To quote Dr. Ralph C Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters, “Speech is much more than merely standing before an audience and saying something”, however, when you get an opportunity to say something to an audience, you want to make sure that opportunity is not wasted. So what do you do when you don’t have an army of speechwriters like presidents, politicians, and CEOs – You borrow from the pros.
There are many examples of great speeches written and delivered by professionals that can be used as excellent examples of good speechwriting. What is most important to look for in those examples is their structure. In order to better understand what structure is all about, you have to write out your speech. Many good coaches can look at your structure to conclude if your speech is good or bad.
David Brooks, a speechwriter, and coach I admire often says in his coaching sessions, “great speeches are not written they are rewritten”. After getting down the basics; a strong beginning, an informative middle, and a memorable ending, that is when the rewriting begins. Have a well-defined structure that both you and your audience can follow. Don’t wait until you face your audience to start your rewriting on stage, don’t try to wing it, that’s when most speakers get into trouble.
While it is great to have a well-rehearsed strong opening, being in the moment also makes for a good opening. Tagging a line from the previous speaker to maintain the power already created in the room works well for most audiences, however, you should choose that tagline carefully. From there go back to your script. If you can deliver eighty percent of what you have written, you should be in good shape. The other twenty percent should be those spontaneous opportunities you observe to connect with your audience.
The personal stories you tell can leave a lasting impression on your audience, therefore they should be delivered from the heart and not read. All of my mentors strongly emphasizes that “good speeches are delivered not read”. Even if the personal stories included in your speech are written in some format, switch the eighty-twenty rule for that part of your speech. Eight percent Off-Script and if you must, twenty percent scripted. Your stories will be much more believable and better received.
Create your own power or catchphrases to make your message resonate with your audience. Those phrases will resonate with both you and your audiences even long have you have given that speech. As you continue the process of rewriting, you will begin to see more and more opportunities to add humor and phrases that will personalize your speeches. Power statements and catchphrases add life to your speeches. They should roll off your tongue as if you are releasing a small part of you.
I always recommend that you “Open to Close”. Go back to the opening to recall the statements that laid the foundation for your speech. The statements you stated as the reason for you facing that particular audience. Your closing is your opportunity to drive home your message. It is your opportunity to close the deal. And if after all is said and done, your audience is just all revved up and ready to take some actions all because of your message, you would have done much more than merely stand before an audience to say something. You are now well on the road to presenting as a pro.