3 Tips for Writing a Speech

Man's hands typing on old typewriter on wooden table

Do you “go blank” when you sit down to start writing a speech? It’s all well and good to say you’re going to give a speech. But how do you actually get started?

Here are some tips to help you out:

1. Just get something (anything) on paper first — a paragraph, or a sentence, or even a short phrase. Even if it’s not very good. Don’t sweat it.  Just. Write. It. Down. 

If that’s all that you have in you at that time, that’s okay, you’ve started! You have something to build on. It can be added to, and improved later. The point is to start. 

Many of us have difficulty writing a speech, or anything else, because we think that on our very first try:  1) we have to write a full speech;  and 2) it has to be good.  That’s not how writing works.

The best writers in the world don’t get it right on the first try. They put something down on paper and then they fiddle with it. They leave it for a while, let it “steep”, and then come back to it. They rewrite parts of it they’re not happy with. They move sections around the page so it reads better. They keep on tinkering with it until they’re satisfied with the speech/article/essay.

This process happens over time, not in one sitting. Unless you’re a fast writer, you need a week or more to write a speech. And that doesn’t even include the time you’ll need to rehearse and practice it.

2. Read the speech out loud. Before the speech is finished, read it out loud and record yourself doing it. This is not the same as rehearsing and practising the speech. That comes later. Reading it out loud helps you write a better speech

You’ll notice some words that are hard to pronounce. You’ll notice words and phrases that are going to be hard for your audience to pick out. You’ll notice sentences that don’t flow smoothly. Rewrite them as needed and read it aloud again until you’re satisfied with the result.

3. Keep a list of speech ideas. If you’re in a Toastmasters club, you know now that you’re probably going to be delivering a number of speeches over the coming months (and possibly years). You’re going to need material.

Rather than trying to come up with ideas at the last minute, start keeping a list of speech ideas. 

Not just ideas for the title of a speech. But also sentences you might use in a future speech, funny lines you’d like to use one day, phrases that you can build a paragraph around. This is similar to what many professional writers do — they keep a notebook into which they put all kinds of things that may be useful for future writing projects.

Naturally, these ideas will probably come to you at the least convenient time. So consider sending yourself a text or email to remind yourself of the idea at a later time.

This is obviously not an exhaustive list. But these three tips listed above will not only make the process easier, they’ll also help you write a better speech.

Cabot Toastmasters Club, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada