Thursday, October 04, 2007

Speech Writing

On Words

Speech Writing


JakartaOnWords’ last column went over the importance of a speech’s subject, purpose, audience and occasion. Today, we will explore speech writing.

First of all, we need to realize that while there are commonalities in all forms of writing, the fact that a speech is heard, not seen, presents us with some unique challenges.

A reader is able to highlight important details, reread complicated passages and even take breaks. The listeners of your speech will not have these liberties. They will just have a single go at it and it is up to you, the speech writer, to craft a message that is both comprehendible and interesting. You have got to write something that is as listener-friendly as possible.

To help your listeners, it is important that your speech has a theme that can be referred to again and again. The theme will largely be determined by your speech’s subject, purpose, audience and occasion. It is the single thought you would like to leave your audience with.

If the subject of your speech is “success” then perhaps your theme could be “never giving up on your dreams.” This gives your subject a focus and provides your audience one easily remembered point.

After you have chosen your theme, organizing the speech is a pretty straight-forward affair. There are three main parts to a speech: the introduction, the body and the conclusion.

Beginning the speech writing process with an outline is a good idea since it provides you with a visual layout that is easy to remember. While you build your outline you need to remember to come back to your theme at the end of each main supporting idea.

Once the outline is finished, the time to write the speech arrives. The introduction needs to jump right into the action by stating your theme and then giving a preview of your talk. This will provide your listeners with a clearly demarcated path.

The introduction should say something like, “Today we are going to discuss three ways in which never giving up on your dreams leads to success. First, … Second, … Third, …” These words, “First, Second” and “Third,” act as signposts which lead your audience where you would like them to go.

When it comes to speaking, simple is beautiful. A speech’s sentences need to be precise and short. If you use complicated sentences you run the risk of losing the audience. Generally speaking, more complicated subjects demand more concise structures. Specialist vocabulary and acronyms need to either be avoided or explained in full.

Pronouns present a danger too. They can be difficult on the listener. It can be tough trying to keep tract of what “it” or “this” or “he” refers to. In speeches it is usually best to stick with concrete nouns.

Transitions are especially important in speech writing. As mentioned above, these are your speech’s signposts. By the proper use of words such as “but,” “however” and “despite” listeners know that a contradiction is on its way; while using “additionally” and “another point is…” informs the audience that you are about to buttress your position.

Do not be a statistics slave. Only present the most salient factual details that support your theme. This is the information that listeners are not going to easily forget. Your audience can get lost if you throw too many numbers and data at them.

After you have written the introduction and the body of your speech you will need to write your conclusion. An effective conclusion lets your audience know that the speech is coming to an end and more importantly restates your theme. A sound way of testing your conclusion is to see if people get a good general idea of what your message is just by listening to the conclusion.

By paying attention to vocabulary, sentence structure, theme and its reinforcement along with its overall simplicity you will soon be writing speeches that you will be proud to present.

This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post.

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