So you have joined Toastmasters and you are excited to write your first speech – but where do you start?
In this blog I will share some tips on how I go about writing a speech:
- Where to start
- How to structure your speech & points to consider
- Writing and learning your speech
1) Where to Start
It’s really helpful to start with a brain dump. I like to write the topic in the middle of the page and build up a mind map of all the elements I might like to include. This is a great freeing process. It is like having a brain-storm with yourself. Don’t critique it just get material down. One thought will lead to another. Once you have exhausted your ideas then review it. You then need to consider the question – what will be of interest to your audience?
Of course any speech needs to have a clear beginning, middle and end at a very basic level. Structure is really important to both you giving the speech and the audience listening. A good structure helps you remember/deliver effectively and for the audience to know where you are taking them. It makes you both feel much more comfortable. Actually the simpler you can make the structure the better.
A couple examples of structures are:
- Time sequence eg taking people through a day
- The star model – situation, task, action, result
- The power of 3 eg explaining there are 3 important reasons for x and then explaining each.
- Time Sequence: I used the time sequence structure for sharing the first day of my skiing holiday. Getting up all excited, trudging to the slopes, my exhilarating day on the slopes, rounding off in the evening with great company.
- Star Model: This model was perfect for my speech taking the audience through my leadership of a work project.
- Power of 3: In my research project on sleep this structure was great for talking the audience through 3 interesting things I learned.
At a training course I attended years ago the instructor gave us a great tip –to use Postit notes. You need to buy those tiny Postit notes. In one colour put your structure titles. In another colour you write your ideas on the Postits and then you stick them on your page. One point per Postit. The great thing about this approach is that it enables you to keep rearranging your ideas until you can see a flowing story.
It’s all about your audience
Remember your speech is for the audience not for you. What will be of interest to them? What will be of value to them? How will you phrase things to get your audience thinking and maybe spurring action? What call to action will you include in your speech?
Matching start and finish
All good Toastmasters speeches start and finish in the same place. It is like doing a circular walk. There are many twists on this but it neatly ties up the speech and the beauty of it is that the audience knows you are done so no need for the ‘thank you’ you hear so much outside of Toastmasters.
3) Writing & Learning Your Speech
Below are my tips on how I go about this process:
- Get it down: You are now ready to write your speech. Using your notes just get it all down and let it flow. Once you’ve done this you can start working on it.
- Change to the spoken word: You then need to tweak your speech as it needs to be written how you will say it. It’s hard to do this to start with that is why I suggest you get your ideas down and then amend. Change things like ‘you will’ to you’ll. Use language you would in everyday life appropriate to your audience.
- Short sentences: Now split the speech into short sentences and BOLD words you want to emphasize. I have noticed about 2 ¼ pages is normally the length for 6/7 minutes speech or you can use the word count in software like ‘Word’.
- Reduce to a one pager: I’ll then condense the speech into a one pager or even just bullet point words. (But I need the full speech as part of the learning process).
- Internalise: As you learn the speech do not try to learn it word for word as this is both really difficult and is a real problem if you forget a line. Ie you are learning the message not the words. Use your structure and key ideas to know what you will say and when you need to say it.
So there you have it my tips for how I approach both writing and learning a speech. I hope this has given you a starting point to get you going.