Speaking in public is rarely anything less than an ordeal. For some people it’s a mildly unpleasant experience that has to be got through, like a driving test or the proverbial trip to the dentist. For others it’s quite simply a fate worse than death.
We blogged recently about how to be a better public speaker and there are plenty of ways to cope with pre-speech nerves, by preparing both physically and mentally for your trip to the podium.
However, the best way of boosting your confidence as a public speaker is to make sure that your speech is bang on the money. If you invest time in writing a good speech, chances are you’ll deliver a good one too.
Here are our six top tips for writing that perfect speech.
- Spend time thinking about your audience
Before you write a single word, think about who’s going to be listening to you. Why are they going to be there? What are their expectations? Do they know a lot about your subject matter, or nothing at all? Are they likely to agree with you, or resist what you’re saying? Picture yourself in that audience, what would make you sit up and pay attention?
- Give your speech a strong title that intrigues
The title of your speech should catch the eye, get people wondering what you’re going to say. Say you’re announcing sales targets for the year ahead, a question (‘Can we really be number one next year?’) or a challenge (‘Why we’re going to be number one next year) work better than a straightforward title (‘Plans and targets for next year’).
- Get your story straight
In other words, know what you’re going to say – and say it in a way that’s clear, concise and easy to follow. If you can summarise your speech in no more than three sentences, you’re on the right track. After that, add as much detail as your audience (not you!) needs. But keep it tight. Don’t drift, or your audience’s attention will drift too.
- Go back to the start and polish
This is the difference between the competent speech and the good speech. Can you think of a catchier opening line? (Yes.) Is there a better way to articulate your main point? (Yes.) Can you tighten that slightly boring bit in the middle? (Yes.) Is there a killer analogy that would end your speech on a high? (Yes.) Challenge yourself to make every line better.
- Practice, practice, practice
Technically this also comes under ‘polishing’, but it’s also a key stage in the writing process. Only when you stand up and start rehearsing will you discover that some words, some lines, some jokes, simply don’t work the way you hoped. (Better to discover it now than when you’re in the spotlight.) Again, you simply have to find another way of saying what you want to say.
- Stick to the script
You’ve polished, you’ve practised, you’ve perfected, and now you’re tempted to ditch the script and speak off the cuff. Don’t. Most people think they are great ad-libbers but guess what? Hardly anyone is. Trust your material, believe in yourself, and go for it.