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The Speech Writing Process A Public Speakers Guide – Part I

Speech writing is often one of the most difficult processes involved in crafting a speech but it needn’t be. Most new speakers come to my courses, seminars and one on one training with questions relating to writing a speech. There are many questionable speech writing methods that beginning speakers employ that both complicate & impede their speaking endeavors. In this first installment of a two part series on speech writing – I will explore the techniques to avoid (See Part II – The Speech Writing Process A Public Speakers Guide). The most commonly seen and important to avoid pitfalls of speech writing are:

Starting Without an Outline

Your speech is a journey. Your audience needs to know your key premise and understand where you intend to bring them along the path to your conclusion. This is most successfully accomplished in the writing phase with a proper outline. An outline allows you to organize your thoughts before you go any further in the writing process and keep yourself (and your audience) on the path to the desired outcome of the speech. With a well developed outline you are in good shape to further develop the content of your speech. You can guarantee that the flow of ideas will capture the audience and deliver the message you intend, leaving you to just focus on powerful, authentic delivery.

Write Out Your Speech

Writing a speech and an academic paper or article are not the same process. That is to say, writing content to be delivered for print or web isn’t the same as writing a speech. If we treat these very different tasks as equivalent we are headed for difficulty. For most beginning speakers this is where they learn to dislike the process of speaking. The mistakenly think they need to write a literary masterpiece, memorize it by rote memorization and deliver it from memory. This is entirely incorrect, inverted and inefficient method. Novice speakers then worry far to much about delivering the content they have written word for word or worse yet – reading their content. Doing so impairs your ability to deliver with vocal vigor and body language which you need to be effective as a speaker.

Fire Up PowerPoint

PowerPoint is a powerful and useful technology but it shouldn’t be the first thing you reach for when writing your speeches. If you choose to write and develop speeches in this manner they will be devoid of the natural flow that would come with a developed outline. They will seem more disjunct and less focused. The technology of PowerPoint itself isn’t the issue as much as it forces people to focus less on the content and intention of their talk and more on images, video and transitions. As with any communication, the most vital part is our message. Don’t let your message get mangled by technology. Deploy it after you have a clear outline and a coherent message.

All of these poor speech writing habits get in the way of developing and delivering your speeches effectively. They lead to a lack of passion, vocal variety, and authentic delivery that leave audiences snoozing. In our next installment (part II), I will speak to the methods we can use to write efficiently and effectively.

4 thoughts on “The Speech Writing Process A Public Speakers Guide – Part I”

  1. Thanks Joseph – other than an outline, I would say preparation is the MOST important aspect of any public speaking engagement. Personally, I practice my presentation mentally to exhaustion. I also practice in front of a mirror and say the words out loud, paying particular attention to my body language.

    I appreciate the checklist you provide here and I like how you emphasize that people shouldn’t obsess over giving a “word for word” speech. The best speeches really are when you come across a bit more natural. Cheers!

    1. Jeremy,

      Thanks for your comments! =) Here I’m addressing more of the beginning writing process than latter stages such as practiced delivery. Nonetheless, I have to agree that preparation is vital to success in any speaking situation. Thanks for your insights!

  2. Yolanda Freeman

    I would love some tips on how to start. I forever sit there with a blank page and probably waste a good couple of hours just not knowing how to start off.
    Your tips and recommendations are giving me some direction, so thank you. Any tips on starting the process?

    1. Yolanda, I always recommend people start with an outline. If you are asking about the first steps before developing an outline I’d recommend you brainstorm and put everything out on paper. From there, you can edit and organize your speech. Best of luck!

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