Five Speechwriting Tips

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Although I write in all promotional genres (articles, websites, reports, multimedia scripts, etc.), I have had particular success with speeches. A unique and unusual genre, speeches can be great fun to write. Here are a five tips and tricks that I’ve picked up along the way:

1. Speeches are all about persuasion. The goal is to influence thinking, emotion and action. When clients tell me they want a speech to convey information (such as policy), I suggest they create a brochure or website. Ultimately, few members of an audience will remember specific facts. During an effective speech, however, most of the audience will come away with a strong impression, belief or impulse.

2. Know your audience. The key to any effective speech is establishing a firm connection between speaker and audience. To do this, the writer must have in-depth knowledge of the audience—not only who they are, but also what they already know and feel about a particular topic. I was once hired to write a speech for a minister’s presentation to a small town and was provided with the necessary policy information. I took the liberty of phoning people in the town to inquire about local concerns and learned that a pillar of the community had recently passed away. I made sure the speech offered the minister’s condolences. A small, yet incredibly powerful device: members of the audience suddenly had a new level of respect for the speaker.

3. Position every statement. Establish what you’re trying to persuade the audience to do, think or feel, and then position every element of the speech to support this point. During your research, critically analyze all facts and anecdotes. Discard any that can’t be made to support the point of persuasion.

4. Read it aloud. Rewrite passages that don’t flow. Refine sections until they are airtight. Use whatever amount of emotion and logic seems appropriate for the audience.

5. Reach an inescapable conclusion. A great speech takes the audience on a journey to a place that feels absolutely proper. Don’t belabour the conclusion. Clearly state what you want the audience to do, think or feel, then thank them and end the piece.

If you have some speechwriting tips of your own to share, include them in a comment below.

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