How Not to Write a Speech

If you’ve taken a writing class, especially from an excellent teacher like Mrs. Comfort, you learned how to write a thesis statement Speech writingand build your paper from there.

She’s exactly right – that’s how you should write a paper for your classes and for college.

Mrs. Comfort also once told me that poetry is meant to be read aloud, and I would appreciate more if I did.  She’s right about that too. (Mrs. Comfort is right about a lot of things.)

But this isn’t writing class, this is speech class.

The purpose of a speech is to be presented.  Like plays, they’re meant to be performed, not read.  So the writing process must change to fit the speech.

Why are you giving this speech?

“Because you told me to” or “It’s for the grade” isn’t the answer I’m looking for here.  What do you want the audience to do with the information you’ve given them in the speech.  That determines EVERYTHING about how you’ll write your speech.

Call to Action

If you want your audience to do something at the end of your speech, then you must close your speech with a call to action.  You have to tell them exactly what you want them to do at the end of the speech.  So you write that part first, and then the middle of the speech giving them the reasons for the action, and THEN the beginning where you create a situation for them to respond to.

Informative

The most important part of an informational speech is the meat of the speech – the body.  Since this is the reason for the speech, you’re going to be extra careful to craft it with memorable stories and data that your audience needs.  In this kind of speech, you’ll write the body first, then the conclusion, and then the introduction.  When you have a lot of research that you’ve done, a thesis statement can help you stay on track and pare down the material that you don’t have time to use.  You might not even use your thesis statement in your presentation, but it does provide you with a good guideline of what to exclude from the body of your speech while you write it.

Storytelling

Telling a personal story often requires a lot of trimming to not overload the audience with too much detail.  By taking the time to write out an outline of the story, you’ll find if you’re including too much.  The story of the time you and your grandma went to the zoo and saw the elephants won’t include a mention of Grandpa’s truck (unless that’s how you got to the zoo.)

When Do You Write the Introduction?

Did you notice that I never told you to write the introduction first?  Very rarely will you start out and write your introduction first.  That’s because it’s smarter to save that part to the end.  By the time you’ve written all the other parts of the speech, your brain is now ready to be very creative.  You’ll find some words, turns of phrase, or brilliant ideas that you’ll want to include right from the start – after you’re almost done writing?  That’s a bit weird, but it makes sense if you think about it from your brain’s perspective.  Your brain needs to warm up just like a musician’s fingers or a dancer’s legs.  When your brain is ready, you’ll find the perfect words for your introduction to draw your audience in and keep their attention.

Mrs. Comfort said that poetry is to be read aloud.  So are speeches.  Take the time to read your speech out aloud by yourself.  You’ll figure out what words are hard to say together.  You’ll edit it out loud!  As you do that, your introduction will be written faster than the rest of the speech!

Extra Credit

You have a speech coming up called the Ice Breaker.  The purpose is to introduce yourself to Mrs. Krajci and the rest of the class.  What kind of information do you want to include in your speech?  Will you write the introduction first or last?

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