Writing another persons story – secrets of speech writing

Writing for someone else to speak

I’ve been writing speeches for other people to give for 20 years. Now, I’m going to let you in on three secrets of speech writing.

They are:

  1. Substance or what you say
  2. Style. How you deliver and the words you choose to use.
  3. Impact . Did the speaker make a difference in the audience? Does it have a call to action?

But before you write the first word, you need to determine the framework surrounding your speech. Is it going to be persuasive or informative? Is it a daytime or evening event? Who will your audience be? Why should they care about your message? How will they benefit from the information you give them?

Will you be giving the speech or are you writing it for someone else? In the business setting, many times you’ll be called upon to write for your CEO.

To successfully write for another speaker, you need access and collaboration with the speaker (CEO). If you don’t have it, know you need to ask for it. You need to spend some prep time with this person. How do they gesture? Do they have phrases they naturally use in conversation?

You’ll need: a Pre-draft meeting, a first draft meeting, a revision meeting, rehearsal, and a post speech interview. I suggest having as few people as possible there and make sure you your own ideas to the meeting.

Speeches need a formal structure just like an essay. They have an opening, a body, and a closing.

Introductions should be 20 sec to 2 min. It eases your listener into speech. Make sure your information follows a logical order.

Your audience must believe your speaker as well. Do they share an interest? Try sharing something special about you. It will open their curiosity.

A word of warning. Humor is best used carefully. The safest form of humor is for the speaker to make fun of themselves. It’s also the fastest way to lose the audience if an attempt at humor goes bad.

Once you move to the body of the speech, you need to choose one theme or purpose. Tell your audience what you are telling them, tell them again, then tell them that you told them. If your audience can tell you don’t care about them or the topic, the the audience won’t care either.

One of the best forms to use for your speech is the “Golden rule of 3.”

Tell your audience you have three thoughts to share with them. Make sure your most important is the last item told. The next most important idea should be your first one. And finally, the least important should be in the middle because it is often forgotten.

Good speeches use examples. Make sure you round numbers off but don’t use too many stats. People zone out on numbers. Use illustrations. Try to paint a picture for your listener.

The best speech writers, write for the ear. Speeches are not written to be read. Keep it simple. Use active voice. Use contractions. Vivid verbs are best. Vary your sentence lengths. Avoid jargon. Repetition is key. Ask rhetorical questions. Use personal pronouns. Use alliteration.

You want to be the speaker they remember. If you appear genuine, you’ll be a step closer.

End on strong note. Your closing shouldn’t end with a whimper. You need a strong call to action. It should be brief. Make it a challenge and restate purpose.

Once you’ve got a completed draft, read it aloud. Listen for tongue twisters. Are your ideas clear? Do the transitions flow? Does every word you chose have meaning? If not, delete it.

Now your ready to give the speech!  Smile when you give it. Record it.

Developing your creativity 

Creativity isn’t just something you are born with. You can develop creative confidence by creating a set of habits based on what you know about yourself. Creativity requires thought. You have to leave yourself space in the day for ideas to flow. Think of it as filling up your creative cup.

You can increase you creative ability by embracing certain traits.

Be always on. You need to always be looking, seeing, observing.

Be adventurous. Take risks. I don’t necessarily mean go cliff diving. It can even be try a different type of food. Or an outfit you’d normally never wear.

Get out of your rut. Read a different book. Try a new magazine. Take a new route home.

See things differently. Can something be used a different way?

Embrace fun. In one study it showed that 5-year-olds laugh 110 times each day. By age 45, we only laugh 11 times.

When you find new ideas or thoughts, you’ll also find that they energize you and give you the confidence to put them into action.

You have to take risks to be creative. You have to believe that what you are doing is not a waste of time. The penalty for failure is not greater than the penalty for doing nothing. If it is, then people will do nothing. You are investing time and energy in something that is worthwhile. Know the difference between productive down time and procrastinating. You’ve also got to finish ideas or projects to make room for other things. If not, you remain frustrated. It’s a balance.

The key element in an idea is the combination of unrelated items. It’s the ability to make new connections and combinations and see the relationship between the items.

One of the easiest ways to get the creative juices flowing is through having an idea file. I keep a file (and by file, I mean box) where I clip items that speak to me. Whether it’s a quote, an image, a project – doesn’t matter. I can go flip through it whenever I’m at a loss or need a color scheme. I also keep a list of ideas. Doesn’t matter if they are silly.It just keeps getting longer and when I read back through it, I generally find something that generates a spark.Build a curiosity reservoir. The more you experience, the more you can do. You collect experiences and pull from them like a kaleidoscope makes new images. Freud said, ” When inspiration doesn’t come to me, I do halfway to meet it.”

Hook ’em with a headline

thYou’ve finished the story. Your job is done.

Not so fast. What good is the story if no one ever reads it?

How do you get them to read your work? With a great hook!

Good headlines get your attention and lead the reader into the story. They need action. Bad headlines are just basic labels – think “Board meeting held.”

Less is more in a headline. A good rule of thumb is they shouldn’t have more than eight words. Use decks (or subheads) if you need more. Decks provide a way to get more information out without making the headline too long. Use the headline to get the attention and the deck to sell the story.

Headlines should be clever, not cutesy.

Here’s six tips to make your headlines reel in the readers:

  1. Use active voice
  2. Use present tense (immediacy – storm pounds town/ not pounded)
  3. Use short words
  4. Be specific (vague is dull)
  5. Watch punctuation – steer away from it if you can
  6. Play with your words. Pull words from your story. Twist clichés, but don’t use these all the time. It has its place just like alliteration or repetition.