People are busy and have a lot to think and worry about. So when business leaders and subject-matter experts give executive speeches and presentations, with our without PowerPoint support, they must establish a bond with the audience, demonstrate their authority and make a clear, compelling case – with enthusiasm. I start by putting myself in the audience’s shoes before I even begin to discuss content. The key is to know their biases and expectations in order to find a way to win them over.
Guidelines for Writing Speeches
Pick Your Main Ideas
Don’t try to put too many ideas into your speech. Research shows that people remember very little from speeches, so just give them one or two key ideas to digest and hang onto.
Write Like You Talk
Remember you’re writing a speech, not an essay. People will hear the speech, not read it. The more conversational you can make it sound, the better. So try these tips:
- Use short sentences. It’s better to write two simple sentences than one long, complicated sentence.
- Use contractions. Say “I’m” instead of “I am” “we’re” instead of “we are.”
- Don’t use big words that you wouldn’t use when talking to someone.
- You don’t have to follow all the rules of written English grammar. Your English teacher might be horrified, but people don’t always talk in complete sentences with verbs and nouns. So try to write like people talk.
- Always read your speech aloud while you’re writing it. You’ll hear right away if you sound like a book or a real person talking!
Use Concrete Words and Examples
Concrete details keep people interested. For instance, which is more effective? A vague sentence like “Open play spaces for children’s sports are in short supply.” Or the more concrete “We need more baseball and soccer fields for our kids.“
Get Your Facts Together
You want people to believe that you know what you’re talking about! So you’ll need to do some research. For instance, let’s say your big issue is the environment. You promise to pass a law that says all new cars must run on electricity, not gas. That will cut down on air pollution! But it would help if you had a few facts to support your position.
Use a Classic, Persuasive Structure
In a speech where you’re trying to persuade someone, the classic structure is called “Problem-Solution.” In the first part of your speech you say, “Here’s a problem, here’s why things are so terrible.” Then, in the second part of your speech you say, “Here’s what we can do to make things better.” Sometimes it helps to persuade people if you have statistics or other facts in your speech. And sometimes you can persuade people by quoting someone else that the audience likes and respects.
After you’ve written a first draft of your speech, go back and look for words you can cut. Cutting words in the speech can make your points clearer. A helpful adage to simplify your speech: “Fewer Words = Clearer Point.”