Speech Writing – 10 Tips for More Effective Speech Writing

Speech writing can be much easier when you know what’s needed for an effective speech. There isn’t one formula that will fit each speech writing project, but the following tips will give you ideas on what to do the next time you need to write a speech to be given in a business or professional environment.

Shows a business man at a desk while speech writing.

Speech Writing Tip Number 1 — Create a Clear and Simple Message

Before you begin your speech writing project, define your message and stick to it.  Don’t try to make too many points during your speech. Attempting to cover too much ground in a short time will confuse your audience.  If you are speaking for ten minutes, for example, you will have enough time to convey one message.  Summarise this message in one sentence and keep it in front of you while writing your speech.

Speech Writing Tip Number 2 – Know Your Audience and Write for Them

The type of audience you’re addressing will determine what you say and how you say it. For example, if writing your speech on a technical subject, you will have to define your terms and explain more if the audience members are not experts in the field. If they know the subject, you won’t have to explain the concepts. If you have both groups in the audience, you might say something like, “For those of you who don’t know…”, then explain it to them.  Sometimes you won’t know the level of understanding of your listeners, so you will need to ask questions and adjust your speech accordingly.

Speech Writing Tip Number 3 — Write the Way You Usually Speak

A speech should not be written like an article, essay or report. For example, most people use contractions (I’ll, we’ll, can’t, he’s, we’re, it’s) when they speak — so write your speech this way.  This applies to the types of terms you use. Instead of however, write but. In place of therefore, write so.  Copywriters call this conversational tone, and it’s important to maintain this tone in your speech writing.

Speech Writing Tip Number 4 — Create a Connection with Your Audience

If you’re speaking to an unfamiliar group, develop ways to connect with them. If you were speaking to a community group, for example, you would want to find out who they are, what they do and what they believe. Then use this knowledge to create a connection between the group and you or your message. For example, you could mention how the group’s values are similar to those of your organisation.  It will help if the group you are addressing has a website or other background information.

Once when we were writing a speech for a business that was sponsoring an arts organisation, we were finding it challenging to connect to the two organisations. After doing some research, we found that both organisations had been established in the same year. This commonality helped to connect the speaker to the audience at the beginning of the speech.

Speech Writing Tip Number 5 – Use Stories to Make Your Point

From early childhood we develop an appreciation for stories and the ideas they communicate. When you use stories in your speech writing, you are conveying your message in an entertaining and memorable way. For example, a CEO speaking about the need for change at his organisation can tell a story about a company that wasn’t able to change and failed as a result. On the positive side, the business leader could tell a story about a business that succeeded because it was able to change.  Plenty of resource material is available if you are willing to spend some time researching. Personal stories are often the best if they are relevant to what you are speaking about, so it’s a good idea to write down the interesting stories you hear or experience.  For more information on using stories in your speech writing, go to Speech Writing: How to Create Impact With Stories.

Speech Writing Tip Number 6 – Use Quotations in Your Speech Writing to Support Your Ideas

Including a few quotations from authorities and experts gives support to your message. By adding quotations you show that other people agree with your idea. For more information on using quotations in your speech writing, go to Speech Writing: How to Use Quotations in Speeches and Presentations.

Speech Writing Tip Number 7  – Use Facts, Figures and Statistics when Appropriate

A well-written speech will aim for a balance of emotion and logic. Using facts, figures and statistics from reputable sources will support your message with a logical foundation. Be careful not to overload your speech or presentation with too much information in a short time. Doing so will overwhelm the audience and lessen the effectiveness of your speech or presentation.

Speech Writing Tip Number 8 — Use Humour to Help Your Audience Relax and Enjoy Your Speech

Humour does not necessarily mean telling jokes. If you are not the type of person who enjoys telling jokes to your family and friends, don’t try telling jokes in your speeches.  It’s best to use relevant humorous stories that you have experienced or heard. If you can’t think of any of these, use a humorous quote on the subject. For example, if you are speaking about computers and want to add some humour, you can Google “humorous computer quotes” and find many sites with funny quotes about computers that you can use when writing your speech.  Avoid humour that might be offensive to any listeners. An accomplished  motivational speaker once said, “If in doubt, leave it out.”

Speech Writing Tip Number  9 — End with a Strong Conclusion that Reinforces Your Message

Your speech conclusion is a crucial time when you can make a final impact on your audience. When writing your speech conclusion, ask yourself, “What do I want my listeners to take away or do as a result of my speech?”  Write your conclusion based on your answer. Some speech writers even suggest writing the conclusion first because it sums up the message you want to deliver and will help you focus on the key message when writing the opening and body of the speech. For ideas on writing a speech conclusion, go to Speech Writing: Seven Ways to Conclude a Speech for Maximum Impact.

Speech Writing Tip Number 10  — Edit Your Speech to Make it More Clear and Concise

When speech writing, you will have to go through several drafts to improve your speech. If you have a limited time to speak, you will want to limit your speech to between 100 and 150 words per minute (depending on how quickly you speak). Cut out anything that doesn’t support your message. Read your speech aloud and rewrite sentences that might be ambiguous, too complex or difficult to articulate. Readability scales, such as Flesch-Reading Ease, can be a useful tool to simplify your speech writing. For more information on readability, go to Editing Your Writing to Make it More Readable.

Michael Gladkoff