Speechwriting Tips

HBS Working Knowledge writes about how to prepare for a speech:

Phillip Khan-Pami, a coach and competition-winning speaker himself. Khan-Pami suggests beginning by identifying your core message: “When you have completed your presentation or speech, what will people remember? What will they take away with them, to apply and change their ways, and one day perhaps even thank you for? What one sentence will correctly sum up your entire presentation? That’s your Core Message…Make no mistake: Your listeners will take away a core message of sorts. They will carry away an impression of what you were saying. It may be complimentary, it may be less so. It may be about you and your delivery, or it may be about your content. If you want them to receive and carry away the right messageyour Core Messageyou must first identify what you believe it to be and write it down.”

Once you’ve developed that one-sentence summary of what you want to say, you’re ready to brainstorm supporting ideas, arguments, anecdotes, and information. Then, Khan-Pami advises, test everything you’ve come up with against the core message. Ruthlessly eliminate anything that doesn’t support your message.

The article provides a number of formats to structure a speech:

  • PREP, which stands for PositionReasonExamplePosition: The idea is that you state your claim (which should sound a lot like your core message) and then give your reasons for it. Follow that with a compelling example, and close by restating your position.

  • PastPresentFuture, which takes the storyline of your idea and presents it in chronological form.

  • ProblemCauseSolution. This structure works well for business arguments and situations. You state the problemdeclining sales, sayand then analyze the cause. You follow the analysis with your recommendations for a solution.

  • AIDA, which stands for AttentionInterestDesireAction, works best when you’re trying to persuade someone of something. First you grab their attention with a statistic or anecdote or claim that is sufficiently surprising to take your audience away from its concerns to yours. Then you raise the audience’s interest by stating the benefits of the position you’re advocating.

  • Tellx3, which, despite its trendy appearance, is actually the most conventional of structures. It stands for “Tell ’em what you’re going to say, say it, tell ‘ em what you said.”

  • Published by

    Rajesh Jain

    An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.