10 tips for writing and polishing a speech

Your next oral presentation shouldn’t be a recitation of a chunk of text. Follow these guidelines to power up that prose into riveting rhetoric.

You probably wouldn’t read an essay aloud and call it a “speech.”

Writing a speech and producing an essay have much in common, however. One is basically a spoken form of the other, but keep in mind the unique features that distinguish a presentation delivered with your voice and one that others read.

1. Plan your speech according to the occasion, considering the event, the audience, the tone of the speech (somber, serious, informal, humorous, and so on), and its duration.

2. Identify the message or theme of the speech, and how you will approach it.

3. Craft an effective opening that gets your audience’s attention, employing an anecdote, a joke, a quotation, or a thought-provoking question or assertion. You should be able to express your introduction in 30 seconds or less.

4. Outline a handful of points to cover, just as you would when writing a persuasive or informative essay.

5. Organize the points so they support and build on one another, and add or omit points as necessary to support your overall message or theme and to fit into your time limit.

6. Work on your transition from point to point.

7. Just as you began strongly, be sure to conclude your speech effectively by summarizing your points and finishing up with an additional question or comment for your listeners to take with them.

8. Write the speech out in full, and then evaluate it, working through as many drafts as necessary until you have honed and refined it to a crisp, clear, compelling speech.

9. When you are satisfied with the final draft, ask a couple of people to review it for you and suggest any material in it that may not be appropriate for the occasion, any flaws in organization or clarity of thought, any problems with grammar or usage, and anything that is not necessary or is missing. Revise the draft as necessary based on the feedback.

10. Though rehearsing for the speech itself is outside the purview of this post, practice reading the speech aloud to produce a final version that accounts for how it sounds as opposed to how it reads.

A version of this post first appeared on Daily Writing Tips.


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