In a wonderful speech, the speaker’s words flow, gently leading the audience along.
Everything fits together and makes perfect sense.
Some make it look easy, but what we perceive as effortless oration comes from diligent, sophisticated speechwriting. Great speeches are constructed by someone turning a thoughtful, strategic set of concepts into practical tips, stories and action items.
If you have an upcoming speaking engagement or presentation, review these 10 essentials. You might just give the speech of your life.
1. Prepare early. Begin gathering material for your speech well before the big day. As you learn about your topic, ideas for writing and organizing it will emerge.
2. Be audience-centered. Everything you write should prioritize the needs of the audience. Focus your efforts on helping the audience understand what you are saying.
3. Start at the end. Write the conclusion of your talk right away. Decide what you want the audience to do or to think regarding your speech. Then write using that as a guide.
4. Write for the ear, not the eye. Experienced writers know that every medium and project has its own language, cadence, style and structure. Don’t write the speech to be read. Write it so that when your audience hears it, they get it right away.
5. Make rough drafts first, and polish later. Don’t worry about writing the perfect speech right off the bat. The best speeches come only after many revisions.
6. Put your own spin on the material. You’ll stymie creative juices if you think everything you say must be entirely original. Don’t be afraid to piggyback off someone else’s ideas and put your spin on it. The audience wants to hear your point of view.
7. Make only three main points. It’s always tempting to overshare about a subject to ensure you get your point across, but the last thing you want to do is overwhelm your audience with information. Don’t try to cover more than three major points in your speech.
8. Craft a takeaway line. When people miss a speech, they ask: “What did the speaker talk about?” What they say you said—that’s your takeaway line. Give your audience a tidy nugget that will stick with them.
9. Trim the excess. What is the very least the audience needs to know about your topic? What information is crucial? Omit material that would be “nice to know.” Cut the fat, and serve up only essential choice cuts.
10. Write using the WIIFM principle. That is: What’s in it for me? People are interested only in material that affects them. After writing your speech, no matter how brilliant or clever it seems, apply the WIIFM principle and judge whether your audience will care about it.
Bill Cole is founder and CEO of William B. Cole Consultants. A version of this post first appeared on mentalgamecoach.com.