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How to Write a Great Speech for Public Speaking in 7 Steps

This post is part of a series called Fundamentals of Public Speaking (101) Introduction Guide.
How to Overcome Your Fear of Public Speaking
15+ Effective Public Speaking Skills & Techniques to Master

Do you have to give a speech publicly any time soon? If you do, you need to know how speeches that are given publicly differ from presentations that will be viewed online. You need to know how to write a good public speaking speech before you give your speech.

One difference between speeches written to be given publicly and presentations written to be viewed online is that the former is given before a live audience at specified time and place. The later may be shared, viewed, and reviewed at the reader's convenience.

How to Write a Speech
A good public speaking speech differs from a presentation written to be viewed online. (Image Source: Envato Elements)

A speech given live has other significant differences from an online presentation. First, with a live speech you need to think about establishing a positive relationship with the audience while you do your speech writing. Plus, your physical presence (your appearance, posture, etc.) makes a difference with a public speech. Also, you may need to work in breaks for your audience and a question and answer session.

In this tutorial, we'll provide you with seven basic guidelines for writing a speech that will work well with live audiences. So that you can see how these guidelines might apply to a your situation, I'll apply each step to a sample public speaking scenario for a small business that I'll provide. We'll touch on some of the basics of speech writing. Finally, I'll share additional resources that can help you learn how to write a good speech.

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Before we dive into our topic, I wanted to make you aware of another resource on how to write a speech. We've got a free presentations eBook available: The Complete Guide to Making Great Presentations. It'll help you master the presentation process, from: initial idea, through to writing, design, and delivering with impact.

Complete Guide to Presentations

Sample Public Speaking Scenario

Here's a possible public speaking scenario:

You've just opened a small web design business in your town and you join the town Chamber of Commerce. As a result, you're invited to give a short, five-minute presentation at the next Chamber of Commerce meeting.

Coming up with a public speaking speech for the scenario described above could be a challenge if you've never written or given a public speech before. Fortunately, there are some speech-writing steps that you can use that'll make speech writing easier.

Let's use this example and walk through the steps for writing a speech.

7 Steps for Writing a Speech

The steps for writing a speech for public speaking are for similar to the steps for writing a presentation in general. However, at each stage of the writing process you need to keep your audience in mind.

1. Research Your Audience

Whenever you do any type of writing you need to consider who you are trying to reach with your writing. Speech writing is no different. In general, the more you know about your target audience the more effective your writing will be in reaching them.

In the example above, you know that your audience is going to be the other members of the Chamber of Commerce--who are likely to be small business owners just like you are.

Once you've defined your audience, you can gear your speech towards them. To do this, ask yourself questions like:

  • What does this audience need?
  • What problem can I solve for them?
  • Is there anything else I need to consider about my listeners?

In the example we're using for this tutorial, most small businesses in your town will fit one of the following three situations:

  1. They've got a website that works well.
  2. They've got a website, but the design is outdated or doesn't work well.
  3. They don't have a website.

Note that the small business owners who fit in the last two categories could potentially be your clients. It would be a good idea to get a list of the Chamber of Commerce members and look at their websites before you make your speech publicly. You might be able to identify some problems with their existing websites.

2. Select a Topic

In this example your topic is already given, you've been invited to introduce your business. But you also know that the speech is going to be fairly short--only five minutes long. While it's always a good idea to keep a speech focused, this will be especially important for a short speech.

If I were writing the public speaking speech for the scenario we're working with, I'd narrow the topic down like this:

  1. Create a list of the strengths of my business.
  2. Compare the list of business strengths to the problems I observed with the other members' websites in the previous step.
  3. Focus my presentation on the areas where my business strengths meet weaknesses (needs) of other Chamber of Commerce members.

Let's say that I noticed that quite a few members of the chamber have websites that use outdated fonts and the sites aren't mobile-friendly. Instead of listing everything my web design business could possibly do, I'd focus my short speech on those areas where I observed a need.

You can use a similar process to narrow the topic down any time you need to write a speech.

Avoid the temptation of trying to cover too much information. Most people are so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of new data they receive each day that they can't keep up with it all. Your listeners are more likely to remember your public speaking speech if it's tightly focused on one or two points.

Caution: Don't call out the problems you might observe in another business publicly. Although you might be tempted to do so, that will likely result in embarrassing the business owner and will make it difficult for you to build a relationship with them later. It's best to have such discussions privately unless the business owner has specifically given you permission to use their problems as an example.

3. Research Your Topic

In the example we've been going over, you probably don't need to do a lot of research. And you've already narrowed your topic down. But some public speaking situations may require that that you cover a topic that you are less familiar with. For more detailed speech writing tips on how to study your subject (and other public speaking tips), review the tutorial:

4. Write Your Speech

Once you've completed the steps above, you're ready to write your speech. Here are some basic speech writing tips:

  • Begin with an outline. To create a speech your audience will remember, you've got to be organized. An outline is one of the best ways to organize your thoughts.
  • Use a conversational tone. Write your speech the way you would normally talk. Work in some small talk or humor, if appropriate.
  • Use the speaker notes. Typically, speaker notes are not seen by the audience. So, this is a good place to put reminders to yourself.
  • Be specific. It's better to give examples or statistics to support a point than it is to make a vague statement.
  • Use short sentences. It's likely you're not going to give your speech word for word anyway. Shorter sentences will be easier to remember.

In this example scenario for the short speech we're preparing for the Chamber of Commerce, your outline could look something like this:

  1. Introduction. Give your name and the name of your business. (Show title slide of website home page with URL)
  2. Type of Business. Describe what you do in a sentence or two. (Show slide with bulleted list)
  3. Give example of a recent web design project. Emphasize areas that you know the other businesses need. (Show slides with examples)
  4. Conclusion. Let the audience know that you'd be happy to help with their web design needs. Offer to talk to anyone who's interested after the meeting. (Show closing slide that includes contact information)
  5. Give out handouts. Many presentation software packages allow you to print out your speech as a handout. For a networking-type presentation such as the one in our example, this can be a good idea since it gives your listeners something to take with them that has your contact information on it.

That simple speech format should be enough for the short speech in our example. If you find it's too short when you practice, you can always add more slides with examples.

If you've been asked to give a short speech, you can modify the speech format above to fit your needs. If you're giving a longer speech, be sure to plan for audience breaks and question and answer sessions as you write.

5. Select a Presentation Tool

For most presentations, you'll want to use a professional presentation tool such as PowerPoint, Google Slides, or a similar package. A presentation tool allows you to add visual interest to your public speaking speech. Many of them allow you to add video or audio to further engage your audience.

If you don't already have a presentation tool, these tutorials can help you find the right one for your needs:

Once you've chosen a presentation tool, you're ready to choose a template for your presentation.

6. Select a Template and Finish

A presentation template controls the look and feel of your presentation. A good template design can make the difference between a memorable public speech with eye-catching graphics and a dull, forgettable talk.

You could design your own presentation template from scratch. But, if you've never designed a presentation template before, the result might look less than professional. And it could take a long time to get a good template. Plus, hiring a designer to create an original presentation template can be pricey.

A smart shortcut for most small business owners is to invest in a professional presentation template that they can customize to fit with their branding and marketing materials. If you choose this option, you'll save time and money. Plus, with a professional presentation template you get a proven result.

You can find some great-looking presentation templates at Envato Elements or GraphicRiver. To browse through some example templates, look at these articles:

Even a short speech like the one we've been using as an example in this tutorial could benefit from a good tutorial. If you've never used a template before, these PowerPoint tutorials can help:

7. How to Make a Public Speech

Now that you've completed all of the steps above, you're ready to give your speech. Before you give your speech publicly, though, there are a few things you should remember:

  • Don't read your speech. If you can, memorize your speech. If you can't, it's okay to use note cards or even your outline--but don't read those either. Just refer to them if you get stuck.
  • Practice. Not only will practice help you get more comfortable with your speech, it'll will also help you determine how your speech fits into the time slot you've been allotted.
  • Do use visual aids. Of course, your presentation template adds a visual element to your public speech, but if other visual aids work with your presentation they can be helpful as well.
  • Dress comfortably, but professionally. The key is to fit in. If you're not sure how others at your meeting will be dressed, contact the organizer and ask.
  • Speak and stand naturally. It's normal to be a little nervous, but try to act as naturally as you can. Even if you make a mistake, keep going. Your audience probably won't even notice.
  • Be enthusiastic. Excitement is contagious. If you're excited about your topic, your audience will likely be excited too.

In the example we're using in this tutorial (and with many public speaking opportunities), it's important not to disappear at the end of the meeting. Stick around and be prepared to interact individually with members of the audience. Have answers to questions anyone might have about your speech. And be sure to bring a stack of business cards to pass out.

Here are some other tutorials that provide more information on giving a speech:

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You've just learned how to write a good public speaking speech. You've been given a sample speech format and plenty of other speech writing tips and resources on how to write a good speech. Now, it's up to you to create the best speech for your needs. Good luck!

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