How to Write a Christmas Party Speech to Remember

Writing a Christmas party speech can be daunting, especially when you know it is going to be delivered before work colleagues and peers. However, writing an air-tight speech will go a long way to quelling those nerves. So here are the basics for writing a great Christmas party speech, from A-Z.

Christmas table setting for a Christmas party speech.

Writing the Beginning of Christmas Party Speech

A Christmas party speech must do two things as quickly as possible: the first is to get the listeners’ attention, the second is to present the question or theme which will expanded upon in the body of the speech. Traditionally, a Christmas party speech will begin by welcoming the guests, thanking them for coming, and perhaps acknowledging those who made a special effort to be there. By contrast, the modern approach is to postpone these formalities until later in the speech, to grab the listener’s attention immediately. A speech of this kind will begin with a story of sorts. For example, ‘The end of the year looked a long way away back in August. When the big project landed on our desks, I know several of you were very sick with the flu, and poor Joan was taken to hospital.’

To be clear, there is nothing wrong with doing the greetings and acknowledgements first, but neither is it wrong to leave it until later in the speech. But if you do choose to go with option A, keep it short and sweet. Then launch straight into your story.

The Body of a Christmas Party Speech

This is the bulk of a Christmas party speech, which will include all the highlights and low-points of the year, as well as the lighter moments. Again, these anecdotes will ultimately be seen through the lens of whatever themes you have established at the beginning. Perhaps Joan came back to work a few days later than they had been told, and found only one slice of her “Welcome Back” cake in the refrigerator. As a result, the moral of the story established at the start might be that ‘laughing and caring about one another is what gets us through the hard times.’ From this premise, you would have carte blanche to launch into every funny story and act of kindness that year. On the subject of humour, a quick reminder to take care that your laughs are good natured and won’t embarrass or offend. This is not an open-mic comedy spot; these people know one another and must work together.

At some point in the body of the Christmas party speech, you will need to talk about the challenges and regrets of the year. Talk about those that have retired. Perhaps someone died. If so, be sure to honour their memory. Those closest to them will greatly appreciate that you remembered them.

Ending a Christmas Party Speech

 The end of a Christmas party speech is the perfect time to thank everybody for coming along, and to highlight your message (in my example with Ruth, laughter and caring). If your opening story was not of a personal nature, you might want to end with a recollection of Christmas – from your childhood, or how special it is to spend it with your children. A Christmas party speech, after all, is an opportunity to bring people closer together, in laughter and gratitude. Beyond being staff members, we’re all human.

Retirement Speech Tips – Say ‘Goodbye’ in Style with Your Retirement Speech

If you have been with your organisation for a while, your retirement speech is an opportunity to wrap up your career with impact and professionalism.

An effective retirement speech will include reflections on your experience; gratitude towards colleagues, family members and others who supported you; friendly humour; and a positive view of the future.

Let’s look at these elements of a retirement speech more closely.

Reflect on your experiences in your retirement speech

As part of your retirement speech, you can offer insights into how the organisation has changed over the years and how you have changed with it. If you remember, you might start with reflections on your first days on the job. This could include the story of how you started your career.

If you have been with the organisation for a long time, you can talk about how the market developed and how the business adapted to meet those changes. Your retirement speech can cover challenges and crises that were faced over the years and how they were overcome.

Show your gratitude during your retirement speech

Your retirement speech is a good time to thank the people who have helped you during your career: colleagues, mentors, bosses, family members and friends. Even if a person is not in the audience, or no longer living, you can still express your gratitude for the assistance provided during your career.

Include humour in your retirement speech

Mentioning some of the humorous situations during your career will make your retirement speech more interesting. Even things that didn’t seem funny at the time might be entertaining during your retirement speech. For example, I when I wrote a speech for leader of a vocational education provider, she told a story of her first days at the institution as a fledgling hospitality industry trainer. The institution was still under construction and the kitchen facilities were not ready to use. When she brought this up with her supervisor, he told her to walk to a local park and use a public barbecue to teach cooking classes. It did not seem funny to her at the time. She was discouraged and wanted to quit after a few days. However, she stayed with the institution for 30 years, was part of its growth and eventually become its director.

Paint a positive picture of the future

You can speak about your plans, whether they include freelance consulting, travel, volunteer work or pursuing your hobbies. In addition, you can speak about the future of the organisation or industry, including what you see as the greatest challenges and opportunities. Whatever your outlook is, end on a positive note and offer best wishes to the to the company and staff.

What is the right length for retirement speech?

The length of your retirement speech will depend on the situation and how much you want to cover. If you have several interesting stories to tell, you might need 15 minutes to include them. If you want to keep it short, you might only need five minutes.

Michael Gladkoff

Company Anniversary Speech — Tips for Writing a Memorable Speech

Your company anniversary speech can be an excellent opportunity to connect with clients, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders at your celebratory event. Based on my experience writing many of these speeches, here are some ideas of what to include in your company anniversary speech.

  1. Use stories in your company anniversary speech.

A good point to begin is to start collecting stories to include in your company anniversary speech. Foundation stories from the early days of the business can highlight your company’s formative years and values. Stories about overcoming challenges show the human face of the business.  In addition, use stories about significant milestones and successes in your company anniversary speech to create a narrative about the development of the business and its ethos.

How do you find relevant stories for your company anniversary speech? If you are new with the organisation, getting stories will require research. Interviews with the founders and current and past employees are often essential to uncovering interesting stories. Research can also include searching the archives (if they exist) and finding news articles about the business online or in libraries.

  1. Welcome guests attending the company anniversary event.

You can begin by welcoming VIPs and special guests to the event. These might include government representatives, company founders and key suppliers. You could also welcome spouses and other family members who are attending, as well as guests who have travelled long distances to participate in the festivities.

  1. Don’t be afraid to include humour in your company anniversary speech.

Every organisation has funny stories from its past. Finding and using these stories in your company anniversary speech will help you connect with the audience and highlight the organisation’s personality. Your research can include speaking with some of the ‘old timers’ to discover some of the funny things that happened in the past.  Remember to avoid humorous stories that could make your organisation or staff look bad.

  1. Show your gratitude during the anniversary speech.

Your company anniversary speech is the perfect time to thank the people and organisations that have played a role in helping your business grow and succeed. You also can thank the people who participated in organising the event. It’s also nice to thank the service staff, entertainers and others who made the event possible.

  1. Look to the future.

Besides looking at the past, your company anniversary speech should also look to the future. This could include your vision for the future and how employees and stakeholders can play a part in making it happen. Your focus on the future can make a powerful speech ending by inspiring people to build on the foundation created since the establishment of the company.

Your company anniversary speech is an excellent opportunity for your organisation to review its past and inspire for the future. Including the elements outlined above will help you create company anniversary speech that connects with the audience and boosts your organisation’s image.

About the Author

Michael Gladkoff is a speechwriter, author and speaker who has writes and delivers speeches and presentations for many of Australia’s leading organisations. He is the author of Speech Power: The Leader’s Guide to Creating Powerful Speeches and Presentations. Visit www.speechpower.com.au to learn more about the writing and training services offered by Michael and his team.

‘Slip, Slop, Slap’: How to Use Figures of Speech for More Persuasive Writing

 

Launched in 1981, one of Australia’s most successful advertising campaigns has changed people’s attitudes towards sun exposure and reduced the two most common forms of skin cancer. The slogan Slip, Slop, Slap was at the centre of the campaign, promoting safety in the sun by slipping on a shirt, slopping on some sunscreen and slapping on a hat. This successful advertising campaign offers important lessons for public speakers, advertisers and anyone who wants to persuade and have their messages remembered.

At the time the campaign was created, melanoma rates were increasing in Australia. The Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria – now Cancer Council Victoria – was looking for a way to make an impact. They approached Philip Adams – the ABC broadcaster who was then a creative director at an ad agency – to develop an advertising campaign that would promote protection against the damaging effects of the sun. (You can watch the original video here.)

The effectiveness of the Slip, Slop, Slap slogan is a result of using three figures of speech — alliteration, onomatopoeia and tricolon — in the slogan.

Alliteration

Alliteration is a figure of speech where initial consonant letters, or sounds, are repeated in at least two different words in successive sentences, clauses, or phrases. This can occur in adjacent words or these that are separated by other words.

This figure of speech has been used since ancient times in poems, stories, speeches and more.

A well-known example of alliteration is ‘Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers’.

This figure of speech is also found in poetry. Here’s an example from The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe:

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before.

The technique has also been used by speakers to capture attention and be more memorable.

Looking back, through the vista of years of trial, tribulation, and turmoil, into that Valley of the Shadow of Death, into which we and all free peoples of the earth were plunged, we may now lift up our voices, and thank God that, through their sacrifice, we have been brought safely into the green pastures of peace. – William ‘Billy Hughes’, Australian Federal Parliament, September 1919

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own. – John F Kennedy, Inaugural Address, January 1961

Advertisers understand the power of alliteration and use it in slogans and names:

Functional… Fashionable… Formidable… – Fila

Greyhound going great. – Greyhound

Don’t dream it. Drive it. – Jaguar

Krispy Kreme

Weight Watchers

Banana Boat

Tetley Tea

Range Rover

Coca-Cola

It’s no coincidence that alliteration is used in some of the most memorable poems, speeches, advertising campaigns and business names.

Onomatopoeia

Onomatopoeia is the term that describes a word that phonetically imitates, resembles or suggests the source of the sound that it describes. Examples include:

  • splash, sprinkle and squirt — for water descriptions
  • giggle, mumble and blurt — for voice descriptions
  • bang, thump and thud — for describing collisions
  • bark, meow and moo — for describing animal sounds.

Advertisers understand the effectiveness of onomatopoeia and have used it in campaigns, including:

  • ‘Snap, Crackle, Pop’ – for the Rice Crispies cereal
  • ‘Plop, Plop, Fizz, Fizz, oh what a relief it is’ – the slogan for Alka Seltzer tablets
  • ‘Click-clack, front and back’ – Australian ad promoting seat belt safety to children.

Tricolon

tricolon is a figure of speech where a series of three parallel words or phrases that are of a similar length.  This figure of speech has been used in speeches and presentations from ancient times to the present day:

 Veni, vidi, vici. (I came, I saw, I conquered.)  – Julius Caesar

 Do we not find ourselves hampered in commerce, restricted in influence, weakened in prestige, because we are jarring atoms instead of a united organism? – Alfred Deakin

 I see one-third of a nation illhoused, illclad, illnourished.  – Franklin D Roosevelt, Second Inaugural Address, 1937

Combining the Three Figures of Speech

So now we can see how the ‘slip, slop, slap’ advertising slogan cleverly combines three figures of speech. The result is a phrase that people can easily remember and act upon. In fact, it is now estimated that many Australians are deficient in vitamin D due to lack of sun exposure, and medical professionals are recommending moderate sun exposure a few minutes a day to increase vitamin D levels.

Use Figures of Speech in Your Speeches and Presentations

The ‘slip, slop, slap’ campaign shows how figures of speech can be used to make a phrase memorable. Many of the greatest speakers, past and present, have understood the power of words and have used figures of speech.  Given this fact, it’s amazing that some public speaking ‘experts’ still tell us that our words only account for 7 per cent of messages when speaking in public.

Michael Gladkoff

 

Writing Speeches Using Similes, Metaphors and Analogies for Greater Impact

Lectern with speeches on it.

Using the right words and phrases in your speeches and presentations can help you make a bigger impact and be remembered. Similes, metaphors and analogies are three figures of speech that you can use to inform, influence and inspire your audiences. You can also use them in your marketing copy and business documents.

Let’s look at some examples of similes, metaphors and analogies, and how they are used in speeches, presentations and other formats.

Similes in Speeches and Other Formats

A simile is a rhetorical figure expressing comparison or likeness that directly compares two objects through a word such as like or as.

Here are a few examples from ancient to recent times:

A room without books is like a body without a soul.  – Cicero

Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.  – Albert Einstein

A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.  – Frank Zappa

Henry was 18 when we met and I was queen of France. He came down from the north to Paris with a mind like Aristotle’s and a form like mortal sin. – Katherine Hepburn as Eleanor in The Lion in Winter

Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets at the Indy 500.  – Martin Sheen as Captain Willard in Apocalypse Now

Metaphors in Speeches

A metaphor compares one thing to another, but asserts that one thing is actually another.

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.  – William Shakespeare

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.  – Sir Winston Churchill

The torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.  – John F Kennedy

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of a nation into the beautiful symphony of brotherhood.  – Martin Luther King

Nationalism is both a vital medicine and a dangerous drug. – Geoffrey Blainey

The term iron curtain is an example of how powerful metaphors can be for creating an image in the mind of listeners. Churchill was not the first person to use the term. But after he used it in a speech he delivered in 1946, it became a popular term for describing the closed societies of the Soviet Union and the satellite nations that were under its influence after World War II.

Another great example of the power of metaphors in speeches is Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. Throughout the speech Dr King used well over 20 metaphors to create pictures of the ideas he was conveying. A few include:

a great beacon light of hope

flames of withering injustice

joyous daybreak

long night of their captivity

manacles of segregation

chains of discrimination

lonely island of poverty

vast ocean of material prosperity.

In order to gain a better understanding of the skilful use of metaphors in context of the speech, you can read the complete text at www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkihaveadream.htm.

Given the effectiveness of metaphors in the world’s greatest speeches, the question is not whether to use them, but how to create effective metaphors and use them in your speeches and presentations.

Analogies in Speeches

An analogy is an extended metaphor or long simile. One example can be found in a speech I wrote for a vocational school graduation ceremony. The speaker wanted to emphasise how important it was for the graduates to have goals after competing their studies. I used the following analogy:

In graduating today, you have reached the pinnacle of your experience at Melbourne Vocational College. But this is only the beginning. There are much bigger goals and dreams ahead of you.

It’s like climbing a mountain. As you climb, you often can’t see the top. Just when you think you’ve reached the pinnacle, you look up and realise that it’s only a plateau and the peak is still way off in the distance. These distant peaks are the dreams and goals that life has in store for you. They are out there, but they must be worked for.

Analogies are effective for explaining intangible concepts. For example, when giving a motivational talk on how our limiting beliefs can hold us back, Denis Waitley used the analogy of his friend’s dog that would not move when its leash was tied to lightweight chair. The dog was feisty and wanted to play with guests when they visited but falsely believed that the chair was too heavy to be able to move. From a young age the dog was tied to a post outside after being given baths and assumed that it would not be able to move when its leash was tied to any other object. Waitley draws an analogy from the story by comparing it to people’s mindsets:

Unfortunately, too many of us are like Spike. We find ourselves in a situation in which we assume we’re helpless, and we give up. Some past experience tells us we can’t move ahead, and we give up without even trying. Sometimes only a five-pound weight is holding us back, but as far as we’re concerned, it weighs 500 tons, and we can’t do anything but sit down, like Spike, and work our way into a state of depression (from “How to Sharpen Your Imagination” in Insight by Nightingale Conant, No 107, 1991).

Analogies can be helpful when explaining complex ideas or technical processes. When writing for an executive with an Australian IT company, I used the following analogy to explain a challenging project where software that is an integral part of running the mobile phone network was being updated. With millions of users depending on the continuous operation of the network while the update was being made, there was no room for error as the company representative explained:

Updating the telecommunications software was like changing an engine on a 767 jet at 37,000 feet. We were changing one of the engines and needed to ensure that the plane kept running and didn’t fly around in circles or crash.

Analogies are also very effective for explaining large numbers. A good example of using an analogy to put numbers into context appears in the television series Cosmos. In the original series, Carl Sagan spoke about the history of the universe. Given the enormity of the figures, he compared the 15-billion-year life of the universe to a calendar year, which he dubbed the Cosmic Calendar. In the updated version of the series, released in 2014, host Neil deGrasse Tyson presents the same concept of a Cosmic Calendar, but with a revised universe age of 13.8 billion years.

Here’s a summary of the explanation of how it would look if 13.8 billion years were put into a single year:

  • January 1st – the big bang occurs

January 10th – the first stars appear

January 13th – stars coalesce to form small galaxies

March 15th – the Milky Way Galaxy forms

August 31st – the Sun appears

September 21st – basic life appears on Earth

November 9th – life that breathes, eats, moves and responds to its environment can be found

December 17th – larger plants and animals are found in the sea

Final week of December – forests, dinosaurs, birds and insects all evolved

December 28th – the first flower bloomed

6:24 am on December 30th – an asteroid collision hitting the earth made dinosaurs extinct

The last hour of December 30th – humans evolved

11:59: 46 on December 30th – recorded history begins

11:59 on December 30th – humans paint first pictures

14 seconds to midnight – humans start writing

7 seconds before midnight – Moses is born

6 seconds before midnight – Buddha is born

5 seconds before midnight – Jesus is born

3 seconds before midnight – Mohamed is born

2 seconds before midnight – Columbus lands in America

1 second ago – science is used to reveal nature’s secrets and laws.

The documentary included superb graphic recreations to show these events superimposed over a calendar year, which we all can relate to.

What to Avoid When Using Similes, Metaphors and Analogies in Speeches

Similes, metaphors and analogies can be a powerful tool but be careful when using them in speeches. Some metaphors have been used so many times that they are “worn out”. George Orwell stressed this point in his essay “Politics in the English Language” when he wrote, “Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

In addition, metaphors can fall flat or miss the point. In 2003, The Washington Post ran a contest to see who could create the worst analogies. A few of the choice ones included:

Even in his last years, grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

Yes, these were specifically created to be bad, but they are good reminders to be careful when creating similes, metaphors and analogies.

The Challenge of Using Similes, Metaphors and Analogies in Your Speeches and Presentations

One drawback is that it takes time, effort and creativity to come up with similes, metaphors and analogies for speeches. But if you give yourself enough time and apply your creativity, you can create these figures of speech to give memorable speeches and presentations that inform, influence and inspire your audiences. You can find more on our speech writing services here.

Michael Gladkoff

 

Why Write Your Speech and Not Improvise?

When asked in advance to speak or make a presentation at an event, an easy way out is to improvise. This might include having a general idea of what to say, creating an outline and then practising the speech a few times. It can work for an experienced and confident speaker, but usually the result would be much better if the speaker had taken the time to write out the words for their speech.

Businesswoman holding a printed speech at the lectern.

It simply isn’t possible to perfect your words without writing a speech on paper.  A good speech requires research to find and choose the appropriate elements, such as stories, quotations and facts. It also requires creativity in finding the best words to convey the message. This often includes redrafting your speech until it feels right. If we look at the stories of the great speeches we remember from history, we notice that they were written in advance and often redrafted many times.

In recent years there has been a rise in the idea that the words are not an important element in speeches and presentations. The misconception has been promoted by an unfortunate myth. Misinformed people will repeat it without knowing its source and what its author was really saying. The source of this myth is 1960s is a publication by Psychology Professor Albert Mehrabian who wrote that:

  • 7% of the message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in the words that are spoken
  • 38% of the message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is the way that the words are said
  • 55% of the message pertaining to feelings and attitudes is in facial expression.

This has been misinterpreted over the years and is incorrectly believed to mean that in any spoken communication, including public speeches and presentations:

  • 7% of meaning is verbal — words
  • 38% of meaning vocal — how the words are said
  • 55% of meaning is in facial expression.

What Mehrabian was really writing about was the incongruence in messages pertaining to feelings and attitudes in one-on-one communication. For example, if you see a friend who says he is glad to see you, but he is frowning, 55 percent of the meaning you interpret is from his facial expression. In this case, you will most likely doubt that your friend is glad to see you. In explaining his research, Mehrabian wrote about the limitations of his findings:

Please remember that all my findings on inconsistent or redundant communications dealt with communications of feelings and attitudes. This is the realm within which they are applicable. Clearly, it is absurd to imply or suggest that the verbal portion of all communication constitutes only 7% of the message. Suppose I want to tell you that the eraser you are looking for is in the second right-hand drawer of my desk in my office. How could anyone contend that verbal part is only 7% of this message. Instead, and more accurately, the verbal part is nearly 100% of the message.

He later stated:

I am obviously uncomfortable about misquotes of my work. From the very beginning I have tried to give people the correct limitations of my findings. Unfortunately the field of self-styled ‘corporate image consultants’ or ‘leadership consultants’ has numerous practitioners with very little psychological expertise.

So the 7%, 38%, 55% concept was never meant to be applied to public speaking. Unfortunately, it has gained popularity in certain groups —including Toastmasters and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) — so some people believe their words don’t matter very much. They incorrectly think that the correct vocal and facial expressions are the keys to conveying their message, since the words only count for 7 percent of its meaning.

But even if you still believe in 7%, 38%, 55% concept, let’s look at it from a historical perspective. When you remember the great speeches in history, do you consider the words or the voice and facial expressions of the speaker? Probably not. When we think about the message of speeches such as Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream or Winston Churchill’s We Shall Fight on the Beaches speech, we think about the words and their meanings. The speaker’s facial and vocal expressions did not account for 93 per cent of their messages.

Also, if you listen to a news or educational program on the radio or through a podcast, do you only understand 45% per cent of the message since you can’t see the presenter’s facial expressions?

The Style over Substance Trend Has Reduced the Emphasis on Speech Writing

Another possible reason for the growing focus on style over content in speeches and presentations is the advancement in the technology. In the past you would be constrained by having a microphone at a lectern, so you would have put more focus on the content. Today, it’s common for speakers to use a wireless microphone which enables them to move around the stage as they speak.

An example of this trend can be found in the annual Toastmasters Championship of Public Speaking where regional winners from around the globe compete to be named the Champion of Public Speaking. There was a time when these speeches were delivered from a lectern. Now most of them are more like dramatic presentation pieces with many gestures and lots of movement around the stage. There is nothing wrong with this development — and I’m not saying that effective body language, gestures and vocal expression are not important — but we must remember the importance of the words we use and recognize that they don’t account for only 7% of our message.

Using presentation technology can be very beneficial if the movements match the meaning or are used in the right way. But too much movement can be distracting and detract from your speech or presentation.

Writing a Speech Helps Refine Your Ideas and Apply Your Research

The steps the go into creating an effective speech — including structuring, researching, developing and organising supporting material and using powerful language — can be combined more effectively when you plan and write your presentation. The act of writing a speech can spark creativity to produce an impressive result. Delivering a speech from an outline or having general idea of what you want to say will usually not create the same result. Doing the research and thinking it through is the only way to find and organise the elements that make an effective speech or presentation.

Even if you give presentations in your area of expertise and feel you don’t need it written down, taking the time to write the opening and conclusion of your presentation will help you get better results.

Writing a Speech Helps to Prevent Mistakes and Misinterpretations

You often hear about politicians, business executives and other high-profile public speakers who get into trouble by saying the wrong thing. The typical defence is that the statement was taken out of context and it’s not what the speaker meant.

For example, in 2012 US Presidential election campaign, Obama made the following statement to an audience.

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business—you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.

What many people focused were the final two sentences. These words generated a lot of controversy and Obama’s team had to spend much time and effort trying to convince people that he wasn’t saying that people didn’t build their businesses.

In a radio interview in 2014, Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey was arguing in favour of changes to fuel taxes. He said that the proposed budget changes would affect wealthier people more because the rich drove their cars further.  He said, “Well, change to the fuel excise does exactly that; the poorest people ­either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases.’’ Many people were upset by this statement and the Treasurer ended up apologising for his statement.

Obama’s or Hockey’s remarks show how important it is to choose your words carefully. If you plan ahead and write them down, there’s less chance of making a statement that can cause problems and diminish your effectiveness as a speaker.

Writing a Speech Prepares You and Helps You Stand Apart from Those Who are Not Prepared

In the end it comes down to preparation. The speaker who has taken the time to write a speech and who has practised it will be more confident than the speaker who hasn’t prepared.  When you are prepared, it is much easier to earn the attention of your audience and stand out from other speakers.

 

How to Become a Better Speechwriter

Whether you want to write speeches for yourself or others, here are a few steps that can help you develop your skills to become a better speechwriter.  These prepared me to become a freelance speechwriter and assist professionals, business executives and government leaders with their speechwriting needs.

1. Join Toastmasters to become a more effective speechwriter

I first joined Toastmasters in the mid 1980s when I was attending university. The great thing about Toastmasters is that it gives you an opportunity to develop your presentation skills in a supportive environment. When you join a chapter, you receive a manual of 10 speech projects that you deliver over time to the group. Each speech has particular objectives that are important for effective communication — such as organising your speech, vocal variety, body language and using visual aids. After delivering your speech, you receive a constructive evaluation from one of the members. This gives you ideas to improve as you move forward.  By continuing to write speeches and deliver them as part of the program, you will become a better speechwriter. You will also be able to observe more experienced members and see how they organise and present their speeches.

Although I have been in Toastmasters for many years, I still participate because I continue to learn more and improve my skills as a speech writer.

To learn more about Toastmasters, visit their website at www.toastmasters.org.au. I suggest visiting a few clubs in your area to find the one that best fits your personality and goals.

2. Read books on speech writing to become a better speechwriter

Reading books by professional speech writers is a great way to become a more effective speechwriter. Many speechwriters have written books in which they share their insights by using the speeches they have written for others as examples. These books provide the basics you can apply in your speeches. You can also find collections of great speeches from the past in your local library or book shop.

My book about speechwriting is based on my experience writing hundreds of speeches and presentations for leaders in business, government and education. You can find more details at The Leader’s Guide to Creating Powerful Speeches and Presentations.

3. Analyse speeches to become a more effective speechwriter

Observing and analysing speeches will help you improve your speechwriting skills. You can watch speeches and presentations on YouTube, attend business events where speeches are delivered, listen to podcasts of speeches and more. Watching and listening to effective speakers will give you ideas you can apply as a speechwriter. If a speech is not that good, you can think of ways you could improve it if you were writing it. Either way, you should critically analyse the speeches you observe and think about how they have been written.

4. Keep on practising to become a better speechwriter

Practising your skills is the key to becoming a better speechwriter. Writing speeches for yourself or others will give you the experience you need to improve.  Before I began my career as a speechwriter, I wrote and presented over 50 speeches as a member of Toastmasters. Although I have written hundreds of speeches for clients since 2004, I continue to attend Toastmasters, read books about speechwriting and critically evaluate the speeches I hear.

Whatever your experience and objectives, there are always opportunities to grow and develop your skills as a speechwriter. These steps are not the only path to effective speechwriting, but they have worked well for me in becoming a better speechwriter.

Michael Gladkoff

Speech Writing — How to Add Humour to Your Speeches and Presentations without Telling Jokes

Adding humour to a speech or presentation is a great way to build rapport with your audience.  But one common piece of bad advice is to tell a joke at the beginning of the speech to “loosen up the audience”.  This approach is even more ineffective when the joke has nothing to do with the topic of the speech or the purpose of the event. If the joke doesn’t work, the speaker might lose momentum for the rest of the speech.  Also, not everyone is good at telling jokes. Some people enjoy telling jokes to their family and friends, and can make them laugh, while others often fall flat in their attempts.

But if you don’t tell jokes, how can you add humour to your speech writing?

One effective way is to use humorous quotations that are related to your message. Something funny has been said about every subject, and it’s easy to find these quotations on the internet.

For example, when I speak to audiences about writing, I mention the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein who said, “Writing is not necessarily something to be ashamed of, but do it in private and wash your hands afterwards.”

You can even find humour in computers and information technology. If you were writing a speech about computers, Google “humorous computer quotations” and you will find many to choose from.

“Computers are like Old Testament gods; lots of rules and no mercy.”  Joseph Campbell

“Software and cathedrals are much the same — first we build them, then we pray.”  Unknown

“If the automobile had followed the same development as the computer, a Rolls-Royce would today cost $100, get a million miles per gallon, and explode once a year killing everyone inside.”  Robert Cringely

“There are two major products that came out of Berkeley: LSD and UNIX. We do not believe this to be a coincidence.”  Jeremy S. Anderson

“Experts agree that the best type of computer for your individual needs is one that comes on the market about two days after you actually purchase some other computer.”  Dave Barry

If the quotation is from an unknown source, you can say, “Someone once said” and then deliver the quotation.

After finding the quotations from the various sites, choose one or several that you feel will fit your audience and topic. If you are writing for a non-technical audience, a quotation that requires technical knowledge won’t be funny, so always keep your audience in mind. You also want to be sure that the quotation isn’t offensive.

Quotations can also help you add some humour when teaching. For example, when we give workshops on business writing and speech writing we emphasise the importance of being as concise as possible. But clear and simple writing often requires more time and effort, so we mention Blaise Pascal who wrote, “I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

You can combine related quotations to strengthen your message while adding some humour. This example is from the opening of a speech we wrote for a CEO who was speaking about innovation at his company.

Innovation requires us to look to the future. But the pace of change can be so quick that many of the predictions about technology have been wrong.

In 1830, Dionysius Lardner, professor of Natural Philosophy and Astronomy, said, “Rail travel at high speed is not possible, because passengers, unable to breathe, would die of asphyxia.”

In 1895 Lord Kelvin, president of the Royal Society said, “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”

In 1926, Dr. Lee De Forest, inventor of the vacuum tube and father of television, said, “Man will never reach the moon regardless of all future scientific advances.”

In 1977, Ken Olson, the founder and president of Digital Equipment Corp, said, “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”

To be safe, I won’t be making any major predictions today. But I will share some of my thoughts on innovation at our company.

Before using quotations in a speech or presentation, you will want to confirm their authenticity and accuracy. You can do this comparing quotations websites or, even better, finding the original source of the quotation, such as an article or interview.

You don’t have to tell jokes to add humour to your speeches and presentations. So the next time you are faced with a speech writing task or preparing a presentation, find and use humorous quotations.

Michael Gladkoff

How to Work with a Speech Writer to Get the Best Results

As a professional speech writer, I am often asked, “How can you write a speech for other people?” and “How can you possibly know what to write for a person you don’t know very well?”

The simple answer is that a speech writer doesn’t sit down and spontaneously write a speech once given the speech writing project.  A professional speech writer needs to follow a step-by-step process to create an effective speech.

Steps a Speech Writer Can Take to Create a Speech

1. The speech writer will need to know the objectives of the speech. What is the speaker trying to achieve? What is the main message of the speech? This information can be conveyed through a written brief provided or by interviewing the speaker or others involved. Any relevant background documents should be supplied to the speech writer at this stage.

2. The writer should gain an understanding of who will be in the audience. This includes their connection to the speaker, their backgrounds and education levels, personal characteristics (if this can be generalised) and knowledge of the subject. For example, this will help the speech writer determine the type of language to use and whether key terms and concepts need to be explained.

3. It will help the speechwriter to know the context of the speech and the venue where it will be delivered. The event and venue can influence the way a speech is written. For instance, the venue might be connected with the theme of the speech and it could be appropriate to mention the venue during the speech.

4. Once the speechwriter has a brief and the background material, and knows about the audience, it’s time to interview the speaker. This is the best way to learn about the speaker’s personality and ideas on the subject. The speaker might have a personal story that reinforces the message, and the  speech writer can gain these insights is by interviewing the speaker in person or over the phone. Alternatively, if the speaker is too busy for the interview, the speech writer can submit questions for a written response.

(I have written speeches for busy executives and politicians based only on the brief and background documents. I feel these speeches were not as effective as they could have been because I did not have the personal insights, ideas and stories that can only be gained from conducting an interview. )

5. Once the writer has all this information, it’s time to start writing. After the first draft is complete, the redrafting process begins. To help with this process, the speech writer can read the speech out loud and rewrite anything that seems awkward to deliver or doesn’t sound natural.

6. When the  speechwriter is satisfied with the draft, it can be submitted to the speaker. After reviewing the draft, the speaker can make notes or discuss the changes required. The speech writer will use the feedback provided to create the final draft.

A professional speech writer does not sit down and dream up content for a speaker. As shown, it takes thorough research, clear communication and rigorous thinking to create a speech that fits the speaker, conveys the message and pleases the audience.

Michael Gladkoff

Note: speech writer can also be spelled speechwriter.

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