Leaders of organizations are often called on to make speeches – to stockholders, to industry groups, to civic organizations. Speeches are opportunities to not only deliver key messages, but to connect in a deeply personal way with an audience. Despite the array of communication options available to us today, a well-written and well-delivered speech remains a powerful means of communication.
Writing a speech for oneself can be a daunting enough task – how can you write for someone else?
Here are eight tips covering how to write a great speech for somebody else to deliver.
- Great speeches come from research. Start by trying to learn as much as you can about the organization and its key messages. In most cases, you won’t be reinventing those, you’ll simply be packaging them in the form of a speech. These messages will form the first outline of your text.
- Scan the company website and related sources for interesting pieces of information that will make an impression on the audience and make the speech content memorable. I call these “Hmmmm . . .” tidbits – if I’m reading something and it has that impact on me, it is likely that others will react the same way.
- Great speakers know the details. Who is the audience? What do they know about the organization? Who will be introducing the speaker? Can you or someone from the organization write the introduction?
- Schedule a meeting or phone call with the speaker if possible, even if only for 15 minutes. Ask what he or she wants to say and listen closely for content, cadence, pacing and sentence structure. You will want to replicate those in the way you write the speech.
- If you can’t get the meeting – and that is often the case, unfortunately – ask for previous speech texts. Sometimes, there is video of the speaker. Google is your friend here, and any record of his or her spoken word is valuable.
- Remember the power of stories – stories about people positively affected, stories of extraordinary effort or performance, personal stories about the speaker that relate to a key message. People remember stories and they often can help build a powerful speech, but those stories must have a clear purpose.
- Finally, write the speech. Think about how the key messages can inform an outline. Imagine the speaker talking about those points and begin writing that way. Use phrase repetition and alliteration to call attention to important points. Focus on transitions – audiences start out on the speaker’s side and will go where he or she is going as long as there are milestones and an end in sight.
- Make the conclusion matter – what is the call to action?
Knowing how to write a good speech is a valuable skill that will help you daily. These eight steps can help turn a daunting assignment into an opportunity to help a leader tell an important and strategic story.