9 tips for writing scripts and speeches

Article Category: Delivery Techniques

by Andrew Dlugan

Published: Jun 4th, 2018

9 Tips for Writing Scripts and Speeches

Only one of the following statements is true. Do you know which one?

  1. You should never use notes because you will look unprepared.
  2. You should always use notes because memorization weakens your delivery.
  3. You should never use slide text as notes.

In this article, we identify scenarios where a full script is warranted or where memorization is advisable. For all your speaking scenarios in the middle, we discuss 21 tips for using notes effectively.

Full Script, Notes, or Nothing at all?

A previous Six Minutes article (how to read a speech) identified several speaking scenarios where reading a full script may be required or preferred:

  • You are speaking at a highly formal occasion (e.g. a commencement speech)
  • You are delivering a particularly emotional speech (e.g. a wedding speech, a eulogy)
  • You are forced to read word-for-word by lawyers or campaign managers (e.g. a corporate statement; a political speech)
  • speechwriter has written your speech.
  • Life prevented you from preparing adequately. (Don’t let this happen often… your speech really would go better if you prepare.)
  • You are a brand new speaker, and you haven’t developed the confidence yet to go without a script.

9 Easy Ways to Remember Your Presentation Material

One of the most common reasons we experience presentation anxiety is the fear that we will forget what we have to say and risk losing credibility.

A method many use to address this fear is to create PowerPoint slides as a memory aid.

However, this is short-sighted because nothing erodes your credibility as a speaker faster than signaling to the audience that you are dependent on your slides.

Seasoned presenters are able to announce a slide before showing it. At a minimum, they know their material so well that all they need to do is briefly glance at the slide to know what's coming next. You can achieve this by doing simple memory boosting practices to remember your presentation material and, in turn, reduce your anxiety.

Here are nine tips to help you remember what you have to say.

1. Use the Palace Method

Research into brain science has proven that there is a very deep connection between the way we remember an event and the space in which it occurred.

The brain system that is important for memory is also important for space; in other words, we remember things on the basis of spatial locations or “spatial scaffolds.” This is an ancient memory technique, commonly referred to as The Palace Method or Mind Palace.

To learn how to use the method, watch Joshua Foer's video, “To Remember Better, Build a Mansion in Your Mind”, or read his book, Moonlighting with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything.

2. Use mind maps

Mind maps are diagrams that allow you to lay out all of your presentation material in a visual shape rather than in list form.

This can be a powerful memory aid as the visual shape or image is imprinted in your brain and makes it easier to recall the information than a linear list of items, especially if you are a visual learner.

Try practicing your presentation from a mind map rather than from traditional notes and see what happens.

You can draw mind maps manually or you can purchase mind mapping software such as Matchware or MindGenius.

3. Know the value of focusing for eight seconds

Memory experts tell us that it takes an uninterrupted eight seconds for a piece of information to be processed through the hippocampus and into memory—this is how information is encoded in our brain. Examine how you go about preparing for a presentation.

Are you concentrating fully on the task of transferring the information from your notes into memory? Or are you in the habit of interrupting yourself by checking e-mail, reacting to each BlackBerry ring or answering the phone? Remember the crucial eight seconds rule and carve out dedicated time when you can be laser-focused on rehearing the information without any interruptions. You will not only know your material better but you will also shorten your preparation time considerably.

Top tips for writing a successful speech

At some point in your life, you will probably have to make a speech.

There are many kinds of speeches, including those intended to inform, persuade, instruct, motivate, and entertain.

They all share the same goal, however: to communicate clearly and effectively to an audience. Here are some guidelines to make it easier to talk to a room full of people you don’t know.

1 Know your audience

Understand what your listeners care about. Tailor your speech to their knowledge and their interests. If you are an expert speaking to a general audience, be sure to define your terms. If you’re a manager talking to a staff that has recently experienced lay-offs, acknowledge that you understand their concerns.

2 Narrow your topic

A good speech makes a claim. And a good speech is about one thing only. Even if your speech is a wedding toast, your point is that the bride and the groom were meant for each other. Have a specific focus and make sure everything you say supports it.

3 Outline your speech

A conventional organization usually works best. Tell the audience what you’re going to say, say it, and then tell them what you said. Repetition is a powerful tool, especially in a speech. Audiences tend to absorb only a small portion of what they hear, so it’s good to make your point several times.

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4 Get the attention of the room

Your opening should engage listeners immediately. Engage them with a unique personal story that is relevant to your topic. Or try a specific reference to the location. Most people will appreciate a speaker who says she’s glad to be in Australia in January.

Other good ways to begin:

5 Organize your speech

Structure your speech according to your purpose. If your goal is to inform, try a chronological or alphabetical organization. When your goal is to convince your audience to take a stand, introduce the problem and then propose a solution. Use transitions between your examples, so people can follow your logic.

6 Offer examples, statistics, and quotations

You need evidence to support what you’re saying. Try examples from history, current events, and your own life. Consult government sources for statistics. Use quotations from experts in the field. Don’t overdo quotations, though: most of the words in your speech should be your own. Check your facts—inaccuracies will undermine your credibility.

7 Craft a powerful conclusion

Keep it short, memorable, and to the point. Consider ending with a concrete, vivid image or anecdote that illustrates your topic. Or ask people to take an action, such as promise to write to a decision-maker or to contribute to a cause.

8 Use presentation aids if appropriate

Charts and tables quickly convey data, and photographs can offer compelling support. Incorporate visuals into your speech if they’ll make it more powerful. Know what technology will be available for you to share these visuals. And be prepared to do without them, in case something goes wrong with the equipment.

9 Write for the ear, not for the eye

Once you’ve finished a draft of your speech, practice reading it out loud. You’ll hear anything that sounds awkward. Revise so you are more comfortable giving your speech. You want to sound natural, no matter what the occasion.

10 Time yourself

Have someone else run the stopwatch, so you won’t be distracted. Read slowly and clearly. Include pauses for emphasis or for audience reaction if you’re saying something that might cause listeners to laugh or gasp. If you’re over your time limit, you’ll need to edit to shorten your speech.

  • Back to Top writing tips.
  • You might also be interested in:
  • Top tips for better writing
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See more from Top Writing Tips

How to Write a Great Speech for Public Speaking in 7 Steps

Do you have to give a speech publicly any time soon? If you do, you need to know how speeches that are given publicly differ from presentations that will be viewed online. You need to know how to write a good public speaking speech before you give your speech.

One difference between speeches written to be given publicly and presentations written to be viewed online is that the former is given before a live audience at specified time and place. The later may be shared, viewed, and reviewed at the reader's convenience.

A good public speaking speech differs from a presentation written to be viewed online. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

A speech given live has other significant differences from an online presentation.

First, with a live speech you need to think about establishing a positive relationship with the audience while you do your speech writing. Plus, your physical presence (your appearance, posture, etc.

) makes a difference with a public speech. Also, you may need to work in breaks for your audience and a question and answer session.

In this tutorial, we'll provide you with seven basic guidelines for writing a speech that will work well with live audiences.

So that you can see how these guidelines might apply to a your situation, I'll apply each step to a sample public speaking scenario for a small business that I'll provide.

We'll touch on some of the basics of speech writing. Finally, I'll share additional resources that can help you learn how to write a good speech.

Download Free Presentation eBook

Before we dive into our topic, I wanted to make you aware of another resource on how to write a speech. We've got a free presentations eBook available:The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. It'll help you master the presentation process, from: initial idea, through to writing, design, and delivering with impact.

Sample Public Speaking Scenario

Here's a possible public speaking scenario:

You've just opened a small web design business in your town and you join the town Chamber of Commerce. As a result, you're invited to give a short, five-minute presentation at the next Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Coming up with a public speaking speech for the scenario described above could be a challenge if you've never written or given a public speech before. Fortunately, there are some speech-writing steps that you can use that'll make speech writing easier.

Let's use this example and walk through the steps for writing a speech.

7 Steps for Writing a Speech

The steps for writing a speech for public speaking are for similar to the steps for writing a presentation in general. However, at each stage of the writing process you need to keep your audience in mind.

1. Research Your Audience

Whenever you do any type of writing you need to consider who you are trying to reach with your writing. Speech writing is no different. In general, the more you know about your target audience the more effective your writing will be in reaching them.

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10 Keys To Writing A Speech

“This is my time.”

That attitude will kill a speech every time.

You’ve probably sat through some lousy speeches. Despite the speakers’ renown, you eventually tuned them out over their self-indulgent tangents and pointless details. You understood something these speakers apparently didn’t: This was your time. They were just guests. And your attention was strictly voluntary.

Most Popular In: Leadership

Of course, you’ll probably deliver that speech someday. And you’ll believe your speech will be different. You’ll think, “I have so many important points to make.

” And you’ll presume that your presence and ingenuity will dazzle the audience. Let me give you a reality check: Your audience will remember more about who sat with them than anything you say.

Even if your best lines would’ve made Churchill envious, some listeners will still fiddle with their smart phones.

In writing a speech, you have two objectives: Making a good impression and leaving your audience with two or three takeaways. The rest is just entertainment. How can you make those crucial points? Consider these strategies:

1) Be Memorable: Sounds easy in theory. Of course, it takes discipline and imagination to pull it off. Many times, an audience may only remember a single line. For example, John F.

Kennedy is best known for this declaration in his 1961 inaugural address: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what can do for your country.” Technically, the line itself uses contrast to grab attention.

More important, it encapsulated the main point of Kennedy’s speech: We must sublimate ourselves and serve to achieve the greater good. So follow Kennedy’s example: Condense your theme into a 15-20 word epigram and build everything around it top-to-bottom.

There are other rhetorical devices that leave an impression. For example, Ronald Reagan referred to America as “a shining city on the hill” in speeches. The image evoked religious heritage, freedom, and promise. And listeners associated those sentiments with Reagan’s message.

Conversely, speakers can defy their audience’s expectations to get notice. In the movie Say Anything, the valedictorian undercut the canned optimism of high school graduation speeches with two words: “Go back.” In doing so, she left her audience speechless…for a moment, at least.

Metaphors…Analogies…Surprise…Axioms. They all work. You just need to build up to them…and place them in the best spot (preferably near the end).

2) Have a Structure: Think back on a terrible speech. What caused you to lose interest? Chances are, the speaker veered off a logical path. Years ago, our CEO spoke at our national meeting.

He started, promisingly enough, by outlining the roots of the 2008 financial collapse. Halfway through those bullet points, he jumped to emerging markets in Vietnam and Brazil. Then, he drifted off to 19th century economic theory.

By the time he closed, our CEO had made two points: He needed ADD medication – and a professional speechwriter!

Audiences expect two things from a speaker: A path and a destination. They want to know where you’re going and why. So set the expectation near your opening on what you’ll be covering. As you write and revise, focus on structuring and simplifying. Remove anything that’s extraneous, contradictory, or confusing. Remember: If it doesn’t help you get your core message across, drop it.

3) Don’t Waste the Opening: Too often, speakers squander the time when their audience is most receptive: The opening. Sure, speakers have people to thank. Some probably need time to get comfortable on stage. In the meantime, the audience silently suffers.

When you write, come out swinging. Share a shocking fact or statistic. Tell a humorous anecdote related to your big idea. Open with a question – and have your audience raise their hands.

Get your listeners engaged early. And keep the preliminaries short. You’re already losing audience members every minute you talk.

Capitalize on the goodwill and momentum you’ll enjoy in your earliest moments on stage.

4) Strike the Right Tone: Who is my audience? Why are they here? And what do they want? Those are questions you must answer before you even touch the keyboard. Writing a speech involves meeting the expectations of others, whether it’s to inform, motivate, entertain, or even challenge. To do this, you must adopt the right tone.

Look at your message. Does it fit with the spirit of the event? Will it draw out the best in people? Here’s a bit of advice: If you’re speaking in a professional setting, focus on being upbeat and uplifting. There’s less risk.

Poet Maya Angelou once noted, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

” Even if your audience forgets everything you said, consider your speech a success if they leave with a smile and a greater sense of hope and purpose. That’s a message in itself. And it’s one they’ll share.

5) Humanize Yourself: You and your message are one-and-the-same. If your audience doesn’t buy into you, they’ll resist your message too. It’s that simple. No doubt, your body language and delivery will leave the biggest impression. Still, there are ways you can use words to connect.

5 Expert Tips for Giving the Speech of Your Life

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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There’s that invitation that involves public speaking that you want to accept. And then there’s that once-in-a-lifetime speech you want that invitation to become.

You know the kind of speech I’m referring to: the pivotal presentation that defines a person, cause or culture — that crucial communications moment your audience members will remember for weeks afterward. 

Related: 7 Powerful Public Speaking Tips From One of the Most-Watched TED Talks Speakers

To set the stage (pun intended) for this event, imagine an imaginary setting: a new CEO’s first all-hands-on meeting with a global company following a contentious merger. If the organization is to survive, our CEO must project confidence and optimism.

Alternatively, picture a city official making the case to the International Olympic Committee to bring the Games — and the $5.2 billion in revenue associated with them — to his city.

Speaking Skills: 9 Tips for Writing a Great Introduction

Picture this disaster: You’ve spent hours and hours prepping your speech and researching your topic and now, the big day has arrived and it’s your moment to step onstage.  The emcee/host takes the mic and says, “Ladies and Gentlemen, have you watched The Tonight Show or The Daily Show? Well, this next speaker…. watches them too!” Then they project a picture of you they downloaded off the Internet, forgetting to crop out your ex-boyfriend, the Hells Angel gang member. All that work you’ve done is suddenly null and void. You’re going to have to spend the next ten minutes trying to win over an audience that now thinks you’re a nobody.  In other words, you can’t leave the intro to the imagination of that emcee. They usually don’t have one. It’s up to you to control your image by writing a great intro. Here's how:

9 Tips to Write a Great Introduction for Yourself

Intro Tip #1: Make sure the bginning of your introduction has a humorous line and includes your name.

Having a little joke in the intro tests the temperature of the audience. If they laugh during the intro, you’ll know it’s a hot audience. If they don’t, this audience is going to need a warm up.

I have in my intro, “Judy Carter is the Goddess of Comedy, but she says you can just call her “Goddess.

” It's not that funny, but if they laugh, I know they're a hot crowd and humor is also an attention getter that will push focus to the stage.

Intro Tip #2: Let the emcee brag about you.

This is no time for modesty.  Besides, it’s much more effective to have someone else brag about you than to do it all yourself. Put your impressive credits right up front.  Books you’ve written, programs you’ve founded, awards you’ve received, impressive jobs you’ve held. Let your audience know, before you even step onstage, that you’re a pro.

Intro Tip #3: Mention a “down” moment in your life.

Right after mentioning impressive credentials, reveal your journey by letting the audience know about your “down” time by briefly mentioning a challenge that you had to overcome. This will actually make your success so much more impressive.

It’s one thing to have spoken at Fortune 500 companies, but it’s even more impressive if an audience knows that you had to overcome a speech impediment to achieve it.

Remember: this is just a quick “mention” of the low place that started your journey and not the full story in all of its glory. 

Intro Tip #4: Sneak in a subtle sales pitch.

If you have product to sell, then make sure your audience knows that they will be available after your speech.

You can do this by having the emcee announce that you will be autographing copies of your book, DVD, CD, or wind up dolls at the back of the room.

If you’re just starting out and don’t have any products, announce that you will be available at the back of the room to answer any questions.

Intro Tip #5: State your speech title.

The audience wants to know exactly what to expect from you. They want to hear that the speech is going to be relevant to their lives. If the announcement of your speech title elicits a groan… it’s time to rethink your speech!

Intro Tip #6: Wrap it up with another mention of your name.

If your name is anything other than Jane Doe, then spell it out phonetically. It’s horrible coming onstage to the wrong name.

Intro Tip #7: Print up your intro in LARGE and BOLD FONT.

Before I walk onstage, I track down my emcee, politely introduce myself and hand him or her my intro typed out in a LARGE & BOLD font. Sometimes, the emcees have “forgotten” to wear their glasses.

Make it impossible for them to screw this up and make it clear to your emcee that you want your intro read exactly as it is written.  If the V.P. of accounting says, “Don’t worry, I’ll just improvise.” Just say politely, “No….

thank you.” Then hand them your copy.

  • Intro Tip #8: Add a Multimedia Introduction.
  • One of the best intros I saw was where the speaker, who was a reporter, had a brief introduction and then a video showing her in action, establishing her expertise, and laying the foundation for her speech.
  • Intro Tip #9: Keep your intro to less than one minute.

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