Six steps to writing a better speech



I walked into my client’s office ready to rock my presentation to their sales staff. I had on my power-suit and I was ready to face - what the client had described - as a group of eager-to-learn people. “Let’s do this,” I thought as I made my way down the hall to their training room.

…and then I saw the group. They were tired, bored and disinterested. They were distracted and doubting. They were huddled in the middle of the company’s call center so I couldn’t even greet them with an audible “hello”.

After I freaked out and died a little inside, I set to the challenge of winning over this audience. Luckily, it all worked out in the end.

Clearly, though, I wasn’t prepared for this group.

I had missed some important details in my presentation planning and had overlooked the importance of knowing exactly who was in the room and what they needed to get out of their time with me.

I’ve made many, many mistakes in my years of public speaking and presenting. I’ve also learned a lot from those experiences, including some very important questions to ask before putting pen to paper…or mouth to microphone! Take an extra 15 minutes before heading into your next big talk or presentation and ask these 6 questions below. Your audience will thank you - and you will thank yourself!

  1. Who are you (the speaker) and why does that matter for anyone listening?

  2. Who is in your audience? (i.e. gender, titles, levels, social identifiers, etc.) This matters because it will drive your choice of words.

  3. Is there a common theme, challenge or issue that this audience is facing? (Hint: the answer should guide your BIG message.)

  4. What does this group absolutely want or need to "get" from their time with you? Whatever it is – give it to them. It’s far more important to deliver on what they want than what you want.

  5. Is there an important call to action you can / should make with this group? Never leave a speech without telling your audience what to do with the information, knowledge or idea you just shared.

  6. Is this audience more inclined to engage with a message that imparts knowledge / learning, humor / entertainment or motivation / inspiration? Find this out and tailor your message to it.

A good speech can take you on a journey from doubt to certainty, ignorance to awareness…from confusion to ‘getting it’. It can masterfully invite you to lean in, stand up, jump into action, say ‘aha’. I believe a good speech can change a person’s moment, day, or life.

That’s some powerful stuff.