Writing a speech is a daunting task for anyone. Sitting in front of a depressingly blank piece of paper or a blank screen, you can go around in circles. You are thinking about how to start, what to say, what to miss out, how to get your ideas out, how to communicate in a coherent way and of course there is the additional pressure of trying to be funny, entertaining or even just mildly amusing.
Here are some questions to consider when speech writing:
What is the aim of the speech?
Before you put pen to paper consider what you wish you achieve through this speech. If your only purpose of the speech is to give a good speech then it will not go well. What is the purpose of the speech – are you trying to inform, entertain, sell? What action or emotion(s) are you trying to trigger?
Who are you speaking to?
Are the audience listening because they want to hear you, your ideas, or because they have to be? Imagine what your audience are like. Who are they? Did they go there to see you or are you talking before the main speaker? What motivates them? What do they want to take away from your speech? Understanding who your audience is will allow you to assess how much detail to give.
What is the story you are trying to tell?
What is your takeaway? If the audience could only take away one thing from your speech what would you want that to be? What is the headline summary of your message? Telling stories is a natural part of human communication - making your (maximum three!) points through stories will enable you to speak in a more fluent and passionate way.
How long have you got to speak?
This should be the last of your concerns when speech writing, but you need to consider this. And stick to it. Write out the speech first - then edit and condense and cut. You have to be ruthless with your content, if it doesn’t add to your message, cut it out. It is better to brief and heard than to run over time or, sin of sins, be cut off before you have finished.
How to get their attention
I don’t care about the rest of the speech - if you don't have a good introduction that gets their attention you may as well not give the rest of the speech - they won’t be listening. Ask a question, use a quote, be provocative. Above all - don’t be dull and predictable.