BY DR. HUME JOHNSON
Think of the last great speech you heard. What made it so wonderful that it grabbed your attention and had you hooked? Was it the delivery? The speaker’s words and ideas? Great speeches are those we remember even when we have left the room. The speaker’s ideas are often interesting, convincing and/or entertaining. Their ideas seem to flow and make sense, and you are able to follow the speaker to the end without being distracted. Great speeches begin with great writing. You too can write memorable and interesting speeches that holds the attention of your audience, if you follow my ten golden rules of speechwriting.
1. Create a Speech Plan & Structure
It is important to establish a basic structure for how your speech will go. It helps to organize your thoughts, makes you appear competent (that you know what you are talking about) to the audience, and, believe it or not, helps to overcome speech anxiety as the more prepared you are for speech presentations, the less anxious people tend to feel. This speech plan should include a) main purpose of the speech, b) your core idea and c) three or four main points you wish to make.
2. Decide on a Pattern of Organisation
Speeches can be organized chronologically, spatially, using different topics; they can also be organized in terms of cause and effect, or based on a problem/solution format. Do some research on these different modes of organizing your speech and decide – based on your topic – which is most suited to your speech and write with this in mind.
3. Write Rough Drafts
Your first draft is never going to be perfect. Create a rough draft using your speech plan and structure as a guide, and as you conduct your research or develop your ideas, continue polishing your speech until you are comfortable with how it sounds.
4. Write for the Audience
You have to write your speech with the audience in mind. Audiences are usually keen to know what’s in it for them; why should they listen, so make your speech resonate with their needs and values.
5. Write Your Conclusion First
Yes, I know it sounds odd but what do you want your audience to take away from your speech. What do you want them to think or do as a result of your speech. Start here and the body of your speech will be sure to more accurately reflect this.
6. Write as if you are having a conversation with a respected friend
Your speech needs to have a conversational quality. Speeches ought to be written for the ear, not the eyes. This means you have to write your speech as if it is to be listened to, not read. It needs to come across as more of a conversation with an individual than a pastor preaching from pulpit.
7. Put Your Own Take on the Material
You may find information in books or on the internet for your speech but it need not sound so flat and boring. Put your own spin on the material. Invest your personality in what you write. This gives your speech a sense of authenticity and when you deliver the speech, you will come across with more credibility
8. Craft a Take Away
Remember I asked you to consider what you want your audience to take away from your speech? Well, put this in a nugget of information called a ‘take away’. It is that essential notion you want people to walk away with even if they do not remember anything else from your speech.
9. Remove Fluff
Read over your speech and remove all unnecessary information. Stick with the most important ideas you want your audience to know, and develop those ideas. This is especially important is you have a time limit. You also do not want to stray from your essential points.
10. Prepare Visual Aids
You need not do a fancy PowerPoint presentation for every speech. Indeed a speech at a wedding or a funeral would surely not require this. However, there are devices that one can use that helps the audience to stay engaged in your talk e/g. questions, role play, quizzes, etc
If you follow my ten tips for writing an awesome speech, I promise that you will be rewarded with rapt attention and a confidence boost.
Dr. Hume Johnson, a Professor of Public Relations and Media Studies, is a leading communications authority specializing in public relations, crisis communication, as well as media relations and public speaking coaching. She is the Founder and CEO of Hume Johnson Consulting, a communications consulting firm that helps organisations and professionals improve their communication skills to achieve more success in business and life. Dr. Johnson is also the founder of the nation brand think thank, The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, an organisation dedicated to promoting global knowledge and understanding of Jamaica through scholarly research and content marketing. She is also author of ‘Challenges to Civil Society: Protest and Governance in Jamaica’, and has published myriad articles on nation brand, media politics, crime and governance issues in the developing world.