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Writing Speeches That Magnetize Audiences
By Michael Meanwell

Excerpt from The Enterprising Writer: How to earn $111,245 a year, writing what you like when you like by Michael Meanwell

It's been said that making a speech in public is the number one fear in people's minds.  Curiously, the prospect of writing a speech seems to generate a similar effect on many writers.

(Incidentally, after public speaking, death rates second, and jumping out of a plane comes in a close third.)

Speech writing may not be the hottest market available to writers (yet), but it's one area that's often overlooked by corporate communicators.  If you are responsible for assembling all of the media material for a major announcement, it makes sense that you should be involved with the speeches on the day.  Apart from knowledge of the project, you will also bring to the task your professional writing skills as well as a level of objectivity that the presenter may not possess.

Like any piece of writing, you need to invest time not only in researching the topic, but also in deciding the best way to present it.

I've written speeches for politicians, executives and regular people.  While the subject matter, presentation and end result may be completely different, before you begin writing any speech, you should:

1.  Know the occasion-- this will determine what is presented and how it is presented

2.  Know the purpose-- what is the objective and the intended outcome of the speech

3.  Know the audience-- who will be hearing the speech and what are their expectations

4.  Know the speaker-- who is presenting the speech and what are their requirements

Once you know these four things, you'll know what to write, hot to write it, and how the speaker can deliver it.

Know the occasion

The occasion sets the scene for your production.  Whether it's a product launch, public safety announcement or eulogy, the occasion sets the tone, content, and length of the speech as well as the attitudes, beliefs and expectations of the audience.

It provides a framework for your words, and will determine the use of humor, quotations, visual aids or other devices.  The occasion also reminds you that your speech is part of a bigger picture.  So it's important to ensure that your piece complements other speeches and/or the entire event.

Know the purpose

Just as there are many different occasions, there are many different kinds of speeches to write.  Before you create one word, you must know the purpose of your speech.  Is the speech designed to:

bulletEntertain (e.g. social event)
bulletEnlighten (e.g. report or seminar)
bulletPersuade (e.g. sales conference)

Once you know what kind of speech you're writing, you need to define a clear goal: What is the purpose of your speech?

bulletTo entertain the audience as part of a toast to the bride and groom
bulletTo enlighten the shareholders to the future developments of the company
bulletTo persuade prospects to invest in a new real estate venture

Defining the goal of your speech in a single sentence does more than just allow you to stay focused throughout the research and writing process.  It also enables you to discern the quality of the communication, and what material to include or remove when editing the speech.

Know the audience

Once you know the occasion and the purpose of the speech, you need to determine the needs, background, beliefs and expectations of your audience.

Your speech must be written as a personal address to each of the people.  It must be stimulating and engaging, and it must motivate them, according to the goal of your speech.

Tailor your message by presenting it in familiar words and in a suitable style (e.g. formal for a business presentation, friendly for a social occasion).

Know the speaker

Your speech will live or die, depending on the way it is presented.  

Body language experts will tell us that the words you choose account for only 10% of what you communicate to others.  The rest relates to mannerisms and the physical method of delivery.

It's important for you to gain an understanding of the inner workings of the speaker, so that you can mesh their personality and vernacular with your message.  Also, by meeting with them prior to the writing, you will get a better picture of what to write as well as how to write it.

All writing must have a logical structure, and speech writing is no different.  It must have an introduction, a middle and a conclusion.  And there must be a natural progression from one phase to the next.

The opening is arguably the most crucial part of the speech.  You have less than a minute to set the tone, stimulate interest and build excitement.

There are a number of ways you can achieve this, such as opening with a thought-provoking question, a startling fact or statement, a poignant quotation or an amusing anecdote.

Now that you've got the audience's attention, you can move to the middle or body of your speech.  This encompasses the essence of your message.

Your shareholders' report, sales presentation or wedding speech should comprise a series of points that are sequentially laid out, each building on the previous and moving you closer to a logical conclusion.

The closing, like the opening, should be brief but memorable.  It should also achieve one or more of the following things:

1.  Summarize the main points or the argument of the speech

2.  Leave the listener satisfied (with their expectations met)

3.  Motivate the listener into action (to purchase or seek more information, if appropriate)

Before you write, prepare a one-page outline with all of the points you need to cover, and work through them systemically.

When writing the speech, visualize your audience and their backgrounds.  This will help you choose the best way of conveying the message.  Avoid jargon and technicalities-- keep it simple.

The best way to edit and polish the speech is to read it aloud.  That way you will get a better feel for the flow and rhythm of the speech.

Because a speech is not read but heard by the audience, you could be forgiven for thinking that presentation on paper doesn't mean much.  But it does-- for the speaker.  Make sure the text is double-spaced and that specific points are emphasized in bold.  Also, include any references to visual aids and other devices to be used during the presentation.  Careful attention to the presentation on paper will ensure a flawless delivery.

Remember Winston Churchill's stirring "we shall fight them on the beaches" World War II speech... And John F Kennedy's patriotic "ask not what your country can do for you" inaugural address... And Martin Luther King's inspirational "I have a dream" proclamation?

Of course you do.

From the beginning of recorded history, speeches have altered our thinking, stirred our actions and often changed the course of history.

Speeches can appeal to the widest spectrum of emotions.  They can incite violence or promote peace, but always they will motivate people.

Unaccustomed as you may be to writing speeches, they are a field you can learn to manage well and even enjoy.

And, like other areas of PR, they attract healthy pay rates.  But, best of all, speeches remain one of the best untapped markets for writers.

 

Order The Enterprising Writer e-book at http://www.meanwellstore.com/ 

Copyright 2001Michael Meanwell.  Reprinted with permission.

 

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