How to Write a Speech:
The Basics of Crafting
a Winning Message
by Brian Benjamin
Carter, MS, LAc
Brian has been a public speaker
for five years, and has been a guest on national radio shows,
and is president of
his local speaking club, Toastmasters
of La Jolla. He teaches at the
Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and maintains a private
practice in San Diego, California, and is the author of
Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind:
How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure.
You can see my credentials in my bio. You should also know
that I love to write speeches. In fact, I've been
accused of being a better speech writer than speech giver!
I'm working on that. ;-)
I'll tell you how to write a speech the way I do it, and
I'll tell you how to make it great. Plus I'll give you some
tips on what to put in, and what to leave out. I love this
Also, after reading this page, see these links for
How Good Do You Want Your Speech to Be?
From the outset, you should know that how to write a speech depends
on how good you want it to be, and how much time you want to put
into it. I'll put the most important things first so that you
can just go as far as you want, and stop when you run out of time.
Remember to leave time to practice the speech three or four times.
If you can record the second or third and listen to it, so much
How to Write a Speech People Will Remember
In the old days, and I mean back in the time of the Greeks, much
more emphasis was put on the writing of the speech, the content.
Now people tend to emphasize presentation, style, vocal qualities,
and technology. But writing a good speech is irreplaceable - I'm
going to tell you how to get put content in, make it clear,
and make an impact on your audience...how to write a speech
people will remember.
Here's the process:
- Know your audience: if you forget this, everything
falls apart. You can't tell dirty jokes to a Christian women's
group. You've seen the commercial where the best man gives the
wedding toast and goes on and on about how much of a player
the groom was? Remember who's there and what they want to hear.
What do they like and dislike? What kind of humor do they like?
If they're a mixed audience, you have to be more mainstream
in your language and manner. This is the most important part
of how to write a speech.
- Know your purpose: the only time you're allowed to
break rule #1 is if your purpose is to shock or to inform people
about something uncomfortable. In the latter case, you'd need
to make up for the shock value by acknowledging it, comforting
them, etc. Besides all that, your purpose determines everything
else. Visualize a straight line from you through your audience
to the purpose. If you want to persuade them, you have to take
them from where they are to the place of persuasion. If you
want to inform, you have to take their brains from where they
are, to where they'll know your information. Knowing them, and
taking them there is what it's all about.
- Know what you want them to think about the speech later:
This is another part of your purpose, essential to how to write
a speech. If you want them to say, "you really showed compassion
in that speech!" then you have to do whatever you can to
demonstrate compassion. If more than anything you want them
to remember a certain fact, then do everything you can in the
speech to implant it in their brain - shock them, plead with
them, amuse them, but make sure they focus on that fact.
- It's not about you: the only time it's about you is
if one of your goals is to impress them, build your credibility,
etc. Other than that, forget your fear, your self consciousness,
etc. Let those things go in the service of your audience and
- Writing is editing. Editing is writing. The first time
you write the speech, don't criticize it, don't edit it, just
let everything flow out. You'll organize it and choose better
words and rephrase it later. Just be creative.
- Organize your ideas into an outline. Make sure each
idea follows the other logically. Ask yourself if your audience
needs to know anything to understand any part of it. Ask yourself
if any part needs more fleshing out
- Rewrite it according to the outline.
- Beef it up. Use examples for difficult to understand
points or concepts. Find some jokes.
If no one laughs at the first one, be careful, though. You might
lose credibility if they think you're an idiot. You can also
great quotes online, even search on whatever topic you're
writing your speech about.
- Do an edit. Use MS Word for grammar checking. A big
part of how to write a speech it editing. The next few steps
involve editing and speaking. This step is about editing on
paper. Replace long words and rephrase jargon. Imagine if it
would make sense to your best friend, your mom, your grandma,
etc. (caveat: if jargon is required to impress in business,
- Say it all out loud. Is anything missing? How does
it sound? Change the words and phrases that sound unnatural
- Record it on a tape recorder or your computer. Is it
missing anything? Add it. Are any parts of it boring, unneccesary,
stupid, offensive? Cut off the fat.
- Do it in front of a test audience. Get their feedback.
Make sure they know your audience and purpose before you do
the speech for the test audience.
- Go give your speech to the real audience with confidence!
If you're interested in tips on the presentation or voice
sides of things, you'll need another resource, but...
Now you know how to write a speech!