Looking for how to write a speech in a few simple steps? Over the last 20 years, our instructors have dissected thousands of speeches. In that time, we've been able to identify simple things that can easily make or break a presentation. We've assembled a simple, step-by-step process that explains how to write a speech quickly and easily. In fact, once you understand the concepts below, you can use our Online Speech Creator to organize and print your presentation. A little warning, though, the process is very simple if you follow every step. If you skip a step, you can get bogged down, and the process can take a lot of time. However, if you follow the steps, you can write any speech in just a few minutes (versus hours or days)!
This post is the first in a series designed to help people create their presentations from scratch. Last year, I wrote a post about writing a eulogy. In this series, we will cover a few other types of speeches that are common such as a wedding toast, a persuasive speech, and a graduation speech.
A Few Concepts You Need to Know Before Writing a Speech
Remember that, in a speech, less is more. Short is better than long. No one ever said, "That meeting was so good, I wish everyone would have spoken longer." So, a few concepts (bullet points) covered really well is much better than a bunch of stuff covered in a cursory way. Another great tip is that writing a presentation word-for-word and then trying to memorize your entire speech is hard. Instead, create a presentation outline and use literary devices to add "meat to the content." For instance, examples and stories are fantastic reinforcement for your points or concepts. You can also use analogies, quotes, and visual aids to prove your points.
How to Write a Speech in Just a Few Simple Steps
- Narrow Down Your Topic First, and the Writing Process Will be Faster and Easier
- Create a Presentation Outline
- Insert "Impact Ideas" to Add Content to Your Presentation
The more broad your topic, the more stress you will feel when you try to create a presentation for the topic. For instance, if you try to create a speech on "World Peace," well, good luck. However, if you want to create a presentation about how to improve security in your neighborhood, that is much easier. There are a TON of YouTube videos and papers about how to narrow down your topic. To be brutally honest with you, though, I wasted about 30 minutes watching a lot of them. The one common thread that many of them had was that the first step to narrow down your topic is to ask yourself the five W's from journalism: Who, What, When, Where, Why?
For instance, let's say that I am giving a presentation about our company financials last quarter. The who is the company. The when is last quarter. If I narrow down the where, I might want to focus on just the Midwest Region. So, now I have to ask, "What exactly happened with our company offices in the Midwest Region last quarter?" Well. sales increased more in that region than anywhere else. The final question is, "Why?" Why was this region different from the other regions? They hired a new regional sales manager that had her team focus on repeat business from past customers. After finding answers to each of these questions, I can create a much more narrow and focused title.
Financials from Last Quarter
A Focus on Generating Repeat Business from Past Customers in the Midwest Region Generated a Sharp Increase in Revenue Last Quarter.
If you have trouble narrowing down the focus of your topic, make sure to focus on the WHY? Why would your audience care about the topic that you are presenting? Why should they pay attention to you? If you can answer these questions and add the answer to these questions into your title, your presentation will be much more narrow and interesting to your audience.
For instance if my topic was, "Narrow Down Your Topic," I'd just ask myself, "Why?" The answer is that it makes the writing process faster and easier. So, my new topic might be, "Narrow Down Your Topic First, and the Writing Process Will be Faster and Easier." (Which is what I used for the heading above."
Once you have a good topic, the rest of the writing process is pretty easy. Make a list of the top ideas or concepts that explains the topic. For instance, in the first example, what are the most important things that the Midwest Region did to generate that extra income? For the second topic, what are the most important ways that I can reduce my time and effort if I narrow my topic? Write a list of the most important items related to the topic.
Once you have a list of three to ten items, rank them from most important to least important. If you used the Who, What, When, Where, Why, technique to narrow down your topic, the concepts that you cover here will be the things that came up in the "What?" section. The process here is to brainstorm possible concepts or bullet points to cover, and then sort them from most important to least important.
By the way, you won't be able to effectively cover ALL of the points that you brainstormed. You will only want to cover three, four, or five of these items. That is why you want to sort them by importance. If you can only cover a few points, why not cover the most important?
The number of items that you cover will be determined by the length of time that you have to speak. A good rule of thumb is to cover one item or bullet for every seven to 10 minutes that you have to speak. However, you definitely want to limit your bullets to just five per sitting. For speeches less than 20 minutes, three points is a good number. If you have 45 to 50 minutes, you probably want to cover five bullet points.
Pro Tip! Go through the same process of determining the "Why?" for each of your bullet points. This will make your entire presentation something that the audience will want to pay attention to. Just read each of your bullets and ask, "Why does my audience need to know this?" Whatever the answer is, add that why to the statement that you made in the bullet point.
Now that you have your topic, and your three to five bullet points, you have a great presentation outline. You can also use this outline as your slide or visual aid.
The final step is to add impact or content to the presentation outline. Most people will make the mistake of adding "sub-bullet" points here. For some reason, we think, well, the best way to prove that a bullet point is true is to use a bunch of other bullet points as evidence. That is a huge mistake. It is also the mistake that makes most presentations really boring and really, really hard to deliver.
Instead, use what we call a Presentation Impact Idea to better explain each bullet point. I like to think of each presentation as an argument that I'm making to a jury. The bullet points are the statements that I'm trying to prove, and the "Impact Ideas" are the pieces of evidence that prove that each statement is true. Below are some of my favorite items, but anything that answers the question, "How can I prove this bullet point to my audience" will do.
- Stories or Example: If you can relay a quick story that occurred to actual people, that is solid proof that what you are saying is true because it happened before. The funny thing about stories is that most presenters avoid stories like the plague, but professional speakers use almost nothing but great stories to make their points. (That is why most speakers are boring and most professional speakers are not.) For instance, if the new manager in the Midwest Region had her sales reps reach out to 10 past customers each week, and if on one of those calls, Bill happened to close a $20,000 sales, tell that story as evidence. The more detail that you put into the stories, the more interesting and memorable they are to the audience. Going back to the jury analogy, a story is like an eye-witness.
- Quotes: A simple quote from an expert that you can remember will add a lot of credibility to your speech. By inserting a quote, you are borrowing credibility from another expert. To continue with the jury analogy, this is like bringing in an expert witness.
- Analogy: After you have used a quote from an expert or a story to verify that your bullet point s true, and analogy can add flavor to your presentation and make your points memorable. If you recall from literature class, an analogy is a comparison. You can use these to compare a point that you are trying to explain to something that the audience can better relate to. (Like comparing a presentation to a jury trial.) For more details, visit the post about how to insert analogies into presentations.
If You Really Want to Learn to Write a Presentation, Register for a Class
Obviously, this is a very abbreviated version of our turn-key process to help people design speeches. You can use the tips above, though, to help you create a presentation outline using the Speech Creator. If you want to get really good a designing and delivering presentations, you can purchase access to our Online Public Speaking Course or register for a seat in our in-person public speaking training sessions. Remember that the Online Course is also included in the tuition for our presentation classes, so if you attend a class, you get lifetime access to the online course.