How to Prepare a Speech

There can be various areas of life when you are asked to make a speech. It can be a formal occasion, for work, studying, retirement, promotion, etc., or an informal event, like a wedding, an anniversary or the birthday of your friend. If you were assigned to do a speech for school, you have to get acquainted with the specific features and requirements for scholarly speeches, and make sure to follow them when preparing your speech.

Steps for Writing a Speech

  1. Decide on the topic. If you have already been given a certain general subject – think whether it is necessary to narrow it down to a specific question.
  2. Think of the audience you will address. Make sure to keep them in mind as you prepare and present your speech. Be certain that the topic of your speech is interesting and useful to the audience for which it is intended.
  3. Research the area of interest that you are planning to address in your speech. Make sure you get acquainted with the major opinions on the issue you are addressing, no matter whether or not you agree with them.
  4. Sketch out the basic points you want to make, and then develop each of them into a paragraph or so. Try to group the alike.
  5. Find supporting evidence and factual data for every major point you are planning to make.
  6. Write an introduction. It does not have to be a lengthy paragraph, just a couple of sentences. You need to start by introducing yourself, if necessary, and the subject you are planning to address. It might also be a smart idea to mention how much time you are planning to take up (so that the audience is prepared in advance), and indicate that you will be open for any questions afterwards.
  7. Sum up with a concluding sentence, generalizing your whole speech. Make sure to thank the audience for its attention at the end.

Topic Selection

Three main conditions must be observed when picking a topic for a speech:

  • You must be passionate about what you are going to talk about
  • You must know your topic well
  • You must keep your hand on the pulse of current events and choose those topics that are timely

Make sure to treat difficult topics with all possible caution. While it may seem that talking about a “smart” topic can make it more interesting or significant, actually it happens contrariwise; it doesn’t refer to situations where “smart” topics are what you major in, or feel passionate about. If the topic is too difficult for you, you can find yourself forgetting your arguments, confusing terms, and so on.

The other category of topics that you should be extremely careful with is a cluster of controversial issues that have zealous proponents and opponents. Creation or evolution, gay marriage, euthanasia, and other disputable subjects are better to avoid (at least when the speech is held out of the context of the intentional contemplation of these problems) because some part of your audience may not share your views, and ignore or argue with your supporting evidence.

Key Points to Consider

  • Follow the same basic structure when making an argument. Start every paragraph from the major point, then go into details and support your idea with factual or statistical information. After that, give a specific example or relate to a real-life situation to keep your thoughts grounded.
  • It is important to set the right mood and establish contact with your audience from the first words, so make sure to link your introduction to the general environment and interests of the audience.
  • It is a sound idea to practice your speech prior to finalizing it. Do some sort of pre-test activity – ask a friend or two to be your listeners and consider the feedback you receive from them to strengthen your speech and get rid of the weak points.
  • Be creative in your ideas, but make sure to keep connected to the topic you are addressing and not drift away from the issue.
  • No matter what subject you are addressing, make sure to stay tolerant. Remember, your ideas might be different from those of your listeners, so do not be too bold and adamant in your ideas, no matter how strongly you feel about them.
  • Try to be precise and brief. Keeping it short is crucial to making sure that you connect with your listeners and don’t lose their attention.

Dos and Don’ts

Dos

  • Do engage your audience in the speech by addressing them as you talk. Use second-person prepositions to make your speech seem more individualized and audience-oriented.
  • Do be convincing. Speech is about persuading your audience, so you need to yourself believe in whatever you are arguing about.
  • Do be ready to answer questions after your speech is over.
  • Do end with the strongest point. Remember, your introduction and the last words are going to be most noticeable, so make sure to craft your introduction and conclusion perfectly.
  • Do include examples that are closely related to the experience your listeners are accustomed to.
  • Do write as if you are conversing, not as if you are preparing a composition.
Don’ts

  • Don’t engage in subjective and highly debatable topics, or those that are merely a matter of taste. Religion, sexual orientation, cultural beliefs and the like, are off the table.
  • Don’t speculate on common truths.
  • Don’t make more than three main points.
  • Don’t assume that your audience is necessarily well-acquainted with the subject you chose. So, start by including the basic information that will be necessary for any person listening to your speech to make sense of it.
  • Don’t rely too much on any accessorizing additional materials, like hand-outs, power point presentations, graphics and the like. You have to primarily write for the ear, not the eye.
  • Don’t memorize your speech word-for-word because, if you forget just one point, you will find yourself lost and completely off-board. Instead, rehearse a few times, and keep your speaking tone natural, improvising a little if you forget what to say. Keep a notecard next to you or in your hand that has the key points of the speech listed.

Common Mistakes

  • Repeating yourself when you try to prove a point. Even your conclusion should not be repetitive of the ideas you talk about throughout your speech.
  • Using jargon and slang when you try to connect with your audience.
  • Making a long speech. No matter how tempting it seems to include more facts and details to support your ideas, you have to keep within the strict time limits if you want your speech to be successfully perceived and taken in by your listeners.
  • Being too serious. It is a common mistake to think that a scholarly speech has to be official-like and cannot include any hint of humor.
  • Writing a last-minute speech. It is crucial that you prepare your speech in advance. No matter how well-acquainted you think you are with the issue, and how easy it might seem to talk to your peers, simply sketching out some raw ideas will not be enough to make a successful speech. While some people are excellent at improvising, it is still necessary to write your speech ahead of time, let it soak in and then take a second look at it to see any flaws that you might have initially missed.

Now that you have acquainted yourself with the basic speech writing tips and rules, you can check our speech samples to link theory with practice.

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Samples for How to Prepare a Speech

Formal Persuasive Speech Sample

There is every reason to consider tobacco smoking the most harmful of bad habits, since it adversely affects not only the person addicted to cigarettes or...
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Questions for How to Prepare a Speech