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Ten Takeaways for Speeches & Presentations

See the "Lesson Schedule" for suggested rewrite deadlines. (rewrites are optional and you may choose to simply include your final drafts in your Final Portfolio.)

  1. Communications theorists and public relations practitioners agree on a crucial point: despite the many electronic channels for persuasive messaging, there is no more effective way to influence behavior or recruit adherents than a live-and-in-person appeal.

  2. "It should be the first choice of PR professionals" says one authority. 1... "Thus, organized media such as a direct-mail brochure may cost-effectively reach great numbers of people; magazines and television may carry an organization's message to an even larger audience. But their effectiveness in persuasive communication pales beside the greater influence of direct, face-to-face communication. It should therefore be the first choice of public relations practitioners."

  3. The Message Planner is a perfect tool for speechwriting, because speeches that work convey just one main idea. That would be your message. In order to convey that idea, speeches need to make a few supporting points, in the most persuasive order. Sound familiar?
  4. Like a good press release, a good speech will
    Begin by stating the message, clearly
    Continue by making the points that support the message
    Finish by restating the message in forceful, memorable terms.
    (for take-aways, give them three points to remember and a call to action)

  5. In other words, like a Message Planner. The idea is the same: be clear about your message, and then line up the points to support it. In a press release, you'll use each point as the theme of its own paragraph, and march those paragraphs down the page to tell a story. In a speech, you do the same, out loud.
  6. But -- now that I've made these points about speechwriting, I have an even more important point to make about speechreading -- don't! You should never, never -- well almost never -- read your speech from a script. Nor should you memorize your speech. (An exception would be an inaugural address, or other text of historical signficance.) Also, stay away from teleprompters, which can make you look wooden, or, worse, freeze up on you.
  7. Instead, deliver the speech from bullet points, following the outline of the speech but not word-for-word. There are only occasional moments in a speech where the words you deliver should exactly match the words on the text that you give to the media -- the opening memorable phrase... any quotations you might use... your closing peroration
  8. Need ideas on a how to format a particular type of speech? One very good book on public speaking 2 has a handy system of organization for a number of types of speech, depending on the objectives of the speech. In The Presentations Kit, Claudyne Wilder identifies ten objectives for different kinds of speeches, with ten formats to match. For more tips from Ms. Wilder, check out the Wilder Presentations Web site.

  9. Always read your speeches out loud as you're writing them. Your writing is always improved when you read it aloud, but this is especially true with speeches. Bad phrases pop right out at you -- tongue twisters, phrases too long to allow the speaker to take a breath, repetitions and other things that "sound stupid" -- you'll catch them when you hear them, but you won't hear them if you don't read them out loud.
  10. Brief remarks are an important category of speechwriting. There will be many more opportunities to speak briefly, than there will be to give a formal address. You and your clients should be ready with a set of bullet points to state the message, tick off 3-5 examples, and restate the message, almost as effectively as if they were a short advertisement or PSA... for example, if you're at a public meeting but not on the list of speakers, you can make an effective statement during the question-and-answer period... and the bullet points are also useful for a short response to an interviewer's question.

  11. Go on to Lesson 12