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How to Write a Speech in 13 Steps

How to Write a Speech in 13 Steps    by Brian B. Carter, MS, LAc

You can see my credentials in my bio. You should also know that I love to write speeches. In fact, I've been accused of being a better speech writer than speech giver! I'm working on that. ;-)

I'll tell you how to write a speech the way I do it, and I'll tell you how to make it great. Plus I'll give you some tips on what to put in, and what to leave out. I love this topic.

How Good Do You Want Your Speech to Be?

From the outset, you should know that how to write a speech depends on how good you want it to be, and how much time you want to put into it. I'll put the most important things first so that you can just go as far as you want, and stop when you run out of time. Remember to leave time to practice the speech three or four times. If you can record the second or third and listen to it, so much the better.

How to Write a Speech People Will Remember

In the old days, and I mean back in the time of the Greeks, much more emphasis was put on the writing of the speech, the content. Now people tend to emphasize presentation, style, vocal qualities, and technology. But writing a good speech is irreplaceable - I'm going to tell you how to get put content in, make it clear, and make an impact on your to write a speech people will remember.

Here's the process:

(Why 13 steps? It just turned out that way. But if you think public speaking is scary, it fits, doesn't it?)

1. Know your audience: if you forget this, everything falls apart. You can't tell dirty jokes to a Christian women's group. You've seen the commercial where the best man gives the wedding toast and goes on and on about how much of a player the groom was? Remember who's there and what they want to hear. What do they like and dislike? What kind of humor do they like? If they're a mixed audience, you have to be more mainstream in your language and manner. This is the most important part of how to write a speech.

2. Know your purpose: the only time you're allowed to break rule #1 is if your purpose is to shock or to inform people about something uncomfortable. In the latter case, you'd need to make up for the shock value by acknowledging it, comforting them, etc. Besides all that, your purpose determines everything else. Visualize a straight line from you through your audience to the purpose. If you want to persuade them, you have to take them from where they are to the place of persuasion. If you want to inform, you have to take their brains from where they are, to where they'll know your information. Knowing them, and taking them there is what it's all about.

3. Know what you want them to think about the speech later: This is another part of your purpose, essential to how to write a speech. If you want them to say, "you really showed compassion in that speech!" then you have to do whatever you can to demonstrate compassion. If more than anything you want them to remember a certain fact, then do everything you can in the speech to implant it in their brain - shock them, plead with them, amuse them, but make sure they focus on that fact.

4. It's not about you: the only time it's about you is if one of your goals is to impress them, build your credibility, etc. Other than that, forget your fear, your self consciousness, etc. Let those things go in the service of your audience and your purpose.

5. Writing is editing. Editing is writing. The first time you write the speech, don't criticize it, don't edit it, just let everything flow out. You'll organize it and choose better words and rephrase it later. Just be creative.

6. Organize your ideas into an outline. Make sure each idea follows the other logically. Ask yourself if your audience needs to know anything to understand any part of it. Ask yourself if any part needs more fleshing out

7. Rewrite it according to the outline.

8. Beef it up. Use examples for difficult to understand points or concepts. Find some jokes. If no one laughs at the first one, be careful, though. You might lose credibility if they think you're an idiot. You can also find great quotes online, even search on whatever topic you're writing your speech about.

9. Do an edit. Use MS Word for grammar checking. A big part of how to write a speech it editing. The next few steps involve editing and speaking. This step is about editing on paper. Replace long words and rephrase jargon. Imagine if it would make sense to your best friend, your mom, your grandma, etc. (caveat: if jargon is required to impress in business, use it)

10. Say it all out loud. Is anything missing? How does it sound? Change the words and phrases that sound unnatural when spoken.

11. Record it on a tape recorder or your computer. Is it missing anything? Add it. Are any parts of it boring, unneccesary, stupid, offensive? Cut off the fat.

12. Do it in front of a test audience. Get their feedback. Make sure they know your audience and purpose before you do the speech for the test audience.

13. Go give your speech to the real audience with confidence! If you're interested in tips on the presentation or voice sides of things, you'll need another resource, but...

Now you know how to write a speech!

About Author Brian B. Carter, MS, LAc :

Brian has been a public speaker for five years, a guest on national radio shows, is president of his local speaking club, teaches medicine, and is the author of Powerful Body, Peaceful Mind: How to Heal Yourself with Foods, Herbs, and Acupressure (

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