The goal of a speaker is to educate and inform their audience and make the speech an enjoyable experience. Just as a screenwriter needs to create a movie or play that captures their audience’s attention, writing a speech needs direction, structure and a plan.
How to Write a Speech Outline
Think like a storyteller: Just like a story, the elements of writing a speech include a beginning, middle and an end.
Beginning: People tend to listen to WiiFM…as in “what’s in it for me?” Create your introduction and a brief overview of your talking points, but limit those points to only three or four. Tell them why the information you are about to share is important to them and why are they taking valuable time from their day to listen to you. Give them a taste of what’s to come, but just enough to capture and hold their attention.
Middle: Here is where you expand upon the above information and deliver the value-added information your audience signed up to hear. The middle or “body” of your speech should be tailored to sharing why your audience is present and how you can help them. To pique the interest of your audience and keep them tuned in to you, be very clear as to why they are there, what can they learn, what take-aways can they expect and even how this new information can affect their life/work going forward. As you speak, be mindful of how you want your audience to feel at the end of your speech and what actions would you like them to take. What is your ultimate goal – to have your audience be excited to buy the product or service? Be motivated to exercise and live healthier lifestyle? Keep the ultimate goal in mind when writing your speech.
End: Conclude, review and summarize. In reality, people have what some experts call “goldfish attention spans.” Not only is repetition and summarizing your material valuable, it will assist in keeping your audience engaged until the very end. Repetition has several benefits including increased memory retention, creation of a cognitive cue (as in “oh, I’ve heard this before”) and it is a helpful reminder if they missed the point the first time. Your ending also acts as your call-to-action or verbal direction as to what your audience needs to do next (sign up, get fit, buy your program etc.).
Writing Tips for a Winning Speech
1. Entertain: You don’t need to make your speech into a mini theatre play, but it will be helpful to vary the emotions of your message (serious, humorous, dramatic, suspense, intrigue) and include examples or analogies that your audience can relate to. Adding elements to your speech like video clips or jokes also helps to enhance the audience experience.
2. Write it Like You Talk: Studies have shown that readers and audiences respond much more favorably to information that is delivered in a more conversational tone. Avoid writing academic jargon, technical terms or big complicated words. Deliver your speech as if you were talking to a friend.
3. Break It Down: As you write your speech, keep the content easy for attendees to consume by breaking it down in 4-5 minute segments to accommodate the short attention spans. Organize and structure your speech to allow for the sharing of some information for 5 minutes, then a switch to sharing a video or playing a song, before continuing with another 5 minutes of your material. As people listen to your speech they could potentially be thinking of their to-do lists, texting or even thinking of how they will implement the information. By breaking up content within your speech, along with repeating or rephrasing, you will hold their attention and keep them engaged.
4. Engage All of The Senses: As you craft your speech, strive to use all the senses – visual, audio and kinesthetic. Each person in your audience takes information in through different channels such as sight, sound and touch. Sight and sound can be covered through the presentation of your material and some of the above suggestions (video, music) and touch can be achieved through a demo of your product or service to your audience in a “hands on” experiment or presentation.
5. Practice, Practice Practice: Not only is practicing your finished speech out loud a good idea, it also helps you hone in on areas that may need some work. If there is a section of your speech that you consistently hesitate or stumble on, chances are it needs some improvement. Reading your speech to a friend is another effective method. Sometimes a second set of ears is just the ticket to identify areas of your speech that may need improvement. Consider hiring a public speaking coach to help you organize your speech, practice and improve the delivery.
6. Do You Have the Time? As you are practicing your speech, be mindful of the time it takes to deliver it. If your allotted speaking timeslot is 60 minutes and you only have 40 minutes of material, it may be time to do some more research and adding of material. On the flip-side you don’t want your 60 minutes to be up and you’ve only gotten halfway through your material. Maintaining your timeframe is a critical component to consider when writing a speech.
7. Know Your Audience & Do Your Research: Speakers and trainers must take the time to become familiar with their audience. Tailor your speech to reflect who you are speaking to whether it’s church staff, football players, CEOs or finance companies. Tone, topic, terminology, degree of professionalism and level of expertise of your potential audience are all factors that should be considered when writing your speech for a specific company, individual, or organization.
8. Keep it Simple: The K.I.S.S. principal also works well in public speaking. Strive to “keep it simple” by trimming your speech to be as succinct as possible and avoid data dumping. Other “keep it simple” tactics include limiting your points per topic to 3-4, using simple words and phrases, and getting to the point as quickly as possible. Nothing makes an audience fade out faster than a speaker who drones on forever and never gets to the point.
Writing an effective and memorable speech is a great way to share your expertise and align yourself as a credible person in your industry. The content, organization and structure of the speech you write is just as important as the effective delivery of it. Take as much care in the writing of your speech as you would the creation of your resume. Always use the utmost of care, professionalism and creativity when crafting your speech so you can leave a lasting and positive impression with your audience.
“The success of your presentation will be judged not by the knowledge you send, but by what the listener receives.”-Lilly Walters
Learn how to master these valuable skills to become a more dynamic public speaker and leader. For more information contact Coach Kiomi, an experienced public speaking coach, and schedule your free consultation.