Writing a speech is not the same as climbing Mount Everest. For some people, the mountain is a cinch. It’s creating the speech that’s hard. Ask ten people how they feel about coming up with a speech for any occasion from a business meeting to a bar mitzvah, and more than half of them will scrunch up their noses as if a particularly sour odor just wafted by. We can safely say that on the Top Ten List of things most people like to do, writing a speech is nowhere in sight.
Inevitably, however, at some time in our life we’ll have to say something wonderful to a group of people we’d like to impress. There’s just no getting out of it. But for many of us, when we have to face the blank white screen on the computer or the empty lines on a yellow pad, we bite our fingernails, shake our heads, drink our 43rd cup of coffee and wonder, “How the heck am I ever going to do this?”
What are we so worried about?
Often it’s simply, “I don’t know what to say first. I don’t know how to organize my thoughts. I don’t know what to put in and what to leave out.”
For others it’s, “Why should they be interested in what I have to say? They probably know as much as I do about this subject. What if they don’t agree with me?”
For some others it’s, “They’ll laugh at me. They’ll think I’m ridiculous. They’ll see I’m a fraud. I’m just not good enough.”
Not to worry. However you feel about the physical act of writing your speech, it doesn’t have to be the Chinese water torture you think it’s going to be. Before you start, ask yourself these few simple questions and write down your answers. Voila! Your speech is practically done!
1. What’s In It For Them? Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. What will they be receiving from you? What will make them say, “Yes, this is what I came to learn. I’m so glad I was here to receive this gift.”
2. Based on what’s in it for them, what is your gift? What’s the one key idea or premise that they need to take home with them? Can you divide it up into three basic statements of proof and give evidence of how each contributes to your key idea?
3. What do you feel absolutely confident about telling your audience? Do you need to do some research? Do you have all the visual aids you need or do you need to create new ones?
4. How many total minutes will you be speaking? How many minutes do you have for each section of your talk? Using 30 minutes as an average guide, it might break down this way:
a. Opening Introduction (Break the Ice) (1-3 minutes)
b. Key Thought or Premise plus Supporting Statements (12-15 minutes total)
*Supporting Statement One: evidence, visual aids
* Supporting Statement Two: evidence, visual aids
*Supporting Statement Three: evidence, visual aids
c. Recap & Repeat of Key Thought (2-4 minutes)
Brief repeat of your Three Supporting Statements
d. Call to Action: (3-5 minutes)
What follow up action do you wish the audience to take?
e. Q&A (optional, if there’s any time remaining)
5. Inspirational/Motivational Moment: The last thing you say will be the easiest for the audience to remember. What do you want them to remember you for? Leave them with a moving or motivational thought or memory in the last moment of your talk.
Voila! There’s your speech. All you have to do now is polish the language, fill in the gaps, come up with your visual aids, and rehearse!
Easy, wasn’t it?