Take a Zen approach to speechwriting

Take a deep breath, and then start writing!

Take a deep breath, and then start writing!

Whether it’s for work, a wedding, or accepting an award (lucky you!), writing a speech can be nerve-racking. Listeners decide within one to two minutes, max, if they’re going to stick with you or drift off into their own thoughts. No one wants to see their audience dozing off or checking their smart phones.

These six tips will help you stay calm and get your speech off to a great start.

1. Put your audience first. If you’re speaking to a business or non-profit organization, check out its website, YouTube channel, Facebook page and/or Twitter feed. What’s new and interesting that you might want to include in your speech? The more interested you are in your audience, the more they’ll tune in to what you have to say.

2. Ditch the big words. Shorter words paint a picture. They pack more punch. Use them. Here’s a perfect example:

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3. Break the rules. Forget about grammar and punctuation rules. Listen to how people talk. We rarely speak in complete sentences in natural conversation. Instead, we use speech fragments. How many times today have you started a sentence with, “And”, “But” or “So”? Read a screenplay for an even better idea of how we speak, and then write that way.

4. Watch the clock. If you’ve been asked to prepare a five minute speech, aim for 500 words. In general, 100 words equals a one minute speech. Use your word count tool to keep you on track. For the fast talkers, aim for 120 words per minute.

5. Read out loud. Sometimes what looks good on paper or on screen sounds awkward when said out loud. Are you stumbling over words? Take the time to fix what isn’t working before delivering the speech.

6. Keep it short. Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address was less than three minutes long. Enough said.

Do you have any tips for writing a winning speech? Please share!

4 thoughts on “Take a Zen approach to speechwriting

  1. These are some great tips. I would add be authentic. People are listening to your speech because they want to hear you – not an artificial creation of what you think you should be. Often the best speeches are the most natural ones, the ones where you connect with your audience. You can’t do that if you are too busy trying to fit into a different persona. Have faith in yourself.

  2. Great tips I will have to try them next time i have to do a speech (hopefully not anytime soon).
    One thing I like to do for my speeches is Just put points I want to say then just ad-lib the rest.

  3. Thanks for your feedback. I agree about authenticity in speeches. It goes a long way towards gaining trust from your listeners. I also envy those who can pull off a speech with just a few notes. Reading from paper can create a barrier between the speaker and the audience.

  4. Pingback: Blog Post # 6 COM0011: The Fake it Till You Make it School of Writing | Algonquin College Social Media Certificate Program

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