Many a time, we're called upon to write and eventually deliver a speech. For many people, it can be an exceedingly daunting prospect, leading to pressure and an inexplicable bout of nervousness. Are there any tips for those who are drafting their speech for the first time? Well, I'm sure different people will tell you different things - so, I give you my very own personal Top 5 tips on writing a good speech. Ready? Well, here we go:
1.) Do your Research: Yes, take a moment and reflect on the context in which your speech will be delivered. Will it be in a big auditorium or before a classroom of high school students? Will the audience be affluent, middle class or the working poor? The reason for the meeting plays a big role as well - it is the thread that brought about the speech in the first place. Whether it's a birthday or a death, a family or a business gathering - be mindful of the occasion. Which leads me to preparation. I cannot emphasize it enough. Your top priority for every speech has to be preparation, preparation and preparation. Know your subject, know your audience and know your goal. Don't cut corners and you will touch hearts and minds.
2.) The Audience Matters (a Big Deal!): When you're asked to deliver a speech, pause for a minute. Think of what a great privilege it is for you to have been asked to speak in front of an audience, whether it's a gathering of friends, a wedding reception, an annual general meeting or a conference of medical professionals. Let me repeat it again: It is your privilege to be speaking to them, not theirs! Think of the fact that these strangers are voluntarily sacrificing their quality time to listen to you and your ideas. It is that simple - and that big. You have to make your speech interesting, entertaining and intriguing for them. They have no obligation other than listening politely to you. But at the same time, in their very own self-interest, they want you to do well - because no one likes being bored out of their mind. Turn this into an advantage.
3.) Develop a Broad Idea: George H.W.Bush once said during the 1988 presidential campaign that he had problems articulating "the vision thing". Trust me, in a speech, articulating an overarching theme is vital to the way you structure your speech and your ability to captivate the audience. Use the structure of your speech as building blocks leading up to the overall articulation of your vision. When you're talking about the overall decency and fundamental kindness of a friend, for example, illustrate it through examples of that kindness and what other people say - before outlining those characteristics in broader terms.
4.) Entertain: No, you don't have to be Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Bailey or Eddie Murphy. But consider using anecdotes to demonstrate a point. Keep your speech light on too many statistics. With a speech, it's all about making an impact - you can do that best with personal warmth, a broad knowledge of your subject and a narrative use of your voice. Tell a story throughout your speech and bring those facts to life. Your audience will thank you for it.
5.) Keep it Real: Some budding orators make the mistake of channeling someone else's personality. You're not Charles de Gaulle, President Jed Bartlet from The West Wing or Tony Blair. You're who you are: You! Remember that and speak with your authentic voice, with all its quirks - speak from the heart and believe in what you're saying, even if that means having to rewrite a speech. The rule is simple: If the words you use are spoken sincerely, chances are that your audience will know.