Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Speech Writing Course

I was packing my bookshelves when I chanced upon the notes on speech writing course which I have attended in 2009. I thought it would be good to share with my toastmaster friends. Here are the tips.

Objectives of a Speech
First, consider the objectives of the speech. Usually, a speech falls into one or more of the four categories - 1) inspire thinking; 2) stir feelings; 3) motivate action; and/or 4) provide information.

So what are the qualities of a good speech?
1. Meet the objectives
2. Well-organised
3. Interesting
4. Passionate
5. Precise and concise
6. Persuasive

It will be good that the speech is also humorous, relevant, easily understood and memorable.

In a nutshell, a good speech is one that is 1) easy to follow and understand; 2) achieve its objectives; and 3) memorable.

When we are drafting a speech, we need to bear in mind tht the attention span of audience is short and getting shorter. There is an audience beyond the one in front of the speaker - such as the media (TV/ newspaper).

That sounds intimidating. Fret not, to navigate the thouroughfare of speech writing, we can follow the following process closely.
1. Determine the message (e.g. staff conference?)
2. Consider the audience
3. Think about the person delivering the speech (if the person is not you)
4. Collect informaton and organise it into about 5 points and rank them.
5. Start from point 1, then 5. Move on to 3, then 4 and finally point 2.
6. Link points with smooth transitions, e.g. meanwhile, 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc
7. Write the conclusion then introduction
8. Work on a sound bite (sound bite refers to the "boxed-up text" in the newspaper, usually it is a quotation, it's short 1 sentence or at most 2 sentences. They are important and expressed in a nice and stylised way.
9. Review conclusion and introduction
10. Have someone deliver it and assess how it flows.

Tips to consider
1. Alliteration (e.g. fast and furious)
2. Anedotes
3. Antithesis (e.g. "We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools." Martin Luther King, Jr., speech at St. Louis, 1964)
4. Call to action
5. Contrasts
6. Conversation English (read Bill Gates' speeches)
7. Definitions
8. Humor with care
9. Quotations
10. Repetition
11. Rhetorical questions
12. Rounded-off figures
13. Short sentences
14. Set of threes
15. Similies (same in some aspect usually 1 - he eats like a pig, life is like a journey) and metaphors (same in everywhere). E.g. Passion is like fuel in the rocket, it propels the rocket to greater heights.
16. Simple words
17. Sound bites
18. Statistics - to use sparringly
19. Transitions
20. Vivid imagery

- Cliches (expression that is no longer fresh. e.g. at this mount in time, without further ado, last but not least, we work 24/7, on that note. Instead use finally, let me end my speech...) and platitudes (sentences that say something that is true but people have heard it so many times. e.g. Change is the only constant).

Writing the introduction
- You have 15 seconds to capture the attention of audience (most important)
- You never get second chance to make a good first impression
- Write the intro towards the end
- Possible introductions include - a provocative quotation, a vivid anecdote, a thought provoding question or a startling statistics

Writing the conclusion
- Repeat your main point more emphatically (you want them to retain that one point. e.g. Let me end my speech by emphasizing/ repeating this very important point/ by leaving you with the thoughts of...)
- If appropriate, call for action
- Possible conclusions include a rhetorical question, or an appropriate quotation e.g. is that the kind of world you want to live in?

Remember there are two aspects - 1. what to say (contents) and 2. how to say (method)

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