They say most people are less afraid of dying than speaking in public. That caused Jerry Seinfeld to observe that the person delivering the eulogy may be the only one at a funeral who envies the corpse.
For many communicators, that sense of dread extends to speechwriting assignments. But don’t panic.
Whether you’re putting together a few comments for yourself or writing a keynote for the CEO, use these rules to write better speeches and make ghostwriting less scary.
Always … remember that speeches are about ideas, not just words. Know what you’re trying to communicate before you write. Focus on 1-3 messages. That’s all the audience will remember anyway.
Never… forget the audience. Understand their interests, needs and expectations. Cast messages from the perspective of the receiver, not the sender. Why should the listener care about what you have to say?
Always … make it personal. They won’t care until they know you do. Tell stories. Use examples from your life. Share experiences. Use humor when it makes sense; laughter creates a powerful bond.
Never … talk too long. Have a strong beginning and a strong ending, and keep them close together. No one says, “I wish she had spoken longer.” Shoot for 15-20 minutes – tops. The Gettysburg Address was three minutes long.
Always … think like a lawyer. State your proposition and make your case. Use facts and examples to prove your point.
Never … let your visuals overshadow you. If you must use slides, keep them simple. Don’t let slides be a crutch and never read from them.
Always … use statistics sparingly. Numbers are powerful, but too many can numb your audience. Choose just a few that will be memorable or surprising. Use comparisons to help your audience relate. “That’s deeper than the
Never … overuse quotes. A few are OK, as long as they’re relevant. As Emerson said, “I hate quotations … tell me what you think.”
Always ... write out loud. Writing for the ear is different than writing for the eye. Keep things simple. Avoid long, complex sentences. Read your worlds aloud - even if it annoys your cube mate.