How to Write a Speech in 5 Minutes
Making a really great speech or presentation requires a great deal of preparation and practice. In an ideal world, you would always have time to plan, rehearse and perfect your words of wisdom. However, sometimes things don’t work out that way.
A number of times in my speaking career I have had to pull something together at very short notice, either because another presenter dropped out, or because I was visiting an office where the local manager unexpectedly asked me to make a speech to all of the local staff. Here is a simple process to enable you to prepare a speech at very, very short notice (or presentation – its a presentation tip too)…
Getting Started on the Speech
Ideally you will need eight post it notes. If you haven’t got them, just grab a sheet of paper and fold it in half. Fold it in half again. And once more. Quickly, there’s no time to waste! Now, tear along the folds. Either way, you now have eight pieces of paper, and hopefully a pen. You’re ready to star(t).
Who is the Speech for…
Always begin with the audience. What do you know about them? What do they know about you? Write down a few bullet points on the first piece of paper. Who you are, in the context of how it is relevant to the audience.
What is the Speech for…
Does the audience or the person who invited you have an expectation of what you will talk about? Be sure to meet it, or cover it as best you can. Failing to do so will definitely cause angst.
Now think about what will be in the speech. Let your brain free wheel for a minute. Write each of your main ideas on one of the remaining pieces of paper. You don’t want more than seven. Research suggests that we can deal with 7 things in our head at once, plus or minus two. This isn’t the time to go stretching your cognitive abilities, so stick with 5-7 main ideas.
If you come up with more than seven, look through your earlier ideas, then find the weakest one and cross it out, replacing it with the better new one. It is a neat way to refine your speech.
Think back to what you were expected to cover and sanity check what you have written. That clock is still ticking, so…
When and Where
Check how long the speech should be. 7-15 minutes is a great length. It will seem substantial, but shouldn’t drag on. Check where you are. Can you link your speech in to the location? Perhaps based on a piece of local news you have read.
Now, to the when and where of each of your main points. Lay out the pieces of paper. They should fit one of three structures: topical, chronological or spatial. That will give you a natural order for them. In a topical structure you will see that some things must be covered before you touch on the other topics, or that some link together. In a chronological structure you probably want to start at the beginning and more forwards from there. In a spatial one there will also be a natural flow too. You now have your main points arranged in order.
Now you have the sequence, think about how you will make each point, and how you will bridge between each point. Jot down your proof points, or for a longer speech your sub-points, on the relevant piece of paper. At the end of the piece of paper for each point, make a note of your bridge to the next point. The bridges should help to create the story, and will make your points more memorable if done well. If you can’t think of a bridge, the next step may help…
Why is the Speech Relevant
Why are you giving the speech? Look back to your first piece of paper where you wrote about the audience. Why are you making the speech, and why are you the right person to give it? This should constitute your introduction. For example,
“As I have started and sold a number of high value companies, Dave has asked me to say a few words about how to create a valuable business, now that you have secured your funding.”
Well, you get the idea. It should establish your ethos (in Aristotle’s Rhetoric this is your expertise and knowledge).
Check back over the pieces of paper with your main points. The ‘why’ should tie them together. You might need to make a quick adjustment if it doesn’t. In the introduction to a longer speech you can also briefly run through the points you will cover in it, if not, just a summary in a couple of sentences. Remember:
“Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em. Tell ’em. Then tell ’em again.”
You now have your introduction and your middle (main points). Finally, think about your conclusion. Ideally it should draw on your key points, without introducing any new ones. It should also provide some sort of call to action: a response or a commitment. You aren’t speaking just to generate warm air, you are there to make something happen. Make it so. Note it down.
You now have your completed speech, and read through the points a few times. Congratulations. If you have time between now and speaking, then practice your speech. Nothing beats a rehearsal for finding problems (it also helps with memory). Practice on the taxi driver on the way if you have to, but speak it out loud. The physical process of ‘out loud’ rehearsal is much more effective than just running it through in your head. If you need slides and have time, try this:
- Slide 1 – Your speech title and name.
- Slide 2 – x. One bullet point in the middle of one slide, with that one point in bullet form. But without the bullet.
- Last slide – Copy and paste slide 1. Save it. Done.
If you know of an image that will effectively support your point, it is to hand, then add it. Otherwise, you’re done. Who, What, When, Where, How and Why – a speech in 5 minutes.
Great article on writing a speech. I especially like the tell em, tell em, and tell em again part. I am still always amazed at how the message can be lost or misunderstood.
People always take in less that you expect. Remember, you know what you are going to tell them. That is a massive head start, so give the audience a chance to catch up!
Great information shared here! Thanks for sharing, I’m going to try out these techniques myself.
I didn’t quite understand the “spatial structure.” Could you amplify a bit on that?
Interesting post. Only 7 headings at first confused me; I expected 8 bits after the 8 paper idea.
Good stuff. I will attempt to apply it to simplify blog writing.
@Stan – Think of spatial structure this way: where there is an aspect of location to the topics, for example talking about eight different office locations, or the different parts of a building. It makes for interesting possibilities in ordering and delivering the speech.
@Steven Shows how hard communication is! But I’m glad you figured it out, and hope it helps with the blog writing.
Thanks, Benjamin. That cleared it up!
Nice article, Benjamin. I think you’ve captured the essence of good speechwriting really well while abandoning some of the more fluffy advice that usually gets bandied around.
I’m a semi-lapsed member of the Isis Toastmasters club in Oxford, and having read this I’m tempted to get back on the public speaking horse… ;o)
Ah… More toastmasters alumni 🙂 – everyone should do toastmasters for a bit… A few of the local companies here now pay for membership for any of their staff that want to join. Good on them (he says, with his slightly biased club-president hat on)!
[…]the speeches were excellently prepared. Standing up in front of an audience for the first time […]
A fantastic site, and brilliant effort. A great piece of work.,
Thank you @Letty and @Deryck!
Thanx for making such a great site for speech writing. It was really helpful since i was stuck and didnt know how to write the speech i was assigned to. Great Website and “brilliant effort”.
Thank you Sarah! More on speech writing in the next few months.
I hope that u people you are great because of created such a great website for speech……………
Nice! I like how the article conveys this sense of urgency that you feelf when you have to write a speech instantly. And I like that you put the audience as the first and most important point. Many people forget that easily.
great way to write a speech
Great post! In a bind, these easy steps will get anyone to write an effective speech.
One comment: could you expand on the spatial flow of information a bit?
Amazing, I needed to make a candidacy speech for my school, and this really helped me. Thanks for a great piece
Thanks Chris – hope it goes well!
Very precise info. I am in public speaking right now, and this info is good knowledge for real world applications.
this really helped me thanks
I’m about to write my “Graduation-speech” and this REALLY helped me to do so.
Thanks a lost for an awesome “how to” 🙂
[…] to write a speech in five […]
what if i am doing a speech for a class treasure?
your website is exelent…
thanks for making this..
it helps me a lot..
1 comment:can you expand more on spatial flow of information..
Thanks for the info Benjamin. I have to write a speech for school and am having a hard time. but your site realy helpd.
I had a hard time writing a speech but with this article i now understand how to write a speech.. thanks so much,it really helped.. 😉
i have recently just started TAFE and this helped with my speech on Elephants allot.
I wish i had found this earlier .
I like it (student fgc jos Nigeria)
Nice one! Mr.Benjamin, i’m in a taxi and I read this, already it feels like I have prepared my speech without writing anything.
thanks very much for the info
they really helped me a lot
[…] http://redcatco.com/blog/communication/how-to-write-a-speech-in-5-minutes/ […]
hi im about to do a speech comptition.i have got the topic already.if you have somes advices for me please help me
U saved my life. I have a speech due in 1 day and I had no idea how to write it. But now I do.
I have a speech due in one day too thank you this website was very helpfull!
Hello Mackenzie – very glad it helped you!