5 Speech Writing Tips You Need to Succeed
Check out these speech writing tips that even the Founding Fathers would tell you are essential best practices.
In honor of the Fourth of July, what could be more patriotic — at least for a content marketing blog — than a post about how to write a great speech? After all, just think about the role some speeches have played in defining our nation’s history. Whether we’re talking about Patrick Henry’s famous “give me liberty or give me death” speech in 1775, the “I have a dream” speech Martin Luther King delivered 188 years later, or countless others in between, great speeches have helped shape our national identity by influencing us, changing our thinking, and inspiring us to action.
Of course, creating a compelling speech is no small feat. Speeches are among the most difficult types of content to create — an art form that most content marketers never master. While I don’t profess to have perfected the craft, I have worked on a fair number of speeches throughout my career. Based on that experience and what I’ve observed listening to speakers, here are five speech writing tips you should always put into practice:
Tip 1: Connect with your audience
More than anything else, the secret to writing a great speech is making sure that you know your audience and find the best way to connect with them. Although delivery plays a critical role here, it’s the content being delivered that truly matters. Make sure that you tell a story with your speech, that you weave in a combination of humor and anecdotes where appropriate, and that you personalize your message as much as possible. If you take the time to relate to your audience, they’ll reward you with their attention and open ears.
Tip 2: Repeat, repeat, and repeat again
People have limited attention spans — often as short as a few minutes — which is an important point to bear in mind when writing a speech. In addition to keeping the length of your speech in check (remember, less really is more), make sure that you’re giving your audience plenty of cues about what they’re hearing. That means providing coming attractions by telling them what they’re going to talk about at the beginning of a speech as well as an executive summary of what you just told them at the end of the speech. It may seem redundant to you the speechwriter, but for an audience full of wandering minds, the repetition goes a long way to ensuring that key concepts register and sink in.
Tip 3: Write like you talk
Most of us were taught in school that just because you speak one way doesn’t mean that you should write that way too. Well, there’s an exception to every rule, and in this case that exception is speech writing. Speeches shouldn’t contain the long sentences, complicated syntax, or sesquipedalian (case in point) words that lace much of our other writing. Instead, make sure that your speeches are written so that they are easy to deliver and follow.
Tip 4: Keep it simple
As a rule of thumb, make sure that you’re communicating no more than three main messages in any given speech. Just as you want to keep the language you use relatively simple, the content also needs to be sharply focused so that your key points don’t get lost in a sea of less important details. Cram in too much and your audience won’t retain any of it.
Tip 5: Always read it out loud
Have a first draft of your speech written? The best way to improve it is to find a private place where you can read it out loud to yourself. Reading speeches out loud forces you to activate your ears and your mouth. Do so and you’ll be much more likely to catch the sentences that ramble on and the words and phrases that are difficult to pronounce. It’s also a great way to judge the cadence of the speech so that you can make changes until you’ve got it right.