Wednesday 26 June 2013

Ten tips for writing speeches: part two

Last month we revealed our first five tips for crafting the perfect speech. Here are five more.

6. Keep it brief and script it
Apparently, the average human being can only concentrate on someone talking for around 15 to 20 minutes. So it’s no surprise that TED talks are limited to 18 minutes. The average speaker says 110 scripted words a minute, while ad-libbing it’s nearer 70. So, if you’ve got a lot to cover, don’t give a speech: write a book. And, unless you’re a natural with plenty of time to rehearse, type up your speech and read it rather than ad-lib.

7. Be yourself
Identify your natural speaking style and try to capture that in the script. If you’re an orator, then let rip. If you like telling stories at parties, then use stories. If you’re quietly spoken, concentrate on a simple style. Whatever works for you.

8. Write for speech
Aim for clarity. Keep sentences short. Avoid sub-clauses. Breakdown paragraphs. Straighten out tortured syntax. Don’t use the passive voice. Avoid jargon. If moving onto a new idea, move onto a new paragraph. And there’s one more vital point…

Bridge each section with something like the last sentence of the previous paragraph. Or something like, ‘This is why…’ or, ‘Now I want to…’ or even just, ‘So…’. This verbal bridge or set up prepares the audience for a new direction.

9. Practice out loud
Read it out loud when you’re done. To help you, use a dash to separate clauses in your script. It allows you to see ahead to the pauses you’re planning to make. That man Churchill did this. (Famously, someone once asked him why he was muttering to himself and was told, ‘I’m just preparing my impromptu remarks.’)

10. Get some help
If you’re too busy to worry about all of this, don’t be too proud to ask for some help. You could get in touch with us. One half hour call and we’ll have more than enough to write a ten-minute speech. All you’ve got to do is think about what you want to say and chat it through.

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