You know what I love about public speaking? It’s that regardless how well you did in school – in UPSR, PT3, SPM, or even in university – public speaking is never off limits to anyone, ever. It’s a skill that’s so valuable to have, and yet not hard to obtain!
In fact, if anything could be said was hard about speaking in public, it would only have to be writing a speech. It’s a common misconception that speech writing is a nail-biting experience. And that’s true, to some degree. Speeches are stories told that can move and influence people to change for the better. Sure, the speaker plays a big role in this. But you know who else has a huge part to play in this?
That’s right. It’s everyone’s favourite behind-the-scenes guy – the speech writer.
The pressure is constantly on the writer of the speech to make sure that the speech lives up to the presentation. And more often than not, the writer and the speaker are the same person. So, double the pressure!
These past weeks, we’ve been talking about how to present well, and how to be a charismatic speaker that audiences love to listen to. Today we’re going to explore something slightly different. Today, we’ll discover what makes good speech writing.
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1. Structure Up
Think back to a speech you heard recently. Was there any part of it that bored you or caused you to lose interest halfway through? Chances are you’ve just encountered a speaker that does not follow structure.
See, every speech needs to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The middle, also known as the body, will always be the most crucial part of your speech. This is where you raise your ideas and arguments for audiences to ponder upon. You serve up sufficient evidence to support these points so that they live in the minds of the audience.
But take care to not lose the trail of logical progression. Some speakers like to talk about a topic here, then in the next moment, they’re somewhere else entirely. When a speaker starts talking about global warming in one moment, and the benefits of coal as a cost saving energy resource; you know something’s not quite right.
An important part of this is organizing the points so that related ones follow one another. This way, your ideas build upon each other, instead of stacking up into an incoherent pile. This will also lend your speech a more logical progression and make the job of the listener a far easier one.
What you can do to reinforce this is to let audiences know in your opening on what they can expect your speech to be like. This will also help you as you write and revise to focus on structuring and simplifying. Remove content that’s redundant, extraneous, or confusing. The golden rule to follow here is: less is more.
2. Tell a Story
You know what a good speech isn’t? It’s not a boasting session. It’s not a show you put on to showcase your amazing power point slides.
A good speech tells a story. It’s a story that can move and persuade others to see things the way you do. And above all, a good speech keeps people wanting more. When we present out speech as a story, people are more inclined to listen. Because that’s just how stories are! Regardless of age, we all love a good story.
The previous President of the USA, President Obama would always ask reporters: What’s the story you’re trying to tell?
He knows that like any good story, a good news report (or a speech) has its own narrative arc. For people giving politically involved speeches, for example the aforementioned POTUS: it’s usually a slow warm-up, a substantive middle, and an inspirational end. And that’s just the style he likes.
At the end of the day, it’s your story. Tell your story in whatever way feels natural. Just remember to keep it a story, because a good story can be a lot more powerful than the most compelling facts and statistics.
3. It’s a Journey
As you write, try to visualize how the words would sound when spoken. In a conversation, our tones may go up and down depending on the setting. This goes the same for speech writing as well. A good speech is one that is written to accommodate a speaker’s various emotions and tones. A good way to achieve this is to think of your speech as a journey.
Getting ready for the trip involves providing an introduction. This serves to convince them to travel up your mountain with you. They need to know where you're going together, why it's an interesting journey to go on and why you are a credible guide to lead them there. Along the way, you will pass some fascinating sights, a.k.a. the body. Here you want to try to manipulate the tone and tension so that it constantly rises and lowers throughout the speech. Partition your speech to different emotional spaces with different amounts of emphasis. All of a sudden, you’ve reached the top. It’s the climax of your speech. The climax is the moment of maximum emotional intensity that most powerfully demonstrates your key message. This is the moment where you reach the top of your mountain and marvel at the view together. Finally, you tone down. It’ the trip of descent, also known as the conclusion. Here's where you get to hit home your action point - the key thing you want your audience to do differently as a result of listening to your speech. Write a memorable conclusion that captures the essence of your speech, give it some punch, and stick to it!
What do you think about this blog post? Do leave a comment and we will reply below. You are also encouraged to start a conversation in the comment section!
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