September 7, 2023
8 min read
Public speaking can be daunting, but it’s also an opportunity to share your ideas and connect with others. Before you deliver a speech (unless it’s an impromptu one), you’ll need to write it. Here’s how to write a speech in five simple steps:
Let’s take a look at each step in detail.
Before you take pen to paper, do a bit of preparation. Depending on the situation, your very first task might vary. Perhaps a community club asked you to speak on any topic at an upcoming meeting. Or, you want to prepare a talk about your experience training sled dogs for the Iditarod, and you’ll figure out later where you’ll deliver it.
Regardless, people who know how to write a speech understand that two tasks should be done at the beginning of the speechwriting process: consider your audience, and determine your topic.
Whom are you speaking to? What are their interests and needs? What do they already know about your topic? Tailor your speech to your audience so that you can connect with them and keep their attention.
Ideally, your topic is something that you’re passionate and knowledgeable about. If someone invited you to speak on a subject of their choosing, and it’s not something that fires you up, you might ask if you can speak about something else or politely decline. But, you can learn how to write a speech about something that’s new to you if you decide to take on that challenge. That’s where the next task comes in (even if you already know your topic to some degree).
Once you’re clear on what your topic is, learn what you need to know about it. The more you know about your topic, the more confident and authoritative you’ll sound. Gather information from a variety of credible sources, including books, articles, websites, and interviews. In the next step, you’ll organize what you collect and determine how to use it. Be sure to keep track of the sources you might need to cite.
Those who know how to write a speech effectively understand the importance of creating an outline near the beginning of the process. It’s critical for your talk to have a clear purpose—a singular message. What do you want your audience to do after hearing your speech? Do you want them to learn something new, change their opinion, or take action? Having a clear purpose—a singular message—will help you stay focused and organized in writing your speech.
An outline helps you organize your thoughts and create a structure for your speech. This is especially important if you’re writing a persuasive speech that’s essentially an argument. In order to convince your audience, your argument must flow logically.
An outline includes an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. The body is your singular message, broken down into points and the support (evidence and examples) for those points. Basically, you’re organizing your points in a way that makes sense to your audience. Your structure helps them follow your ideas.
Here’s just one sample outline template:
Now you have an outline that will not only help your audience follow your speech, but it will help you write your first draft. The basic structure is introduction-body-conclusion. They say that, in a speech, you tell them what you’re going to tell them (introduction), you tell them (body), and then you tell them what you just told them (conclusion).
Here, we recommend that you write the body first and your introduction and conclusion last. But, you should experiment and see what process works best for you.
Here are some tips on how to write a speech in its first draft.
While you can make multiple points, tell several stories, and use various language devices, you’re still delivering a singular message. Write with that message—your clear purpose—in the forefront of your mind. Don’t drift away from it. Drop an anchor at it. Everything you write should support your singular message.
This tip isn’t just for speech delivery. Personality comes across in the way is speech is written, as well. So, as you write, don’t try to be someone you’re not. Your audience will be able to tell if you’re being fake, and it will make your speech less effective.
Choose words that are clear, concise, and persuasive. Avoid jargon and technical terms that your audience might not understand. Stay away from weak words such as “really,” “actually,” “kind of,” and “sort of.” Often, you subconsciously add words such as these when you deliver a speech (Yoodli’s free AI speech coach flags these for you), but be careful not to write them in the first place. A good rule of thumb is to use only words that add something.
These can help make your speech more interesting, understandable, and memorable. They also can help illustrate your points and make them more compelling. Sharing stories from your own life helps your audience connect with you. Learn about the art of storytelling.
Humor can make you and your message more relatable, engaging, and likeable. It can help you connect with your audience. Of course, humor isn’t appropriate in every speech, and some types of humor are more fitting than others. Consider the occasion and your audience, and don’t force it.
Rhetorical devices and figurative language include similes, metaphors, alliteration, and repetition. These can make your speech more engaging. Yoodli’s Metaphor Mania game is a fun way to develop the skill of creating analogies.
As you write your speech, consider what visual aids (if any) you’ll use when you deliver your speech. Visual aids such as charts, graphs, images, and props can help engage your audience and make your speech more visually appealing, understandable, and memorable. If you use them, make sure they’re sharp and add value. Avoid using them to the extent that the audience’s attention is more on your visual aids than on you. Learn more about presenting with visual aids.
Once you’re clear on the body of your speech, write a strong introduction. It should grab the audience’s attention and make them want to listen to the rest of your speech. The above tip on using strong language is particularly important here, as weak and purposeless words will not strike people in a powerful way. Use the introduction to grab the audience’s attention and tell them what you’re going to tell them.
Your conclusion should summarize your main points (tell the audience what you just told them) and leave a lasting impression. End with a call to action, telling your audience what you want them to do.
You might be thinking, Hey, this is supposed to be about how to write a speech. Why is practicing my delivery part of the process? Here’s why. Your audience isn’t going to read your speech; you’re not going to hand it to them on a piece of paper. You’re going to say it out loud, and they’re going to watch and hear you say it.
Writing for reading is a different endeavor than writing for speaking and hearing. So, after you write the first draft of your speech, practice delivering it. You can do that in front of a mirror, your stuffed animals, or your friends.
You also can use Yoodli’s speech practice feature. That will instantly provide you with a video you can watch back along with feedback on your word choices and delivery. If you go with this option, pay particular attention to Yoodli’s analysis of your word choices.
Whatever practice method you choose, pay attention to any places in your speech where it just doesn’t seem right. See where dynamics and phrasing come into play. Perhaps certain sentences should be shorter or longer. Maybe the language needs to be less formal and more conversational. You might even need to reorder some points to make it more logical in its flow.
Again, consider your audience and how it feels to speak the words you’ve written.
Finally, time how long it takes to deliver your speech. (If you record your speech with Yoodli, it will do this for you.)
With all of this in mind, and considering any feedback you’ve received, make adjustments you see fit. Even the outline isn’t out of bounds if you need to make your speech more clear and logical.
When you practiced delivering your speech, you should have timed it. So, as you finalize your draft, make sure your speech is the right length for the occasion. You don’t want to bore your audience by talking too long, but you also don’t want to rush through your speech and leave out important information. Strike the right balance between saying what you need to say without going over the allotted time.
Since this draft isn’t for publication—it’s for speaking out loud—you might decide to use particular punctuation, formatting, or “speaker’s notes” to aid you in delivery.
We hope these strategies help you write a memorable and effective speech. While we’ve provided some guidelines to get you started, the key is to experiment and see what works best for you. Happy writing and speaking!
Note: This post was created in partnership with artificial intelligence.
Getting better at speaking is getting easier. Record or upload a speech and let our AI Speech Coach analyze your speaking and give you feedback.