As a speechwriter, I often hear clients say they don't know how to begin or what to include in their speeches and presentations. There is no standard formula for creating a speech for every occasion, whether online or in person, but the following tips will give you ideas on what to do the next time you need to speak to a group.
1. Begin with a clear and simple message
Before you start, define your message and stick to it. Don't try to make too many points. Attempting to cover too much ground in a short time will confuse your audience. For example, if you speak for 10 minutes, you will have enough time to convey one or two messages. Summarise this in one sentence and keep it in front of you while writing.
2. Know your audience and write for them
The type of audience you're addressing will determine what you say and how you say it. For example, in handling a technical subject, you should define your terms and explain more if the audience members are not familiar with the topic. If they know the subject matter, you can explain less. If you have both groups in the audience, you might say something like, 'For those of you who don't know...' and then explain it to them.
3. Write the way you usually speak
A speech should not be written like an article, essay, or report. For example, when they speak in daily conversations, most people use contractions (such as I'll, we'll, can't, he's, we're, it's), so write your speech that way. This also applies to the types of terms you use. Instead of 'however', write 'but'. In place of 'therefore', write 'so'. Copywriters call this conversational tone, and it's important to maintain this tone when writing your speech.
4. Create a connection with your audience
When you are presenting to an unfamiliar group, develop ways to connect with them. If you were speaking to a community group, for example, you would want to find out who they are, what they do and what they believe. Then use this knowledge to create a connection between you and your audience. For example, you could compare the group's values to your organisation's and mention what you have in common. It will help if the group you are addressing has a website or other background information you can review.
5. Use stories to make your point
From early childhood, we develop an appreciation for stories and the ideas they communicate. When you use stories in your speeches and presentations, you convey your message in an entertaining and memorable way.
Personal stories are often the best if they are relevant to what you are speaking about, so it's a good idea to write down interesting things you experience that are relevant to your speaking topics. If you don't have a story from your experience, there is plenty of resource material available if you are willing to spend some time researching.
6. Use quotations to support your ideas
Including a few quotations from authorities and experts gives outside support to your message. By adding quotations, you show that other people agree with your idea. For example, when teaching the benefits of plain and simple business writing, I use quotes from famous writers who agree with this approach.
7. Include facts, figures and statistics when appropriate
A well-written speech will balance emotion and logic. Using facts, figures, and statistics from reputable sources will support your message with a logical foundation. Be careful not to overload your presentation with too much information in a short time. Doing so will overwhelm the audience and lessen its effectiveness.
8. Use humour to help your audience relax and enjoy your speech
Humour does not necessarily mean telling jokes. It's best to use relevant, humorous stories that you have experienced or heard. If you can't think of any of these, use a funny quote on the subject. For example, if you are speaking about computers and want to add humour, Google 'humorous computer quotations' and you will find many sites with funny quotes about computers that you can use when writing your speech. You can do this for any topic.
9. End with a strong conclusion that reinforces your message
Your speech conclusion is a crucial time when you can make a lasting impact on your audience. When writing your conclusion, ask yourself, 'What do I want my listeners to take away or do as a result of my speech?' The answer to this question will help you create an appropriate conclusion.
10. Edit your speech to make it clearer and more concise
Redrafting will help you improve the text of your presentation. If you have limited time to speak, you will want to limit your speech to between 100 and 150 words per minute (depending on how fast you talk). Cut out anything that doesn't support your message. Read your speech aloud, and rewrite sentences that might be ambiguous, too long and complex, or difficult to articulate.