3 ways social media can strengthen your speeches

Apply these easy tips before, during and after your speech to keep it focused, engaging, and enduring.

With all the buzz surrounding social media, it seems speechwriting may become a lost art in the PR trade today. Our profession seems to have gone from authoring 14-minute speeches to typing 140-character tweets for our clients.

Or has it?

Ian Griffin, a freelance speechwriter, told us otherwise in his session on “Speechwriting in the Age of Social Media: Magnifying the Impact of a Speech.”

We all know the basics of speechwriting: Research your audience, make your point stick with repetition, consider the delivery, etc. But how do PR pros craft engaging, memorable and moving speeches in the era of Web 2.0?

After all, audience members can only take so many PowerPoint bullets before those bullets shoot holes through their attention spans.

Griffin—whose English accent automatically engages you—said speechwriting, like its traditional-media siblings, is good old-fashioned, one-way communication. But with a few techie tips and a little digital flair, a PR pro can make a speech go two ways.

“Social media magnifies the impact of a speech before, during and after an event,” Griffin revealed.

1. Before a speech: Research the audience.

Go beyond Google or Wikipedia, and check out LinkedIn groups and polls.

“Today we can start a conversation with potential audience members and subject experts via social media,” Griffin said.

Say you have to write a speech for an audience of dentists. Go to a dental LinkedIn group and poll members about what’s top of mind in their field. You’ll hear about the audience’s interests, straight from the source.

2. During the speech: Make it interactive.

Record the speech with a flip cam or poll your audience. Polleverywhere.com offers free live-audience polls for audiences with up to 50 members. You can also upload a video recording of the speech later.

But why bother to actively engage your audience during a speech, especially when it can be distracting? Because of a concept called the backchannel. The backchannel is the conversation your audience has during the speech when they tweet your words or verify your facts on their smartphones and iPads.

If you want some control over the message, encourage your audience to participate digitally, Griffin said.

3. After the speech: Evaluate how well you or the speaker did via social media streams.

What was the chatter during the speech? Check event hashtags on Twitter through sites like twubs.com to see what people said during your pulpit time.

“All promo is great promo,” Griffin said.

Griffin told us you can monitor YouTube clips or podcasts to see how audience members keep the speech going days after you give it. For example, you may not have attended Griffin’s speechwriting session, but you’re getting his speech in the form of a blog post.

I bet Griffin’s tips will make our speeches stick and key points captivate in a time of seven-second attention spans, especially for those of us who don’t have million-dollar voices or an accent. Ahem, like me.

I recommend you download Griffin’s presentation, “Speechwriting in the Age of Social Media,” on SlideShare.

Philip Volmar recently graduated from Brigham Young University’s PR program. He has written for PRSA’s The Strategist and Tactics, as well for Utah’s leading newspaper, the Deseret News. He’s currently looking for employment at a PR agency and can be reached at @pvolmar. A version of this article originally appeared on the PRSA ComPRehension blog.

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