How to Write a Speech

by Naomi Hulbert - Date: 2006-12-27 - Word Count: 748 Share This!

It is said that public speaking is the number one fear of human beings. People are more afraid of public speaking than they are of dying. That's why writing speeches and presentations - whether for yourself or someone else - is often such a daunting and pressure-filled task.

This article will not teach you how to speak well - that's for someone with a lot more expertise than I have - but it can help you prepare your thoughts and write them down in an orderly fashion so that when you come to speak and present them, you can feel in control.

It is important to note here that I am indebted to fellow writer Michael Meanwell, and his book The Enterprising Writer (Hardie Grant Books, Australia: 2003), whose advice on speechwriting I have used many times since in my professional career, and which I now combine with my own suggestions in the following paragraphs on writing presentations and speeches. If you wish to read through Meanwell's guidance on speechwriting, they may be found in Chapter 11 of The Enterprising Writer.

Think first It is essential that you know your audience. In the case of speeches and presentations, your 'audience' means not only the people who will physically be present, but also the occasion and venue. Consider the following:

Why are you writing the presentation? What is the occasion, and therefore, what is the most appropriate way to present the speech? It might be on a podium in front of an audience; with the use of audio-visual support; or using a PowerPoint presentation.

What do you hope to achieve? What is the purpose of your speech or presentation? What is it intended to accomplish?

Who will be listening? Who will be hearing what you say, what are their expectations? How are they likely to respond?

Who will be speaking? If you are not writing this speech or presentation for yourself, who is it for? What are the speaker's hopes and requirements for the speech? Do you know their style, the way they like to present and the way they like to speak? If not, ask some questions or seek out copies or footage of previous speeches and presentations that this person has made.

Structuring a presentation It is a good idea to prepare an outline before you start writing the speech. Include all the key points of what you wish to cover, then as you write, work through them systematically.

Just as you would any other form of writing, prepare your speech in logical order with an attention-grabbing introduction, a main body (structured with your most important messages first), and a conclusion.

In written documents, the purpose of this structure is to ensure that the most important information is imparted even if people stop reading part way through. This remains the same in a presentation, just in case people have to leave, or worse, lose interest and stop paying attention.

As in any other form of writing, avoid jargon or technical language: whether your audience is listening to or reading what you say, you still need to provide the courtesy of communicating in clear, professional language.

Make it easy to read The last thing you want is to have prepared an excellent speech, but when it comes to presenting it, your writing is so messy or your typing so small and cramped that you can't properly read it and your presentation suffers.

Use a large enough font size to read without needing to squint or bend too close, and double-space your lines. Emphasise significant points in bold, and clearly separate out sections of your speech.

You may wish to provide sub-headings for each new point, so that if you lose your way, you only need to scan down the key headings to find where you are, rather than re-read through a page or more of text.

If you are using any visual aids in your presentation, be sure to write down references to them in your speech, at the appropriate point, so that you do not forget to refer to them.

Practise When you have finished, read the speech out loud to yourself. This will help you hear any clumsy sections that may not be evident on paper, but when spoken, break the rhythm of your language.

Incidentally, reading any other form of writing out loud also helps you maintain elegance in your writing style and rhythm, and improves almost any document.

NOTE: This article has been adapted from Naomi Hulbert's business writing book, Talk Without Being Interrupted: a guide to writing in the workplace (2006), available online at

Related Tags: write, communicate, speech, structure, public speaking, presentations

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Author Naomi Hulbert is founder and managing director of Urashima Writing Services, and Australian company that provides writing, editing, translation and training services to clients in the corporate sector. Naomi is an experienced journalist, author, radio broadcaster, ghost writer, corporate writer and educational writer, and teaches at the majority of Urashima's writing workshops. Visit:

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