Speaking Tips – Writing For Speakers

Should a speech be written before it is practiced and presented? I have heard a variety of answers to that question, and I have even made different choices in my own speaking experience. In this post, you will learn some specific tips on when you should answer yes, and when you may want to answer no.

Sometimes, the answer is clouded by the fallacy that if you put it in writing, you are planning to either memorize it or read it. This, of course, is Hooey. Taking the time to write your speech out before you give it can accomplish at least these few things:

1. You will be able to see your outline, your opening, and your conclusion to see if it fits in your plan
2. You will be able to see how the timing of your speech works
3. You will have clearly done some preparation, rather than just “wing it”

Many experts would tell you that, in fact, it is important not to memorize your speech, but to internalize it. What’s the difference? To internalize it, you need to practice and really know your topic. You may not (and should not) present it exactly the same each time, but the overall content and message would be the same.

Example: You have a main point about setting goals, and a story about how you completed your college degree. For a high school audience, you may point out that it is never too early to start thinking about their future. In your story, you would mention than when you took you SAT test, you were already thinking about where you would go to school one day. For an audience of adult learners, your point would be that it is never too late to move forward in their educational goals, and in your story cite statistics about adult graduation success that drove you to go back to school to finish your Masters Degree.

When would you not want to write out your speech? Good question. Here are my thoughts: Anytime you are happy with doing less, than it’s your best.

Keep in mind, this does not mean it needs to be written out word for word. Some preparation may call for more detail, some may allow you to use some of your own shorthand, like “Tell the University of Maryland graduation story – focus on how I felt seeing the Masters Degree students walk across the stage”. (A true story of mine, by the way)

Should a speech be written before it is practiced and presented? That answer is going to be yes, anytime you want to increase the success of your presentations. Don’t try for a literary masterpiece, just get your thoughts down on paper so you can deliver the best presentation possible. The extra few minutes you spend crafting the written word will pay dividends in reduced practice time, and a better result in front of your audience. Try it, and you will be glad you did.

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Rob Christeson is an IT Project Manager, freelance writer and speaker based in Wichita, Kansas. His Talk to the Human™ blog is based on the premise that while on-line social networking, e-mail and text can be very useful for building contacts and staying in touch, nothing beats real live human communication when you need to get stuff done.

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  1. I usually don’t sit at a computer and write my speeches. I walk and talk into a digital recorder then transcribe my ideas into a draft. Makes the words more conversational, for the ear not the eye.

    But it does get written and re-written. It’s an iterative process. (And that word iterative is NOT a word I would normally use in a speech.)

    • Stephen
    • March 29, 2010
    • Reply

    I agree on that, though I can say I’ve done both. There are many ways to do things and so far I have found that writing first works for somethings better than not. Speaking into a recorder fits my style much more and also those ideas have already, in essence, been spoken and therefore ends up being easier for me to memorize or remember well enough to repeat them. For some reason it takes more from me to memorize after I write first. Take that for what it is worth, probably a cup of coffee.

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