Speech writing can be one of the most intimidating things you’re ever asked to do, even for the most practiced CEO. But with a solid set of talking points, you or your client can speak with confidence. Whether you’re a public relations professional writing on behalf of an executive or a professional leading a continuing education session, the following five tips will help you write a speech that shines a light on your expertise.
1. Know your speech writing goal.
Before you start writing your speech, understand both what the audience expects and the desired outcome of the presentation. If you are in a crisis situation, this could mean conveying empathy and instilling confidence in your organization’s leadership. If you are presenting to a professional organization, you should provide expertise and key takeaways. As you prepare your speech, keep this goal in mind.
2. Identify your audience.
Who will hear your presentation? If you are giving a press conference, there could be several audiences to consider, such as the press, key stakeholders and employees. Prioritize these audiences and think through what each one needs to hear. What questions might they have? What misconceptions are out there? When you give a speech, you have the opportunity to disseminate your message to a captive audience – so take advantage! Your speech should address the highest priority audience, but weave some of these secondary messages in through post-press conference interviews, social media posts or follow-up communications.
3. Find your voice.
This can be the most challenging step when the speech you’re writing isn’t your own. If you’re writing the speech on behalf of an executive or client, it’s important to get in the zone of the person who will deliver the words you are writing. Watch previous speeches they have delivered, listen closely to the words they use in conversation and take the time to understand what they want to convey. It’s critical that the speech sound like it is their own because once those words are spoken, it inherently becomes theirs.
4. Define the key messages.
What three things should the audience walk away knowing? Key messages and talking points help keep your speech – and the speaker – focused. I think of these as the skeleton of the speech. Everything surrounding those talking points should further emphasize and lead to the key messages. This is particularly important when there are multiple speakers, such as in a press conference situation. Clearly defining who will cover what ensures information isn’t repeated unnecessarily. Also, this gives each speaker the opportunity to shine.
5. Think about what’s left unsaid.
Whether this speech is for a presentation or a press conference, there is a high likelihood it will be followed by a Q&A session. Make a list of potential questions and think through the answers. Is there a major topic area missing from your speech? This is your opportunity to work it in so the Q&A doesn’t get derailed. Writing out potential answers also helps you speak confidently when things go off-script.
And remember, speech writing can, and should, be fun. Consider it for the opportunity that it is — a chance to get your message, your news, your announcement, your vision for your company — directly to your intended audience delivered in your voice. And, if we can ever help you with that, give us a call.
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