Public Speaking: Writing for Speakers


Should a speech be written before it is practiced and presented? I’ve heard a variety of answers to that question, and I’ve even made different choices in my own speaking experience. In this post, you’ll learn some specific tips on when you should answer yes, and when you may want to answer no.

Sometimes, the answer is clouded by the fallacy that if you put it in writing, you’re planning to either memorize it or read it. This, of course, is Hooey. Taking the time to write your speech out before you give it can accomplish at least these few things:
1. You will be able to see your outline, your opening, and your conclusion to see if it fits in your plan
2. You will be able to see how the timing of your speech works
3. You will have clearly done some preparation, rather than just “wing it”

Many experts would tell you that, in fact, it is important not to memorize your speech, but to internalize it. What’s the difference? To internalize it, you need to practice and really know your topic. You may (and should) not present it exactly the same each time, but the overall content and message would be the same.

Example: You have a main point about setting goals, and a story about how you completed your college degree. For a high school audience, you may point out that it’s never too early to start thinking about their future. In your story, you’d mention than when you took you SAT test, you were already thinking about where you would go to school one day. For an audience of adult learners, your point would be that it’s never too late to move forward in their educational goals, and in your story cite statistics about adult graduation success that drove you to go back to school to finish your Masters Degree.

When would you not want to write out your speech? Good question. Here are my thoughts:
1. Anytime you’re happy with doing less than your best

Keep in mind, this doesn’t mean it needs to be written out word for word. Some preparation may call for more detail, some may allow you to use some of your own shorthand, like “Tell the University of Maryland graduation story – focus on how I felt seeing the Masters Degree students walk across the stage”. (A true story of mine, by the way)

For a next step, I’d invite you to look at my post “3-dimentional winner” to see how you can use a method I learned from Ed Tate to help make your presentation more successful.

Should a speech be written before it is practiced and presented? That answer is going to be yes, anytime you want to increase the success of your presentations. Don’t try for a literary masterpiece, just get your thoughts down on paper so you can deliver the best presentation possible. The extra few minutes you spend crafting the written word will pay dividends in reduced practice time, and a better result in front of your audience. Try it, and you’ll be glad you did.

Editor’s Note: I fixed the 3-dimentional winner link today

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