Putting Pen to Paper – Speech Structure

Whether they are preparing for a business presentation, wedding speech or fund-raising event, many of my clients explain that they know what they want to say, but just can’t get the words on the page.

The important thing to remember at this formative stage is that the finished product needs to be read aloud. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of writing an ‘essay’ that looks great on paper, but sounds downright odd when you read it out.

So how do you write a speech that will come across well on the day?

1. Use short, punchy sentences. Six to eight words is ideal.

2. Break up longer sentences into manageable sections. Use dots… to mark convenient places for you to pause… and breathe.

3. Don’t be afraid to use conjunctions (and/but) at the start of some sentences. It may not be perfect grammar, but they reflect the way that people speak out loud, and can keep the flow of the speech moving without any awkward pauses!

4. Type each section of your speech separately. For example, after the section where you introduce yourself, hit the Return key a couple of times so you have a few lines of space. This will help you remember where to pause.

5. After a few minutes of writing, step away from the computer to clear your head. When you return, have a look at what you last wrote. Then delete every word that doesn’t seem to add any value.

6. Read sentences aloud after you have written them. This may make you feel a bit bonkers if you’re sitting alone in front of a computer, but it’s an invaluable way of instantly discovering what sounds right (and, more importantly, what doesn’t). This technique will help you get rid of tongue twisters and other worlds that you just aren’t comfortable delivering.

7. Use the Word Count function on your computer. Work on the basis that 500 words should take you approximately five minutes to deliver. If maths isn’t your strong point, that means that to keep the speech within 10 minutes, you need to keep it under 1000 words!

I appreciate that much of this (as ever) is just common sense, but I hope it helps you get started. If not, I would (as ever!) be delighted to write it for you.

~ Lawrence

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Lawrence Bernstein is a professional speechwriter, with vast experience in corporate speech writing, as well as speeches for weddings

Likes: Writing; old-fashioned service; hearing that your audience loved it. Dislikes: Dull speeches and presentations; cheesy, recycled gags; over-complicating things.

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