The Basics on Speech Writing / Public Speaking

Recently I was asked to improve on a set of speaking notes. The guest speaker had written out some bullet points and was preparing his opening comments. However, he was stuck on how best to deliver his key messages and needed a critical eye to review his notes. Over the course of the copy edit, he asked me to summarize what rules-of-thumb I was applying. Here’s my list of core principles of good speech writing / effective speaking that I shared with him.

  • Use plain language and be explicit. Shorten long sentences. Cut language that obfuscates.  
  • Create lasting memoroies by using a moving story and anecdotes. Paint a picture, cite a famous quote and/or ask pointed questions of your audience.
  • Be linear in your thought process – don’t jump around in telling the story or explaining your idea.
  • Consider using the “rule of three” in explaining yourself – that is, “There are three things we need to remember…”
  • Be sure to emphasize and repeat the key message.
  • Be descriptive and use real examples and vivid details when speaking of your core idea(s).
  • Use appropriate comparisons, analogies and metaphors where they strengthen your core idea(s).
  • Use facts and statistics to strengthen your argument – and cite your sources.
  • Be expressive in your facial features – and always smile in making eye contact.
  • Be dramatic and add gestures and props to your speech.
  • Where appropriate use photos and a graphical slide deck to provide additional visual stimulus – do not show slides of the speech text.
  • Don’t lose your audience’s focus on the core idea(s) by using too many slides, dancing bears, or gaffaws.
  • End remarks by providing a solution or a poignant observation.
  • Give your final draft a litmus test: can it be said in less time? Cut mercilessly any extraneous thoughts to your key message.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *