Public Relations Writing: Lesson #12 - p. 3

Speechwriting (continued)

As I discuss speeches with you, I'm going to assume that it's you who will be making the speech. A PR writer often has to speak before a group. If you lack experience at this, you should go out of your way to get some... find opportunities to make speeches so you're comfortable on your feet. It will not only help you advance in your career, it will make you a better counselor to your client, and a better speechwriter.

When you write speeches for someone else, share these ideas with them. Explain the importance of not reading the speech, but working from bullet points -- even though there's a complete text available. Speakers who read speeches are deadly dull. But it can be very useful for a speaker to read the complete text several times in advance, to gain an appreciation of the speech's flow, before he or she puts the text aside and uses the bullet points.

Here's an all-purpose outline to help you structure your speech. A little further along (on page 5) I'll share ten different formats that will help to shape a more targeted message, but this all-purpose version is always useful:

  • Introduction

    • Break the ice with some observation, lighthearted not serious, that everyone can share equally. The reason people talk about the weather so often is that it's one thing we all have in common. You can be a little more creative than the weather, though...
    • Thanks/acknowledgements: This is also a good time to handle the thank-yous and acknowledgements to whomever introduced you, your host, dignitaries in the audiences, etc.
    • Tell them what you came to say -- i.e., state your message here... remember, a good speech will leave people with one main idea...
    • List the main points you're going to make... give your audience some idea of what to expect; you will raise their comfort level if they can follow where you're going.
  • Body

    1. First point
      • Examples and/or
      • Bit of background and/or
      • Cause(s) (if the point is about a problem result) and/or
      • Result(s) (if the point is about a problem symptom) and/or... etc.
    2. Second point (same breakdown as above)
    3. Third point (same breakdown as above)
  • Conclusion

    • Summarize (tick off on your fingers) the points you've made
    • Restate your conclusion
    • Finish with the message you want to leave them with.

There are two places where you can read, or memorize:

  • At the very beginning of your speech, as you prepare to tell them what you came to say. This should be strong and memorable. It can be a quote (a good excuse to read something)... or it can be a shocking statistic or historical fact... or it can be a powerful statement of your message that you originated (maybe it will be a quote -- from you -- someday). The good thing about being able to read something at the beginning of a speech is that it can get you going painlessly -- kind of a crutch as you're getting started.

  • At the end of your speech, for the same reasons.

But for the rest of the speech, you should speak from your bullet points. Bullet points are a topical outline that you create to accompany your text. They are not the same thing as the working outline that you use to assemble your facts and marshall your strongest points. The bullet points are always crafted after you have written the text, so they are guided by the creative flow of the spoken word.

Go on to the next page.

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