Ten tips for preparing an effective speech
The first thing to decide once you know a speech is required is whether you have the time or the expertise to write it yourself. Or will you get a better result and meet your deadline if you commission a professional to write the speech for you? If you are only required to deliver a three-minute informal speech to people who know you well, your decision may well be to wing it with a set of bullet points on a prompt card, rather than laboriously writing out every word.
However, if you need to write a keynote speech or a 20-30-minute speech, chances are you’ll need professional assistance. One of the services I offer my clients is speechwriting. I am a former mayoral speechwriter and can easily write a speech for a significant birthday, anniversary or other social event. Contact me
Here are some points to consider if you’re writing the speech yourself. Or use them to help you to brief your scriptwriter.
- Purpose – Why do you need to deliver a speech? Is there a task it has to perform? – Welcome? Acknowledge? Entertain? Celebrate a special occasion? Inform? Educate? Request? Persuade? Explain?
- Who is your audience? – What do they expect and what do you need to say to accommodate them?
- Research – If you’ve been set a topic, do you need to research it? Do you need to come across as an expert? What do you know about your topic already? How will you obtain your information? Is there anyone you need to contact to help you? Make sure your facts are correct.
- Tone of voice – What is the most appropriate tone of voice for your audience and environment – Formal and businesslike? Informal and chatty? Humorous? Witty? Would your message be conveyed more effectively by telling a story? From your own life? From real people (local?) and events? Be gracious. Write from your ‘best self’. Be warm and generous-spirited in your acknowledgements, avoid boasting or bad-mouthing.
- Key messages – Mind map or note down in advance with bullet points the key information you need to convey to your audience.
- Acknowledgements & thanks – Are there individuals, sponsors or organisations you need to acknowledge in your speech. Who has helped you – to organise/stage the event/in your life/in your business?
- Structuring your speech – Think about the outline of your speech before you begin to write it or brief a speechwriter. Expand on your mind map bullet points. Rearrange them in an appropriate hierarchy. You’ll need an introduction, middle, conclusion.
- Length – Unless you’ve been requested to speak for a specified length of time, keep it short.
- Avoid repetition – Nothing is more boring to an audience than to hear the same point repeated, albeit in different words. Clarity is required. Know what you want to say and why you’re saying it. If you’ve lost your audience at the beginning, you may have lost them for good.
- Wrap-up – What thought or impression do you want to leave in the minds of your audience at the conclusion of your speech? How do you want them to feel? Do you want them to take any particular action as a result of your speech?