How You Write Determines How You Speak

First you write, then you speak
First you write, then you speak
Image Credit: Jonathan Kim

As public speakers, because we know about the importance of public speaking, we are always looking for ways to become better speakers. We can watch other speakers, read books on public speaking, or take courses. It turns out that there is a simple skill that we already have that if we take the time to use can make us a better speaker: writing.

Why Writing A Speech Out Is A Good Idea

So this is where I need to be very careful. Yes, writing your speech out is a good idea. No, writing your speech out so that you can memorize it word-for-word is NOT a good idea! The reason that we write our speech out is, among other reasons, so that we can “see” our speech.

Every speech that we give we want to have the ability to connect with our audience and perhaps change how they see the world. In order to do this, our speeches need to be organized. Every speech tells a story and we want ours to have a clear start, middle, and ending. Additionally, we want our speech to have substance. When we’re done speaking we want our audience to feel as though they have learned something that they didn’t previously know – not just have been entertained for 30 to 60 minutes.

Every speech that we’ll give has a time limit associated with it. If we don’t take the time to write it out, then we’ll never be quite sure how long the speech is going to last. The ability to trim a speech down to fit within the amount of time that we have been allocated all starts with the written word. Once we’ve committed our speech to paper, we now have a good understanding of how long it will take to deliver it. If it is going to take too long, now is the time to start to cut – not when we’re standing in front of an audience!

How Writing A Speech Changes Our Use Of Words

When we give a speech, all we really have to work with are our words. What this means is that your selection of what words you use in a speech is very, very important. When you take the time to write your speech out, you’ll be able to take a look at the words that you’ve decided to use.

The goal of any speech is for you to use your words to build “word pictures” in the minds of your audience. What you are going to want to do is to stay away from the worn phrases that we all use (“think outside the box”) because your audience will no longer build pictures for those phrases. Instead, you are going to want to use creative and unusual phrases that cause vivid pictures to be created in your audience’s minds (“the hinges of his soul slammed shut”).

There are many times when we are speaking and the perfect word escapes us. We know that it’s out there, but we just can’t remember what it is. When we write our speech out, this give us the time that we need to look words up and choose the best word. What this allows us to do is to reduce our usage of all of those extra words that we have to add in when we don’t know the right word. A more concise speech is one that will be better remembered by our audience.

What All Of This Means For You

In order to become better speakers, we need to find ways to develop skills that will improve how we talk. Taking the time to do a better job of learning how to write speeches is a great way to boost the benefits of public speaking for our audiences.

When you take the time to write out your next speech, you’ll be able to ensure that your speech is going to be both organized as well as telling a compelling story. Writing out your speech will also provide you with an opportunity to manage your time better – if the speech is too long to fit in your available time, you can start cutting. Seeing a written speech allows you to make better word and phrase choices.

Often when we are asked to deliver a speech, we may wait until the speech is almost upon us before we start to plan what we’ll say. Don’t do this. Take the time to write out your speech and this will give you a change to tune it up in order to perfectly meet the needs of your audience.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How much editing of your written speech should you do before you start to try to memorize it?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Due to the importance of public speaking, those of us who do a lot of writing often get called on to give speechs. Having the skill to put words down on paper is a great skill to have. However, it does not necessarily mean that we have the skills that are needed in order to be able to deliver an effective speech. The big question is how can we writers become good speakers…?

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