So, you have to deliver a speech in the next couple of days or so. As you start preparing yourself for the big day, one question that will definitely pop up in your mind is: do I need to write down my speech?
Generally, people fall into two broad categories: those that are firm believers in the virtue of writing down a speech, and those that would prefer winging it. Of course, these distinctions are by no means fixed.
Some people might not write down their entire speech but only outline the important points. Others might prefer jotting down every single thing they’re going to say and do on the big day.
Yet others might simply scribble sections that they find problematic or difficult to remember. And then, of course, come the people who don’t write anything at all.
But, whatever your preferences when it comes to writing a speech, there are many reasons why simply winging it on the big day with zero planning whatsoever is not the greatest idea.
Writing down a speech is important as it helps you better understand the topic, better organizes your thoughts, prevents any mistakes in your speech helping you become more familiar with it, and boosts its overall quality.
We’ve elaborated on these points below. But first, let’s get the basics out of the way.
What Is Speechwriting?
Before we get into the logistics of what is speechwriting, let’s understand what a speech is.
Going by what the dictionary says, “A speech is a formal talk which someone gives to an audience.”
Expanding on the above definition, we can better understand what speechwriting is: “Speech writing is the art of conveying a message to the audience through words. “
Now that we’ve gotten all the dictionary definitions out of the way, let’s delve a little more deeply into the concept of speech-writing.
There are many reasons why people write and deliver speeches. Speeches can be written to inform people. Say, for example, a speech on environmental degradation. Or, they might be written to persuade someone. Speeches delivered by politicians can be an example of persuasive speeches. Another reason would be to commemorate an event, say like, independence day.
However, whatever the overall purpose of your speech, almost every speech follows a set pattern. We’ve elaborated on it in the section below.
How To Write A Speech?
What is the format of a speech? As we mentioned above, almost all speeches have a format. Most speeches are divided into three sections. They are:
The first part of the speech is called the introduction. The opening of your speech varies according to the type of speech you’re delivering. However, one thing that’s common to most speech opening is that they need to be attention-grabbing.
That is, they need to be interesting enough to hook your audience’s attention. Unless and until your speech opening is gripping, it doesn’t matter how interesting your content or research is. You’re going to lose your audience before you reach the next section, which is…
The body of your speech is its heart. It contains all the information that you wish to share with your audience. It makes for the bulk of your speech, and for good reason.
However, no matter the length of your body, one thing to keep in mind is to follow a chronological pattern while writing it. That is, don’t just randomly arrange your information in any sequence that you feel like.
For the audience to understand what you’re saying, you need to organize the content of your body into something that is easily comprehensible.
The ending of your speech is where you wrap up all your points and end your speech. We know you’re tired. However, don’t just end your speech with an abrupt ‘thank-you’.
Instead, a better way to conclude your speech would be to quickly provide a summary of your main points and then end with a call-to-action. Provide the audience with something that stays with them after your speech is done.
That is how they will remember you.
Why Should I Write A Speech?
Now that you know what speech-writing is and how to go about doing it, the next question is: why should you invest your precious time in writing down a speech before the big day?
Well, here are a few reasons why preparing your speech is better than simply winging it:
1. Helps You Better Understand The Topic
But…isn’t that the entire point of ‘research’? To glean a better understanding of what you’re going to be talking about?
While it’s certainly true that researching your topic helps you glean more knowledge about it, actually writing down your speech gives you a clearer understanding of the information you’ve gathered.
This is because while during research you’re simply collecting data when you write down a speech, you also draw upon your own knowledge, experiences, and beliefs. By combining these personal factors with the assimilated information, you gain a deeper understanding of what the topic actually means to you.
All of this will, ultimately, give an added boost to your speech.
2. Helps Organize Your Ideas
Another reason why writing down a speech is important is because it helps organize your thoughts and ideas into something that can be better understood by another person.
While you might have a lot of expertise about a particular topic, chances are that your knowledge would be scattered. So, when you draw upon this knowledge source on the day of your speech, your points might end up being disorganized.
This will confuse your audience. Even if you make a great point, they might not understand its relevance or what it means. Because, say, you totally skipped an important tidbit of information that is essential to understand your point.
Writing down a speech avoids such scenarios, and leaves the audience with a better impression of you.
3. Helps Remember The Speech
Writing down your speech in advance also helps facilitate your memory. This is because writing something down itself is a great way to store the information in your brain. Probably why we got so much homework in high school, right?
Also, by writing your speech down, you also organize it in a logical sequence or pattern, which ultimately makes it easier to recall information.
4. Helps You Stay On Track
The last thing your audience wants to hear is a long story about a vacation you took in the Maldives in the middle of a speech about, say, an alien invasion (unless, of course, that’s where the invasion occurred).
A good way to avoid your thoughts derailing in the middle of your speech is by organizing them beforehand. And what better way to organize something as abstract as your thoughts than by having them on a piece of paper–or a laptop screen–in front of you?
5. Helps Time Your Speech
Another reason why writing down your speech beforehand is a great idea is because it helps you time how long your speech is going to be.
Time constraints are a common factor in almost all public speaking engagements. It is especially important during speaking engagements where there are multiple speakers.
One fallback of going impromptu with your speeches is that it’s harder to keep track of time when you’re delivering them.
Writing down your speech beforehand means that you can also time your speech before the big day. This means that you will be able to finish it without having a time-keeper shoot you evil looks while simultaneously banging their fist on the table the moment you cross your five-minute mark.
6. Helps Filter Out Filler Words
Filler words meaningless words or sounds that we use to fill the pauses that happen when we’re trying to decide what to say next. For example, ‘um‘ is a commonly used filler word. ‘And‘ is another one.
One simple way of avoiding filler words is by deciding what you want to say beforehand instead of figuring it out on the spot. That is, by writing down your speech, you can eliminate any filler words that might eat into your speech otherwise.
7. Helps Make Adjustments
Another reason why writing down your speech beforehand is a great idea is because it helps you figure out if your speech needs any major adjustments or little tweaks.
So, for instance, if you’ve missed out on any major point, then writing down your speech will remind you that you need to include it in your talk. Or, if you find yourself using any inappropriate word, then having the text in front of you will help you filter that out.
8. Makes It Easier To Practice
There is a reason why the proverb ‘Practice makes perfect’ has survived the test of time. Granted, practice doesn’t necessarily guarantee perfection. However, it goes without saying that proper practice does enhance your performance.
Writing down your speech beforehand is a form of practice itself. As you make little tweaks and changes in your speech, read it out loud to see what it sounds like. This will not only improve the quality of your speech but also sneak in some extra practice while delivering it.
Finding it difficult to smoothly read out your speech? Check out our article on 9 Tips To Making A Speech Easier To Read for some help.
9. Improves The Overall Quality Of Your Speech
By taking into account all the above-mentioned factors, it’s easy to understand why writing down your speech will help you boost the overall quality of your speech.
While how you deliver your speech is an essential component of the success of your talk, the content of your speech is just as important for your success.
By investing some extra time in writing down your speech, you improve the quality of your speech, which will ultimately make it more likely that your audience will want to hear you speak again.
5 Things To Keep In Mind While Speech-writing
1. Have A Killer Opening–And Closing
While it’s true that the main body of your speech contains the most amount of information, this doesn’t mean that you should neglect the opening and closing of your speech.
Remember that it is the opening that will determine whether your audience will actually pay attention to the main part of your speech.
And also, it is how you end your speech that will determine whether your audience is going to remember you–or if they forget about your speech the moment you stop talking.
There are many ways of writing a speech opening line. You could open with a ‘What If’ scenario, for instance.
For example, what if a meteor hit earth right now? This gets your audience thinking and piques their attention (unless, of course, the meteor actually hits, in which case attention might get focused elsewhere).
Another way to open a speech would be by telling a story. However, make sure that you don’t ramble on for too long, and that your story is relevant to the topic. If you’re speaking about animal rights, maybe a short anecdote on your pet–or a moving visit to the zoo.
For more speech openings, check out our article on 15 Powerful Speech Opening Lines (And How To Create Your Own).
Similarly, there are many ways of ending a speech.
One of the best ways to end a speech is by employing a call to action. This instigates your audience to do something. For example: I have given you all you need to move forward! Now, it’s time for YOU to take the next step.
Another way to end a speech would be by telling a joke. After all, who doesn’t want to end on a happy note?
Check out our article on 15 Powerful speech Ending Lines (And Tips To Create Your Own) for some more inspiration.
2. Keep Your Audience’s Attention Span In Mind
While human attention span is certainly higher than that of a butterfly, this doesn’t mean that humans have unlimited attention, either.
The point is, don’t drag on your speech for a diabolical amount of time, no matter how important your topic is or how much information you feel you can successfully squeeze into your given time frame. Keep in mind your audience’s attention span, and make your speech no longer than is necessary.
3. Incorporate Humor & Storytelling
Don’t make your speech an information dump. While it might make you sound intelligent, just delivering a lot of information without adding other–more personal–elements makes it more difficult for your audience to connect with you.
To prevent this, try incorporating a few jokes or a handful of anecdotes in your speech. Don’t just say them one after the other, though. Sprinkle them out throughout your speech. Also, make sure they’re relevant to your speech and not simply extras added just for the sake of it.
4. Use Simple Language
Just because you love browsing through a dictionary in your free time doesn’t mean it’s your audience’s favorite pass time too.
If you wish for your audience to connect with you, then complicated jargon is not the way to go. Instead, swap complex or difficult words with simple ones. This will broaden your reach with the audience, and improve how much you manage to resonate with them.
5. Be True To Yourself
What makes you unique as a person? How are your thoughts, feelings, and opinions different from–or similar to–the topic you’re speaking about? How do you really feel about the topic? Is there anything about it that you disagree with or feel could’ve been improved?
Before you begin writing your speech, these are a few questions that you must ask yourself. Don’t just conclude your research and then immediately jump into writing your speech, even if you don’t agree with half the things you’ve found.
Instead, stay true to yourself. Incorporate your own thoughts and feelings into your speech. This will not only increase your authenticity as a speaker but also make you stand out as a unique one.
Bonus: The Most Important Thing In Speech Writing
What is the most important element of any public speaking engagement?
The answer: You audience.
And that is precisely the most important thing which you need to keep in mind while writing your speech. After all, you’re going to be delivering your speech to the audience. So, it’s absolutely imperative to keep your audience in mind while delivering your speech.
That is why it’s so essential to research your audience beforehand. The content of your speech is going to vary greatly depending on what kind of audience is going to hear it.
For instance, if your audience consists mostly of beginners, then you will need to write your speech in such a way that it’s comprehensible to them. Otherwise, they could end up confused. Likewise, if your audience consists of experts, then dwelling too much on the basics might bore them.
So, make sure to look up your audience before you sit down for any speech-writing.
To sum up, speech-writing is a must before any speech that you plan on delivering. There are many reasons for this, with all of them eventually leading to one main point: writing down a speech before you speak will enhance the overall quality of your speech, as well as the audience’s experience of it.
So, before your next public speaking engagement, take out some extra time and jot down your speech.