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How to Write a Speech

You may find that you are expected to speak at a public gathering or social event, and being prepared to speak at these occasions requires planning and preparing the text. Here are tips to help you plan and write a great speech.

Choose your topic. A good speech is focused on a message, which needs to match the occasion. It should resonate well with the audience’s interests, and it should be important to the listeners.

  • A speech for school is usually open-ended, so choose a topic that you are passionate about. Good speeches depend on delivery and the heart put into it by the speaker. If you are enthusiastic, odds are your audience will be, too.
  • Find purpose or thesis. Why are you giving a speech on this topic? (“My teacher told me to!” or “I have to” is not a valid reason.)
    • Thesis is the main point to emphasize. If you are writing a speech about an event in your life, what’s your message? Your topic may cover your near-death experience, but your thesis or purpose could be advocating the use of seat belts. You need reasoning to back it up; “It saved my life” is pretty hard to argue with!
      • A good speech is made for a good reason: to inspire, to instruct, to rally support, to lead to action, etc. These are noble purposes — and not merely to sound off; feed the speaker’s ego; or to flatter, intimidate, or shame .
      • Get organized. All good speeches require shape: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. A speech is not an amorphous blob or tangled strings of thought.Body of the speech. State at least three points to support your argument. If they build on each other, good. For your first draft, you can make a list and pick out the strongest arguments later.
  • Get persuasive. If your points are illogical, don’t attempt to pad them with other reasons. Make sure your reason is sound, and then you can try to add persuasive techniques.
    • Plato’s appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos come in handy here. Persuade your audience to agree by gaining credibility (ethos) or by using others’ (when you think of Hanes, do you think of quality underwear or do you think of Michael Jordan?) By manipulating their emotions (pathos), or by simple use of logic (logos). Neither is necessarily stronger or more effective than the others; it all depends on the situation.

Choose words wisely. When giving a speech to 8th graders, it’s important not to get esoteric — in other words, use words they will understand and appreciate. Cater your speech to your audience — what do they want to hear?

  • That being said, what do they know? Don’t waste time explaining concepts to them that they already know; or worse, assuming they know the basics and confusing them horribly. Put yourself in their shoes as you write — what background knowledge do they need before you jump in to the meat of your argument?

Grab their attention. “Shake hands” with them — figuratively, of course. Personalize your speech by hooking members of your audience. Build agreement with your topic and a sense of rapport with you.

  • Former Ambassador Robert Strauss used to begin his addresses like this: “Before I begin this speech, I have something to say.” What’s your hook?
  • Wear your sincere smile, even in your writing. Audiences will be able to tell. You may want to begin with an amusing one-liner or thought-provoking anecdote that can be connected to the situation.
  • As you’re writing, think about what you would say to a friend. The more comfortable and open you are, the more your audience will feel drawn to you. Choose how you express yourself as if you were having a discussion with someone you feel at ease with, someone you’re comfortable showing emotion to. A speech with “heart” is the most moving kind.