The Secret to Writing a Speech is Not to Write It

When I am coaching speakers one of the questions I am often asked is how to write a speech so that it sounds "natural" -- meaning that it doesn't sound like the recital of a written document.

Few people can, in fact, write a script that sounds like you are just having a conversation. There are people who can do this -- it's a routine job for professional speechwriters and screenwriters -- but the writing experience of most people is in creating written documents that were meant to be read, not heard.

Natural spoken conversations do not work as writing and generally writing doesn't work as spoken language. So how do you write a speech that sounds like the spoken word and not like an essay? Probably the easiest way is to avoid writing the speech in the first place. Instead of writing a speech and trying to read it -- which is hard and rarely effective -- it is simpler and more effective to speak the speech and then write what you spoke.

Concretely this method works like this. First you collect your ideas, research, facts, anecdotes and stories. Organize all this material into chunks of speech -- perhaps one story, one key point, one example or whatever. For each chunk read your notes then try to say what you would like to say about it. Maybe the first attempt is clunky so try again, and again, and again until you hear a version you like.

While that idea is fresh in your head write it down. If you find it difficult to remember what you said you can record the session and transcribe the good parts. When you have one usable version written down try a few more variations. Try telling the same idea in different ways and every time you find a good way to say it write it down. You might get several good ideas for one chunk. Sometimes you pick the best. Sometimes you merge pieces of two or three to make a better one.

Once you have all the chunks expressed in words try liking them together using the same process. Try different orders, different bridges, different emphasis until you have a sequence of chunks that works. Because it started as the spoken word it will not sound written. This is already very important, but you also benefit in other ways. A speak-first speech will be easier to remember, easier to listen to and usually resonate much more with the audience.

With time you will learn how to think of spoken words in your head while you are writing a script, making this process seem almost like normal writing, but it is still very different. Remember just this rule: don't say what you wrote; write what you say. It works.


Lectures, Workshops, Coaching, Writing

If you'd like a lecture or workshop about speaking for your organization or if you would like me to coach you personally or you would like me to help you craft your speech send me a mail at speaker@andrewhennigan.com or call 0046 730 894 475.

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