So you have an idea for a speech? Great.
But now what?
The speech is just a general concept floating around in your head. It’s pretty difficult to envision it becoming something presentable at a tournament. Maybe you should just tell yourself, “I just need to start writing it,” and it will eventually appear? The honest truth, however, is that speech writing does not work like that. The best speakers do not just have scripts magically fall upon them; they have to work for them, and so do you.
But don’t worry, I am not just here to crush your hopes of starting a speech, I also want to give you practical steps on how to start crafting a speech…
Step 1: Identify Your Ultimate Goal.
What is the ultimate point that you want your judges and audience to walk away with? Typically, there are two components to this: a conceptual point and a practical point. The conceptual point is simply the main idea, change of heart, or piece of information that you believe is most valuable to the judge. It answers the question, “if there is one thing you want the judge to know/remember after you give your speech, what is it?” The practical point is a specific action step that your judges could follow to indicate that your conceptual message landed well and they understood you. Perhaps it is asking them to buy locally instead of from large department stores. Maybe you could ask them to do 10 jumping jacks each day. Regardless, it is something specific that the judge can look back at to help them determine if they are applying the concept of your speech well.
Step 2: Record Key Ideas That Develop Your Goal
This step focuses less on organization and more on simply verbalizing and processing all of the thoughts that you have on the topic of your speech. It is important to note that in order for you to complete this step effectively, you need to have sufficient knowledge of and passion for your topic. If you don’t feel like you have reached this point yet, then keep reading this article, but avoid progressing through the rest of the steps until you are well-researched and knowledgeable on your topic.
Anyway, in this step you simply want to write down all of the thoughts that pertain to the goal of your speech. Ask yourself: what are some key pieces of information that your judges need to know in order to believe in your goal? Are there any thoughts or opinions you have that they should know about? Perhaps there is a quote from an expert or authoritative figure on the subject that you believe could be of some value to your speech. Do you have any personal stories that you’d like to mention? Essentially, spend this step writing down these thoughts.
Step 3: Organize Your Speech into Structure
Now that you have all of your thoughts, see if a natural pattern of organization seems to form. Look for 2-4 points with which you can organize your thoughts from the second step. You might realize that you don’t have enough content to fill in some of your points. If that is the case, then go back to step two and do some research. Make sure you have enough content to support a logical progression of thought that will lead your judge to the desired conclusion. In each point that you identify, make sure that you specifically write down the “mini-thesis” of that point and note how it is essential to developing the overall goal of your speech.
Step 4: Analyze Speech Content
If you are feeling spiffy, you can go ahead and draft your first copy of the speech, but that is not necessary for this step. Essentially, you want to go to someone who has expertise in speech writing (*cough* *cough* an Ethos Coach) and ask them to listen to you talk through the outline of your speech. Be prepared to review the speech multiple times with them. Come up with a list of questions for them. Some of these could include asking them what they thought of the outline. Ask them if they liked the action step you gave at the end. Did you have enough personal examples? Did you even need personal examples? Be prepared to ask general questions about the content of your speech so that they can discuss and process it with you in a way that helps you identify key areas to adapt and modify.
Step 5: Adapt and Modify Various Components of the Speech
Now that you have your first draft and you have received your first round of feedback, begin adapting your speech based on the advice you have received. Here are some questions to help you identify things that you can adapt and modify: Is my speech a logical progression of thought? Do I have a sufficient amount of quotes, stories, practical applications, etc?
Step 6: Present for Additional Constructive Feedback
At this point, you have gone through a couple of rounds of modifications to your speech. This step is a continuation of that process, except that when you present your speech to people for their feedback, be sure to give them specific things to look for. You cannot improve on everything at once, and so you will need to ask the people listening to your speech to look for specific things to work on.
Step 7: Cutting The Speech
Although it can be painful, this step is honestly inevitable as you begin to balance the different components of your speech. In this process, you will realize that there are some components that you don’t have time for, but you are not sure how to get rid of them. If that is the case, then you can highlight each section of thought in your speech with rotating colors (by section of thought, I mean anything like a story, a concept, or a transition). Once you have a visual organization for the different sections of your speech, cut your speech down by removing the least useful sections. This is different from cutting down pieces of phrases throughout your script. This method is much more effective since it is easier to remember when you are presenting and helps you get rid of substantial chunks of the speech.
Hopefully, this visualization of how you can write a speech will help you accelerate the process and will make it easier to write your speeches. Good luck!
Jala Boyer has earned numerous 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place medals and competed at the NCFCA National Championship in five categories. As an intern on the Student Advisory Council of the NCFCA, Jala worked alongside the executive director, Kim Cromer, to learn the inner workings of competitive speech and debate, helping students create long-term and meaningful success. Jala is currently an Honors student at Liberty University studying communications with an emphasis in politics. To book a coaching session with Jala, follow this link https://www.ethosdebate.com/ coaching/book-coach/