Crafting an impactful and persuasive speech is an art that revolves around a set of timeless principles. Whether you’re addressing a small audience or delivering a keynote speech to a large crowd, understanding the fundamental principles of speech writing is essential for conveying your message with clarity, resonance, and lasting impact. In this article, we’ll explore the key principles that can elevate your speechwriting skills, empowering you to captivate your audience and leave a lasting impression.
Choosing the Topic
The speaker’s topic should be something interesting not only to the audience but also to themselves. This interest will manifest in their research and delivery. As a public speaker, if you have a great desire to learn something and share what you have learned with others (e.g., an informative speech), the process of writing your speech would be much easier. Your confidence, enthusiasm, and genuine interest in sharing new information will also be reflected in your speech delivery.
Once you have chosen a topic, you must define your purpose for speaking. As discussed in Lesson 4, the general purpose of a public presentation can be to entertain, inform, persuade, or commemorate, and you need a specific purpose or goal for your speech. For instance, you may want to persuade your audience to vote for a particular presidential candidate, or you may want to educate your classmates about the risks of plagiarism.
Finally, you need to determine the main idea of your speech by developing a thesis statement. A thesis statement is a sentence that describes the most important point of your chosen topic.
Analyzing the Audience
To present an effective speech, a speechwriter must clearly identify their target audience. This can be done through audience analysis, involving identifying the characteristics of the audience and preparing a speech that accommodates or adapts to these characteristics. The types of audience can be categorized according to their level of interest in your topic. Their purposes for listening, demographics, including attitudes and cultural backgrounds, are also factors considered in audience analysis.
Audiences may range from those not very interested in your speech to those required to listen and those who share the same interests. It is easier to catch the attention of listeners already interested in the topic, but it is crucial that the speaker maintains their interest throughout the speech. A speaker may resort to sensationalizing the topic to grab the audience’s attention, but in the end, what matters is how informative and relevant the content is.
The speaker must also identify the goals or motives of their listeners. By being aware of the audience’s purpose, the speaker can clearly set goals for delivering the speech and meet these audience expectations.
Demographics include the size of the audience and the gender, age, and background of the listeners.
The size of the audience should be considered when determining the style of language to use in delivering the speech. A small audience can be approached using a more informal style of language, and personal experiences may be included in the speech to develop an intimate or comfortable atmosphere. On the other hand, a formal style of language would be more appropriate for a large audience. Identifying appropriate topics is also challenging for larger audiences due to their more varied interests.
The table below lists down the features of the formal and informal styles of language. It is important to consider not only the kind of audience but also the speaking situation or occasion when choosing the most appropriate style to use. As in almost any kind of writing, the style must be consistent throughout the speech.
|Conversational, casual, and spontaneous
|Diction or word choice is carefully chosen, avoiding words with negative connotations
|May use connotative words or exaggerations
|Avoids use of contractions, colloquialisms, or slang
|Makes use of contractions, idiomatic expressions, phrasal verbs, and slang
|Makes use of the third person pronoun
|Makes use of the first-person pronouns “I” and “We”
|Often used in academic or professional contexts
|Used in informal contexts, relaxed settings
|Makes use of passive constructions
|Sentence structures are mostly in the active voice
|Makes use of jargon, technical terms
|Makes use of infinitives and repetitions, and the delivery may also allow the use of fillers
In some traditional cultures, gender often determines the interests of the audience. Speakers must take care not to offend, stereotype, or disregard members of the audience belonging to a particular gender group.
A speaker should adjust their speech by determining the kind of language, words, and topics that are appropriate to the age of the audience.
The organization the listeners belong to, such as their religious or political affiliations, should also be taken into consideration. The speaker’s knowledge of their background helps in identifying their interests and being aware of their values, avoiding topics they may find offensive. The audience’s educational background, social status, and ethnicity are also considered in speech preparation.
Attitudes, Beliefs, and Values
Attitudes, which determine one’s responses to situations; beliefs, or the inherent views of concepts considered to be the truth; and values, which constitute the principles or beliefs that are considered worthy, all influence one’s tendency to be persuaded by an argument or interested in new information.