SOMETIMES the hardest part of writing a speech is deciding what you are going talk about. Picking a topic and deciding on content can be an anxious time. Despite having many experiences and stories to draw from, the mind suddenly goes blank. Avoid the “I don’t know what to say” trap by being clear on why you are speaking and building a structure around that.
Whether it is a sales pitch, a case for promotion or a wedding speech, thinking of what to say can leave some of us lost for words. One of the most daunting phrases a speaker can hear is “Talk about whatever you like”. A lack of guidance or criteria can add stress to the speech writing process. Here are some top tips to help you take charge and find your speech.
Identify your core message: Your core message forms the foundation to build your speech around. Think of it as the concrete slabs under those great Aussie homes. Without a core message, a speech can get messy: this is when the “ums” and “ahhs” tend to appear, making you sound unsure. When you are not clear what you want the audience to know, it makes giving a speech and engaging your audience lot harder. Before you put pen to paper, ask yourself “Why am I standing in front of the audience? What one thing do I want my audience to take away from my speech?”
Decide your conclusion: It might seem topsy turvey, but this checks whether your final words to your audience is aligned with your core message. If the conclusion you want is incongruent with your core message, you need to rethink one or the other. For example, if your core message is “I have earned that promotion” and your conclusion is “I have met the key performance indicators we have agreed with in my last performance review” then there is congruence. If however, your conclusion is “Therefore, we all need to keep working together as a team” there is no clear link between the core message and the final thought you leave your audience with.
Structure your speech: Now that you have a strong focus, you can structure your speech. A good speech structure has a beginning, middle and end. Each section does not need to be equal in length. In fact, the middle is generally the meatier part — where most of the detail occurs. The beginning and the end are the bookends to your main points. The purpose of each section is:
- Beginning — sets the scene so your audience knows the starting point and can put what you are about to say in context
- Middle — provides the detail of what your core message is. Here, you can discuss, for example, the benefits, research findings or funny anecdotes.
- End — provides an overview of where you started, your main points and what you want the audience to walk away with (i.e. your conclusion).
Like everything, writing a speech requires planning, process and practice. Once you identify what message you want to share with your audience, you will be surprised by how easily your ideas start to flow. Next time someone says “Speak about what you want”, these top tips will have you saying “No worries”.