Principles of Speech Writing

Speech is classified according to Purpose—the Expository or Informative Speech, the Persuasive Speech, and the Entertainment Speech—and according to the Manner of Delivery—Reading /Speaking from a Manuscript, Memorized Speech, Impromptu Speech, and Extemporaneous Speech. Given the different Types of Speech, can you identify and explain what goes into preparing a Speech? What are the things to be done before the Speech is delivered?

First Principle: Choosing the topic

A Speech is meant to impart a Message to Listeners. The choice of topic may be up to the Speaker but, more often than not, the Speaker is given the topic because it is the central theme of a program, conference, or presentation. In .any case, the topic should be timely, meaning in existence at the present time (unless a historical event is the reason for the gathering). The topic should be interesting to you (the Speaker), of course, so that you will be enthusiastic in preparing and delivering the Speech. At the same time, it should be just as interesting to your Audience so that they will focus on your Speech and nothing else. If there is a conflict between what you want to say and what your Listeners want to hear, then it is the Audience who wins. A topic that is new, that has not been heard of before by your Listeners, is an attention grabber. So is a topic that is controversial as it encourages the Audience to listen carefully so they can choose a side.

It must be pointed out that when choosing a topic, the Speaker must ever be mindful of the culture of the Speaker and Listener, their ages, their gender as well as their social status and religious affiliation. It is good advice for the Speaker to choose a topic that is at the level of knowledge of both the Speaker and the Audience.

Second Principle: Analyzing the Audience

Before writing down anything about the Speech, one must engage in Analyzing the Audience. A Speech for one occasion cannot simply be used for another. There is no Speech that fits any and all occasions. Each speech has a different Purpose and a different Manner of Delivery. So, given the hundreds of thousands of Speech topics multiplied by the Types of Purpose and Types of Delivery, each Speech, even if delivered by the same person, is unique. Every Speech is specific to the Speaker and may be characterized by the topic chosen, the time and place of Delivery, and the configuration of the Audience listening to this particular Speech.

The Audience is one of the major factors that determine the uniqueness of the Speech. Just as there is no speech that fits all Public Communication Situation, there is no single Audience for a Speech. How do you analyze the Audience if you do not know who the Audience will be?

First, if possible, get or guess the demographic data of the audience: age, gender, ethnic background, occupation, economic and social status, etc., especially if one is addressing a business group, a student club, or a community organization. These data may influence the Audience’s reaction to the Speech. Moreover, the data will influence the way you will write the Speech—what points to choose, what to leave out, the words to use, and even what tone of voice will work on them.

Second, it is important to know the groups to which your Audience belongs as these groups hold certain beliefs and values. You may then be able to ascertain how your Listeners feel about certain issues without having to talk to each and every Listener or do a survey among them. 

Third, it is just as important to find out how your audience feels about the topic of your Speech and what they already know about it (so that you do not repeat it and bore the audience).

Finally, you should try to know how they feel about you as the Speaker and what they already know about you. The Speaker may be able to gauge this from the organizers of the event and the people who extended the invitation.

Third Principle: Sourcing the Information

This involves seeking out all the available means for finding materials to support the Speech. Good sources are newspapers, magazines, books, journals, or any reading material full of useful information. Search engines on the Internet such as Google or Yahoo may also be used. However, the best resource are people, especially the experts or those who are involved in the field to which the topic belongs. A Speech on “How to Take Care of Your Heart” may be built on reading materials, but a cardiologist (heart doctor) may give more accurate data while someone who has suffered a heart attack can provide real-life experiences that a Speaker may use to reach out and touch the Audience.

Information for any Speech topic must be relevant, that is, it discusses the topic directly; must be timely, meaning it focuses on the present or recent past; and must cover most, if not all, of the topic (unless the topic focuses only on a part of a general subject or issue). Information gathered must be at the level of knowledge of both the Speaker and the Audience, without offending any Listener.

Fourth Principle: Outlining and Organizing the Speech Content

This makes sense of all the research conducted. With all the information gathered for the Speech topic, it is quite easy to be overwhelmed. Although one may want to use all the information gathered, that is not possible, particularly since there is a time limit.

The first step is to sort the information into categories: statistics, testimonies and opinions, historical facts, etc. Or they may be classified according to the point they are making, specifically, that part of the topic to be discussed.

The next step is to organize the Speech itself. For this, the best method is an outline. Even a Manuscript Speech and a Memorized Speech begin with an outline, which is then filled out with supporting materials. There are different types of outlines that one can use depending on how the Speech is to be organized:

  1. Chronological Outline – a historical/time approach like from the past to the present.
    Example: Development of Ilocos Region from Martial Law to the Present
  2. Spatial/Geographical Outline – going from one place to another, from one direction to another.
    Example: The Heritage Churches of Pampanga
  3. Cause and Effect Outline – involves a discussion of both cause and effect of an issue.
    Example: The Fish Kill in Laguna de Bay Problem-Solution Outline – explains a problem and suggests a possible solution.
    Example: Cleaning Up Manila Bay
  4. Topical Outline – divides the topic into subtopics based on importance or interest value or simply because the topic requires it; for topics that do not fall under any of the previously mentioned outlines.
    Example: Social Media Have Made Us Anti-Social

Once there is an Outline, it will be easier to know which supporting material to use where. The outline also helps in pointing out whether a material may be useful or not.

There are two techniques to actually writing the speech, whether in full form for Manuscript or Memorized Speeches, or in outline form for Impromptu and Extemporaneous Speeches. The first technique is to Write the Body of the Speech first, filling in the content of the Speech later with supporting materials. Then write the Introduction and Conclusion after. The other technique is to Write the Conclusion first, which many find very helpful because it shows what the Speech ends with. On the other hand, some use the technique of Writing the Introduction first to guide the Speech in the direction one wants it to go, then filling in the Body and writing the Conclusion. Remember that for Extemporaneous (and even Impromptu) Speech, only the Introduction and the Conclusion can be written out in full. The Body of the Speech should remain in outline form.

Whichever technique works for you, the Speech, as written, should flow logically from one point to another. This logical progression makes it easy for the Speaker to Deliver the Speech whether in full form like the Manuscript or Memorized Speeches or in outline form like the Impromptu and Extemporaneous Speeches. As a reminder, do not forget the Audience when writing the Speech. They may have their own ideas and opinions about the topic of your Speech that may not necessarily agree with those of the Speaker.