also important to understanding and identifying your audience. Its a good idea to prepare key points or phrases ahead of time that will build rapport between you and them as well. Likewise, the key phrases are especially important if you don't represent your audience's demographics or characteristics and need to build a relationship in order to better connect with them. The last point (number 3) should be a guiding post for your writing. Always ask the question, What do they get out of this? Thinking in this way can make your speech audience-driven and prove successful in the end by providing the audience with a true need such as useful and enlightening material.
Formulate a thesis statement
If you've already identified your topic and have narrowed it down to a manageable size you can now start to focus on your thesis statement by identifying the main point or objective of your speech. Whether its for educational or informational purposes, your speech should have a focal point and an objective that will hopefully be accomplished by the end of it. This provides direction and focus for your writing and will insure that your speech is not pointless and useless to the listener.
Create an outline
Your outline can be one of the most valuable tools you possess. An outline is a fast and efficient way of organizing your information and making sure that all of your points are adequately addressed. After forming a well-structured outline
you may also formulate notecards to guide you along in presenting your speech. The notecards will flow in the natural order of the outline therefore making the process easy and simple to follow.
So what elements go into a speech outline? You can organize your outline just like an essay and start right off with an introduction.
- Opening statement or catch phrase: Think of a witty or interesting attention grabber to gain the interest of your audience. Depending on your topic you can start off with a famous quote, an anecdote, a statistic, or an intriguing example.
- Background: Provide some information on (a) yourself (b) and the topic you are covering. Basically everyone wants to know the speaker-so give a little bit of personal information, as needed, if you feel that it will be advantageous for your presentation.
The second point obviously is to provide some details on your subject. If the topic is not known to the audience you may give some historical information or if its well-known you can also start off with a few observations or general statements to warm up the crowd.
- Thesis statement: Let your audience know that you have a point to reach and how you plan to get there. A sample thesis statement for a speech on counseling techniques for professionals could be as follows;
"Properly understanding and implementing coping skills for adolescents involves truly identifying the primary symptoms your client is experiencing, knowing what's been proven in the field, and pinpointing what techniques will work well for your client specifically."
*A thesis statement such as this can easily be verbalized without seeming 'over-technical' or as if the presenter is reading from a book. We also learn from it that the speaker will be discussing (a) coping skills for adolescents (b) how to identify a client's symptoms (c) what techniques have been proven (d) how to tell what works and what doesn't work for a client.
The body of your speech includes the development and support of your main argument. You can easily structure this section by identifying each separate point and its supportive details, and adding a 'connection' or 'linking' statement to join that point with the thesis statement
. Some simple instructions are as follows;
- Provide a clear organizational method for discussing your points; there are several techniques for this, such as problem-solution, cause and effect, or order of importance.
- Break your main objective down into several key arguments. Prepare notes on each argument by restating it in a more detailed or alternative way and then support it with key evidences such as; statistics, proven results, examples etc.
- Link each argument back to the main objective of the speech by explaining how it relates or impacts the 'bigger picture.'
Your ending statement and conclusion can be very difficult to create. Its your lasting impression and final thoughts to your audience. When writing out your conclusion go for 'simple and creative' rather than 'grand and obvious.' In addition to summarizing your main points you can try to end with a landmark quote from a respected authority in your discipline or with a call to action for improvements in one area (for example if you were educating professionals on coping skills as in the above example) or with considerations for future research and discussions.
The last key feature of great speech writing is to practice on your delivery method. Voice tone and fluctuation are very important in effective speaking and can make a tremendous impact on your audience-so plan accordingly. Additionally try to keep your subject matter focused on one main idea and avoid diversions or sidebars unless warranted. And finally work to establish a connection or rapport with your audience from the very beginning. In addition to receiving a better response from your audience it should also make your experience more enjoyable and rewarding.