Speeches

By Alex Capria

Speeches aren’t so different from other forms of writing. Speeches require a clear and logical line of thinking that acknowledges and connects with the audience. This document will give you the tools to write an effective and engaging speech while hopefully reducing the pre-speech jitters.

Planning Your Speech

Before you begin writing your speech, think about the audience that you are engaging with.

  • Who are they?
  • What do you think they will find interesting?
  • Why should they listen to you?
  • And how will you keep them immersed?
  • What are you trying to accomplish with your speech?
  • What do you want them to do?

Once you answer these questions, you can begin organizing your speech in a way that will appeal to your specific audience.

Consider the organization of a speech in similar ways to the organization of any piece of writing. Using your central purpose as guidance, you can begin to construct the outline of your speech.

Rhetorical Appeals

Sometimes, it helps to consider what rhetorical appeals might fit your audience and purpose. These appeals (ethos, pathos, and logos) can help you convince, motivate, and/or captivate your audience.

  • Ethos establishes the character of the speaker. Everything you say gives the audience a sense of your character, your persona, and they decide how to react based on that. Are you going for highly credible? Formal? Serious? Then you might want to lean on formal language and stay away from profanity and slang. Are you going for informal? Cool? Down with the kids? Then you might want to use more slang or humor.
  • Pathos is an appeal to emotion. This is often done through anecdotes, vivid descriptions, or references to things your audience might have an emotional attachment to. Pathos is used to help the audience connect emotionally.
  • Logos is an appeal to logic. It is a speaker asking the audience to follow and trust a particular logic. Often, people think of facts, data, and evidence as key elements of a speech’s logos.

Performance and Tone

While giving a speech, you are essentially performing for the audience. So, it’s important to strike the right tone.

Your tone is a marker for how your audience should react. If you’re confident in your comedic skills and the subject is relatively light, try sprinkling in a few amusing bits or anecdotes. (But only if you are confident in your humor. We’ve all been in the crowd when the presenter makes a joke, and no one laughs; it’s not good.)

If the subject is more serious, the tone may need to be more somber or subdued so no jokes and language that reflects the seriousness of the subject.

Tips and Strategies

  • Have a strong “hook”
    • A “hook” is the thing that draws the audience in and shows them why they should listen to you. It can be dramatic or stark or funny or odd or many other things, as long as it draws them in and fits with your purpose.
  • Repetition
    • Because speeches aren’t necessarily recorded people can’t go back and hear what you said. So, if you want them to remember something in particular, it can help to repeat it. Think of Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, perhaps the most famous in American history. We remember the line “I have a dream” because he repeated it over and over and over again.
  • So what?
    • Let your audience know why what you say matters.

 

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