How to Write a Speech

Writing a Speech That Will Knock Them Dead!

Writing your first speech will serve to position you in the marketplace so what you choose to talk about is of critical importance.

What’s your area of expertise, what do you want to be known for? That could range from some aspect of marketing to technical expertise or an inspirational or motivational message.

Find a Great Title

Whatever it is you want to talk about, you need to find a provocative title for your speech. It’s the title that will stick in the head of your prospective client and help to sell your speech.

I once sold my services as a speaker on the basis of my speech title alone. I had a speech called “Mindset for the Millennium” that a pharmaceutical association wanted for their millennium conference.

The title should be something that captures the imagination of the audience and the subtitle should be absolutely clear.

I once saw a seminar advertised as:
‘Preparing for Incapacitation and Death’
Wednesday March 17th, 2-5

Well, it captures the imagination all right but not the way you want!

After deciding on your title, make an outline of the points you want to cover. Then fill in the outline with the more detailed information you want to convey.

Now that you have the basics of your speech, you’re ready to prepare it for the spoken word.

Tell your Own Story

In terms of either writing or delivering a speech, authenticity is key to establishing a rapport with your audience. Audiences can love saints or sinners as long as they’re not misrepresenting themselves. There’s something about being who you say you are that is very appealing. As far as I’m concerned, this is the only unbreakable rule.

So make sure you take yourself to the platform in the sense that you tell a little of your own personal story as well. Tell a story about yourself where you weren’t a hero, a story where you stumbled and fell…you’ve placed yourself on the platform as an expert – the audience also needs to know you’re human. They’ll identify with you then.

Use Fresh Humor

Introducing some humor and even pathos into your speech is fine as long as it’s not done solely to manipulate the audience into either laughing or crying. And once you’ve used a particular joke a few times, think about replacing it with something new. People travel widely these days and you may have the same audience member in one state as you’ve had in another.

One of the most common complaints I’ve heard about speakers is this – “I heard her tell that story before.” Don’t let it be said about you.

Humor should be fresh and authentic and, if possible, personal. Stale jokes don’t do it. Ideally, humor should flow right along with the speech. Let me give you an example:

When it was my turn to speak at a nurses’ convention, I was handed a lapel mike from the previous speaker. And, as an opener, I told this story.

At a convention earlier that week, a doctor presented his technical topic to a group of MD’s and got subdued applause at the end of his speech. He then visited the washroom without turning his lapel mike off. When he returned to the room, he got the standing ovation he’d always dreamed of.

Needless to say, the nurses loved my story – which I was told by the sound assistant five minutes before my speech. That’s an example of incorporating natural humor into your presentation and also of fitting the humor to that particular audience.

Tell Stories

Once you’ve written the bare outline of your speech, turn your points into stories. They’ll be much more memorable to your audience because it’s easy to identify with a personal story. Stories also lend themselves to the physical acting-out that goes over so well on the platform.

Write as though you’re speaking to a friend. Don’t make your speech academic. Use action-based words rather than passive words, use common language instead of latin-based words. And make it colorful. If your speech has colorful imagery, it will be much more captivating and memorable.

Speech Structure

Hall of Fame speaker Donald Cooper suggests writing your speech with the end in mind – “Focus on outcomes that have compelling value for your audience. Write your ending first in which you summarize your key points, reinforce the benefits, lay down the challenge and gain commitment to change!

Then, write your opening in which you will grab them and build rapport by quickly and clearly communicating how their time with you will benefit them, will be easy to understand…and entertaining.

Now that you have your opening and closing, structure your main points into a sequence that creates natural building blocks of learning like the chapters of a book. The structure, sequence and “flow” of your presentation is so important to folks getting it.

Then, flesh out each point with benefits, definitions, stories and examples (good and bad) that reinforce the point and make it memorable. Finally, summarize each point before moving to the next one.

Once you have your speech down in writing, things will begin to coalesce around it. Your prospective audience will become much clearer to you as will the benefits of listening to your speech.

Writing a speech is the first step in marketing.



Cathleen Fillmore, owner of Speakers Gold bureau, consults with speakers who want to find the money in the marketplace and maximize the returns on their talents. Cathleen is a member of MPI, a certified consultant with the American Consultant’s League and a consultant to some of North America’s top speakers. Sign up for her advanced marketing techniques newsletter ‘Speakers Gold’ at and get a free report on Getting Paid for Speaking. You may reprint this article provided the resource box is reprinted in its entirety.

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