DVMG  Fact Sheet Number-4

Fact Sheets Index 

Writing Speeches

Tony Miller


The first point to remember when writing a speech is that it is meant to be spoken not read. Too many speeches are written for reading and when presented sound stilted and unnatural.

To help you get over this problem you should write your speech as you will say it - in other words do not write do not when you will actually say don't.

Had I written that last sentence for speaking I'd have written: don't write do not, write don't because that's how you'll say it.

This is a very simple technique I've used over the years when writing speeches for Ministers, Ambassadors etc and it works well.

Keep your sentences short and uncomplicated. Again, this is a problem when speeches are written for reading not speaking. It's much easier to work out what's meant when you read it and see the punctuation but when it's spoken, it's much more difficult to follow.

Make each sentence a new paragraph on the page so it's easier to keep your place, and vary the length of the sentences to avoid a staccato presentation.

Before you write your speech set it out in the form of dot points. This will make it easier to keep it in a logical order. It will also help you remember your speech so you don't have to keep referring to your notes.

Discard any material that's over complicated or irrelevant.

Only use jokes if you're comfortable with them but if you can tell a story well, and it's appropriate to what you're saying, your audience will appreciate it.

Avoid all those hackneyed phrases such as "level playing field", "at this point in time...", "interfacing with...", and "catch 22", which drive normal people mad and date your presentation.

Avoid unnecessary adjectives such as "nice", "fabulous", "fantastic", and above all never say "very unique" or "new initiative".

You should also avoid having too many facts and figures. Remember, the attention span of audiences is much less today than it used to be, thanks mainly to the influence of television, and the brain can only take in so much information at one sitting.

Start with a hard-hitting opening statement. Follow this with a supporting argument and then finish off by reinforcing your opening statement and making a call for action.

Don't make your speech too long. Find out before you write it how long you will be expected to speak for - and stick to it.

Never miss your opportunity - that is the opportunity to sit down at the appropriate time.

Having written your speech it's time to read it out loud so you'll be able to spot the difficult parts. Maybe you've used words that you find hard to pronounce - typical examples that cause a lot of people problems are "nuclear" which is more often pronounced "nuke-ular". Another problem word is "statistics" which often comes out as "stastistics".

If you miss out something in your speech, often it's not a problem. Remember, only you will know what you were going to say and unless it changes the whole meaning of your argument, don't worry about it.

It's often been said that the best speeches are given in the car on the way home from your engagement. There's a lot of truth in that but you can make it a lot easier for yourself by making sure that what you write can be presented comfortably and, above all, understood easily by the audience..

Tony Miller. E-Mail: millert@ozemail.com.au