Let's Write A Speech!

How-To, Dealing With Nervousness & Getting Organized

Everything you wanted to know about writing a speech...but were afraid to ask!

How To Write A Speech

How To Start Your Speech

How To Start Your Speech (3 excellent openings)

Let's Get Pumped To Write A Speech!

A Pep Talk from Kid President to You

Pick A Topic You Are Passionate About

What Is Something New You Want To Know?

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Here are ten steps to ease your fears about preparing a speech.


Step 1 - Remember that all great speeches, and even some not so great, require shape. The old saw is hard to beat: "Tell them what you will tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them."

Step 2 - "Shake hands with the audience." Put on your smile; calm your nerves, then get to work. You may want to start with a smashing one-liner.

Step 3 - Rise to the occasion. In other words, feel passionately about your topic. Make sure the audience feels how important the topic is to you, so that they begin to think about why they should care.

Step 4 - Build clear and sensible transitions (segues) from one thought to the next. The biggest mistake speakers and writers make is to assume people will follow their leaps of logic. Spell out to the audience when you are taking a turn in your thoughts with phrases like: "As an example of this" or "This brings us to the larger problem of," and so forth.

Step 5 - Focus. A "great" speech does not need to start out great and stay great to the finish. It engages the listeners. It makes allowances for a dip in interest in the middle. Then, it gathers anticipation for its key moment. John Stuart Mill, the political economist, defined the orator's art this way: "Everything important to his purpose was said at the exact moment when he had brought the minds of his audience into the state most fitted to receive it."

Step 6 - Add purpose. A speech should be made for a good reason. To inspire, to instruct, to rally, and to lead are noble purposes. To sound off, to feed a speaker's ego, to flatter, or to intimidate are not.

Step 7 - Know your theme. If you cannot answer the question "what do you want to say?" in a single, declarative sentence, do yourself and the audience a favor: revisit your speech.

Step 8 - Write with one particular person in mind, someone you actually know. This helps you to keep the message real and personable. This helps you anticipate reactions and keep your language down to earth.

Step 9 - Deliver the goods. Delivery is the essence of eloquence. It requires practice, discipline, drill, and timing. You can be your own trainer. As you develop self-confidence, you put the audience at ease, or make them sit up. Your eye is in contact with the people, not the page. Your professional passion is contagious. Use gestures to emphasize points, and make sure your tone of voice and facial expressions are appropriate for the topic.

Step 10 - Give your audience a sense of completion. Bring them back to the beginning, but with a louder spirit. This can be done by starting the last paragraph with a quiet, declarative sentence; it should build in a series of semicolons; it should employ the puissance of parallelism; it should reach to the farthest rafter and reverberate with the action and passion of our time, and, forgetting all else, it should connect with, no, grab each listener by his or her lapels and shout to their hearts and souls to say, "This is the end of the best speech you will ever have the good fortune to experience!"

Taken from: http://studopedia.org/2-940.html


  • You may experience instant, sustained applause punctuated by the occasional "Bravo" and the ever-present pundit punk who wrinkles his brow and wonders aloud, "But what was really said?"
  • Each person in the audience experiences your speech as an individual. Speak to them as individuals, by using words like "you" and "your" instead of "all of you" or "everybody here"; it is more direct and compelling, and will engage each member of your audience, whether it be five or five thousand.
  • Focus your attention on one individual at a time, just as you would in normal, everyday conversation. This will help to relax you, and mitigate the fear of speaking to very large crowds. Shift your focus around the room, to different sections of your audience. By including every area, even when you might not be able see them individually, each person will feel as if you are speaking directly to them, not at them.
  • Consider your audience's frame of reference. A simple way to do it is to think about: Who's in the audience? Why are they here? And after hearing your speech what's the first thing you would like them to do or say to someone else perhaps?
  • Don't read your speech. Speak it from memory. You may miss a couple minor points (and even a major one), but if you can't remember it long enough to say it, why would anyone else remember long enough to act on it?
  • You can fight off stage fright and fear of failure by knowing your subject. Having a commanding knowledge of your topic will show in you, just like not knowing your topic will show-even more so.
  • Practice your speech with someone else if possible, and ask him/her for input.

Taken from: http://studopedia.org/2-940.html

Organize your speech

The introduction

This is possibly the most important part of your speech, because you want to grab your audience's attention from the start. Here are some possible techniques to use:

  • Be dramatic. Say something like, "I'm about to reveal a plan that will drastically alter the face of humanity as we know it!" when your presentation is really about a new brand of facial soap.
  • Tell a joke. Getting people to laugh will loosen them up and make them feel inclined to like you and hear what you have to say. Don't try this if your jokes are usually met by silence or groans. Test your opening out first on your most brutally honest of friends.
  • Tell a story. This will make the audience see you as a person instead of a boring public speaker, thus giving you an air of accessibility. Two things to keep in mind about opening your speech with your story: keep it short (under a minute) and keep it relevant to the rest of your presentation. The point of the story is to lead the audience into your speech, so if your anecdote ends with your dog saving the day, and your speech is about bank mergers, you might have a hard time segueing from the your intro into the rest of the speech. Unless that story serves as a kick-ass analogy.
  • Pose a question. Asking the audience for their input will make them feel involved, even if you're going to answer your own question.

Taken from:

Processing Public Speaking: Perspectives in Information Production and ...

By A. Kanu, D.A.; S. Durham, M.A.

The Body

This is your speech. Everything you want to say should come out here, in an organized, untrivialized fashion. Here are some possible techniques:

  • Use a formal outline. You can prepare for writing the content of your speech by outlining your major points with those fun Roman numerals. Most good speeches have two or three main points, each of which has a couple of sub-points or examples. Formally outlining your speech will make sure that your logical flow makes sense and that your audience doesn't get lost. It will also help you figure our where the holes in your speech are, in case you have to do some last minute extra research.
  • Mind-map. A technique developed by a British brain researcher in the 1970s, mind-mapping is a less stiff version of writing up an outline. Instead of making a list, you write the main topic of your speech in the center of a piece of paper, and draw branches extending from it that highlight your key points. Then draw more branches from the key points to elaborate on the sub-points. The good thing about mind maps is that they don't confine you to listing your ideas in any particular order; you can just use your creative juices and let the ideas flow. Then once you've mind-mapped, you can create a more formal outline.

However you create your body, the key point is that you are ORGANIZED. The audience must be able to follow your thoughts.

Taken from:

Processing Public Speaking: Perspectives in Information Production and ...

By A. Kanu, D.A.; S. Durham, M.A.

The Closing

The way you end a speech is almost as important as the way you begin it. The audience will be most restless at the end, and you have to find a way to tie everything together so that they don't walk away remembering how badly they were fidgeting. So sum everything up for them in a few concise sentences and leave 'em with a witty line.

Taken from:

Processing Public Speaking: Perspectives in Information Production and ...

By A. Kanu, D.A.; S. Durham, M.A.

Write Your Speech

Writing a good speech is something that people write entire books on. But here are some quick cheat-notes to consider:

  • Vary your word choice. Your speech will get very boring very quickly if you repeatedly use the same words. So use interesting and different words and phrases and keep things new.
  • Get a thesaurus. It's not cheating, it's expanding your vocabulary, and all great writers use one. A word of warning: only use words that people know.
  • Keep the writing conversational, no matter how technical or unexciting the subject content might be. No one likes being lectured at, so there are a couple tricks you can use to make it feel like a normal dinner table conversation:

1. Throw out rhetorical questions as if you really expect answers, and you might even get nods of agreement.

2. Incorporate words that you usually use while speaking, but not in writing, such as "okay" (as in "Okay, so we're all caught up…) or "see" (as in "See, the reason is…).

3. Refer to the event. If you're speaking at a graduation, refer to the graduation. It makes your speech sound more personalized.

  • Whenever possible, describe a feeling or situation in detail. The audience will follow you with more facility if you paint a picture for them instead of continually throwing out dry, emotionless words. One way to do this is to use action verbs. Instead of saying "learn," try "elucidate." Also, imagery can be very effective. Instead of simply informing the audience that female praying mantises instinctively bite off the heads of males after they've finished mating, you could try a more graphic and dramatic approach:

Imagine that you are a male praying mantis, in the prime of your life. You want - more than anything else - to fornicate. But you've seen other males do it and then get their heads ripped off and promptly consumed by the females. What do you do?… What do you do?

  • Humor almost always helps. It's even appropriate at eulogies. The essence is in the timing, though. It's a good idea to test humor out on friends prior to the actual presentation, just in case it turns out that you're an unbelievably corny person. And leave out any humor that is even remotely offensive. Often, self-deprecating humor (that doesn't completely destroy your credibility as a speaker) works well.
  • REWRITE your speech. Many many times. Even the most brilliant writer never gets it perfect on the first try, so you have to continually rewrite and tighten your speech. Get rid of superfluous information (no matter how funny it is), and make sure that each line has a point.
  • After you've written your speech, it can be helpful to put it on 3 x 5 index cards. They are easier to carry around and shuffle through, and because you don't want to spend your entire presentation reading (and not speaking), index cards will make you feel more inclined to glance up when you flip through them. Just be sure to put huge numbers on the front of each card, in case they accidentally get shuffled around. But don't use the index cards as a crutch. Then people will think that you're talking to your hand.

Taken from:

Processing Public Speaking: Perspectives in Information Production and ...

By A. Kanu, D.A.; S. Durham, M.A.

How to handle Nervousness

It's just a speech. Your life does not depend on it (at least not in most cases). But if the thought of going out there and completely freezing up makes you freeze up just thinking about it, go through some of these relaxing exercises just prior to your performance.

Physical preparation

  • The night before, don't eat dairy or drink milk. They cause you to phlegm up. Also, no soda, coffee, tea, or other caffeinated drinks for at least an hour before the speech. They'll just make you even more antsy.
  • The morning of your speech, brush your teeth and use mouthwash. A clean mouth is a happy mouth.
  • Look presentable. Dress in nice clothes, comb your hair, do your nails, and groom yourself so that you look as nice as possible. As the saying goes, "dress to impress." The nicer you look, the more credibility you'll have with the audience.
  • Go to the bathroom about a half-hour before the speech.
  • Deep breathing exercises may seem cheesy, but they really slow your heart rate, lower your blood pressure, and reduce your adrenaline flow. So try breathing in through your nose, holding your breath for five seconds, and breathing out through your mouth. Do this at least three times, but don't go over six, or you may either keel over or start to hyperventilate.
  • If hand gestures are a part of your presentation, shake up your hands to get the blood going. This exercise will make it more natural for you to move them around during the performance.
  • Vocal exercises can help. Prepare your mouth by running through your speech at full voice several times. If you screw up, just keep remembering that the audience won't have a text and see where you screw up. Just move on as if nothing happened.
  • Most importantly, BE CONFIDENT! Even if you're not, the better you fake it, the more comfortable the audience will be with you, and thus, the more positive vibes they'll throw your way.

Mental preparation

Think these comforting thoughts (and true facts) before and during your presentation:

  • "The audience's initial impression of me is made within the first three seconds of my appearance." This can be used to your advantage because if you make sure you walk onto the stage with a bright smile and confident posture, you already have it made.
  • "I look better than I feel." Everyone feels like a wreck when they first get up there, but most don't look like one. In fact, most people who videotape themselves giving a rehearsal presentation are pleasantly surprised to find out that their wildly beating heart actually doesn't show up on the tape.
  • "The audience wants me to succeed!" An audience is made up of people who are not unlike you. They are not bloodthirsty animals and their shoes are too valuable to toss at you. They came to hear you because you have something important to say. Also, because they don't want their time to be wasted, it's in their best interest for you to succeed.
  • "A mistake will not matter much." Granted, people won't forget a nasty belch in the middle of a serious point, but completely ignore stumbles or slight pauses. Just move on. Most people won't notice your mistakes unless you draw attention to them by panicking.
  • "The single best way to have a successful presentation is to prepare properly…and I have!" (Right?)

Taken from:

Processing Public Speaking: Perspectives in Information Production and ...

By A. Kanu, D.A.; S. Durham, M.A.

Speech Outline

Salutation: Good morning (or afternoon) judges, teachers and fellow students.

I. Introduction (First get their attention, then tell the audience what you are going to talk about.)

1. Attention getting device

¨ open with a quote by a famous person OR

¨ start with a dramatic example or statistic OR

¨ tell an anecdote (short personal story) OR

¨ pose a question

2. Preview

¨ an opening sentence that contains the topic of the speech and the key points.

II. Body (This is your speech. Everything you want to say should come out here, in an organized, way.)

1. First point (elaboration on the 1st point mentioned in the preview)

¨ first sub-point

¨ second sub-point

¨ third sub-point

2. Second point

¨ first sub-point

¨ second sub-point

¨ third sub-point

3. Third point

¨ first sub-point

¨ second sub-point

¨ third sub-point

4. Fourth point

III. Conclusion (Remind the audience of what you’ve told them. Then end dramatically.)

1. Summary

2. Concluding device.