Public Speaking: How to Write a Speech – Part 1: Your Speech Outline

Writing a speech can sometimes be as nerve-racking as giving the speech. Where do you begin? What format should you use? Will you need props?

The list of potential questions is endless, but getting started is a lot easier than you think. Assuming you’ve chosen your topic and done some preliminary research, you’re ready to sit down and write.

Now some folks prefer the free write approach. They simply start writing their speech out word for word and once they’ve gotten to the end, they simply make a few edits and they’re done. If that doesn’t work for you, then try creating an outline.

Before you can start your outline, it’s important to understand the three main parts of the speech. If you’ve ever taken a writing class, you’re probably already familiar with them and they don’t differ tremendously from their written counterparts.

The introduction is the first part – this is where you introduce your topic to the audience and provide a brief overview of what you’ll be talking about. You may even choose to list out your main points.

The body is meat of your speech. It contains your main points (I recommend two to five, depending on the length of your talk) as well as supporting evidence for each of your main points. This is the part of your speech that is of most value to your audience.

The final part of the speech is the conclusion. In this part, you sum up your main points and then end with a call to action.

So you’re sitting down at your desk, armed with either pencil and paper or word processor, and ready to write. I find it helpful to start with writing “introduction,” “body” and “conclusion” so I’m not staring a blank document. I then list my main points under each section – in the introduction, they get listed under the phrase “we’ll discuss:” and in the conclusion, “we’ve covered:”

Then I take another pass where I’ll add a sentence or two to the introduction and conclusion and then list out my sub-points for each of my main points in the body. I’ll then make several more passes through the outline, filling in more information with each pass.

I usually don’t write out my speeches word for word because that’s not my speaking style. I come across more natural and sound less rehearsed when I work from an outline. So I’ll generally continue this process until I get to the point where I’m at the level of granularity that I desire – in some cases, a fully written out speech.

Everyone has a different writing style, so it’s important to find the technique that works best for you. You might also find that different situations call for different techniques. The key is to experiment and note what works and what doesn’t.
We’ll continue this discussion in future posts.

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