How to Write a Speech for Your Audience

The hardest thing about how to write a speech is narrowing down the topic. That sounds weird when you can’t imagine talking for 5 minutes on anything.

1. Who is your audience and what do they expect?

A speech is a two-way communication between the speaker and the audience. Think about your audience. Why are they here to hear what you have to say?

A speech is given for a purpose. What is the purpose of your speech? Any speech is essentially an opportunity to answer a question, to inform your audience or to persuade your listeners to do. What do you want to do?  What do you want the audience to do?

2. What is your topic?

If you want to give a speech on the history of the US, what do you want to tell about it? Condensing the entire 240 years of American History to 5 minutes will make you look like an idiot to the audience because you’ll never be able to delve into the analysis you need to explain why the US is the way it is.

So, let’s focus on one part of American History: The Civil War. Still too big. You need to refine that down again. Lincoln? Still very big, but now doable. But better would be to cut down to a specific thing about Lincoln.

3. Research.

Research helps you decide what to talk about and how to talk about it. If you pick Abraham Lincoln for a topic, do you want to talk about his character, his presidency, or his assassination? Research is crucial to a speech – you’ll sound like an idiot if you don’t read up on your subject. This is not just a matter of content, it is also a matter of presentation. You’ll be more confident and less panicky if you’ve done your homework first.  Keep the audience in mind as you research your topic.  What do they already know?  What doesn’t the audience know?

4. Writing your thesis statement.

After doing the research, you now know more than you’re going to be able to convey. This is a good place to be. You are now ready to summarize in one sentence what you intend to tell your audience.

  • “Star Trek was a science fiction television series that said more about the times and the people who created it than space travel.”
  • “Abraham Lincoln crafted one of the greatest speeches in American history.”
  • “Knitting is a skill, a hobby, a craft, and a source for income.”
  • “LeBron James’ ability to play basketball has inspired thousands of young men.”

The thesis statement helps keep you on track. When you are editing, everything in your speech that doesn’t support your thesis statement can be edited out – if you need to. Sometimes side tracks are humorous, informative, and useful. But not usually.

In general, a speech of 5-10 minutes will have 2-3 main points with supporting points.

“Homeschooling can provide students with adequate socialization.”

1. The purpose of socialization

a. To build a concept of a good citizen
b. To encourage neighborliness
c. To expand the student’s base of knowledge of safe and unsafe people.

2. Socialization is not limited to people who live in a certain area or people whose birthdays are within a year of the student’s.

a. Homeschoolers can include outside activities such as volunteering at pet shelters, working at soup kitchens or internships with a financial planner.
b. Socialization can be achieved through impromptu or casual events – sledding, wiener roasts, swim parties.
c. Socialization through sports is valuable to teach teamwork.

Write out your speech in an outline form. This will permit you to add or subtract your points easily. Some people prefer to use note cards like they would in writing a term paper.  I don’t have a preference for you  – you can use sticky notes if that’s what works for you.  I usually write out my speeches on in a computer document so I can cut out extra material that I don’t need and move around parts that I wrote while I was sitting there, but they’re not in the right spot.

5. Introductions and Conclusions and Transitions. Oh my.

Write your conclusion next. Sum up in short sentences what you explained in the speech and restate your thesis, but try not to repeat it word for word.

  • “Abraham Lincoln’s speech remains a touchstone for all Americans, seven score and thirteen years ago.”
  • “The biggest problem with socializing homeschoolers is the same problem with public school students:  nobody wants to stop when it’s time to go home.”

Write your introduction last. This should include a catchy way to attract the listeners’ attention and state your thesis. If you use a funny story in your intro, go back to your conclusion and write it to connect the story to the end of the speech.

  • “‘Four score and seven years ago’ begins the most famous speech by a president in American history.”
  • “Many people have concerns about homeschooling that don’t have very much to do with schooling at all.  They’re worried that homeschooling creates a group of anti-social teens who won’t fit into today’s society.”

You’re not committed to a conclusion if you come up with a great opening line – go ahead and change it.  Got a great conclusion?  Be sure to tie it to the beginning of the speech.  When you’ve got the intro and closing done, see if you can relate your transitions from your intro and closing to your speech’s points.  This is very challenging, but it makes for an excellent speech!

When you have your outline complete, write out the body of your speech and read it out loud. Note any words or phrases that you stumble over. Work on them or rewrite them. Read the speech out loud at least three times before timing it.

6. How To Speeches/ Use of Props

How To speeches are focused on demonstration. While it’s often easy to explain, it’s almost always better to demonstrate the task to be accomplished.

Using props requires preparation and practice and nerves of steel.

If your hands shake, props make it far more noticeable.  If you have to assemble something as part of the how to speech, it may be better to have samples of the project at different stages for you to display rather than assemble when you’re nervous.  This makes you look more professional and less likely to drag out your speech trying to get something to work the right way.

Also, props can fail. Decide how to use a prop that won’t betray you.  If you’re showing how to use a plastic knife to sculpt Playdough, make sure the Playdough is extra soft and not dried out, which might make you break your knife.  You might also want to be sure that the plastic knife isn’t a cheap one that breaks easily.

Secret Number 1 of Speech WritingSpeech writing

You want to know how to write a speech secret?

Write your speech backwards as often as you can.  When you know what you want the audience to know, to believe, or to do, then you can start with the ending first because you’ll know where you want to go.  It’s the difference between going on a trip and knowing your destination – or not.  Will you get where you expect to go if you don’t have destination point set?  The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland said it best:  If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will do.

Once you know what you want to accomplish and what you want the audience to do with the information in the speech you’re writing, then write the middle of the speech.  Support your ideas and arguments with good reasons.  Then you can write the introduction last because you’ll have all your ideas clearly laid out in your mind and can present them smoothly.  You’ll rock your speech class with awesome speeches if you follow this secret rule.