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.
Note: speech writer can also be spelled speechwriter.