Public Speaking: Editing for Speakers


What is the difference between writing and editing? For the purpose of this post, and to help draw a contrast to yesterday’s post “Writing for Speakers“, I’ll define these terms simply as follows:

Writing is the process of putting your thoughts on paper (or the Internet)
Editing is the process of making your writing palatable to others

Believe it or not, I do take the time to do some limited editing on these posts, but I’ll invite you to judge that for yourself. 🙂

If you chose to follow my writing advice from yesterday (or were already of that mindset), the next step to take is to edit your writing for clarity.  Don’t get too hung up on order; it’s alright to do some of your editing while your still developing content (i.e. writing).

For strictly written work, there are a number of techniques, such as reading your text backwards, having others edit your work, or a myriad choices you can pick from. These are still valid options for editing your planned speeches as well, but there are some other options you should consider as well:

1. Editing while you practice your presentation. I can’t count the number of times I have practiced a story for the first time, only to realize I let myself take a tangent or two that doesn’t really help the story, or the point. It’s good to make an extra effort to work through those stories so only the relevent parts make the cut.
2. Building on that, get a “flip” video recorder (or use your existing video camera) and tape yourself practicing. You can watch yourself before you present in public, and make some changes as needed.
3. Get yourself a “mastermind group“. That’s a group of people (can be any number, but 2-4 is a good number) you meet with periodically to work together with on your goals. Sometimes you can find a person who is secretly a fantastic editor at heart.

 What you can use to help your editing:
1. Your audience analysis – as I mentioned in the last post, a “going to college” story would be different for high school students vs. adult learners
2. Your promise – what specifically will your audience get from your presentation
3. Your outline – does that anecdote fit in with that point? do your transitions tie points together?

In fairness, some of this may sound daunting. Remember, just because your toolbox has a hammer in it doesn’t mean that every problem is a nail. What that means is you don’t need to video every time you practice and devote a block of 3-hours and a group of editors to help you. sometimes all you need is 10 minutes with a pen for that 5-7 minute presentation.

Will editing improve your final product? Most certainly. In fact, you may find that the concerted effort will lead to improvements in your writing process as well. This can turn both your written and verbal finished products into more successful posts and speeches.


  1. I liked how you mentioned about editing the promise, audience analysis, and outline.

    Just recently, I thought of a powerful tip that relates. “Edit your speech right after the talk.” Many times new ideas come as I speak or right after. If I quickly right them down, they’ll be saved for the future.

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