Our tips on writing a speech for someone else

What’s harder than writing a speech for yourself?

Writing a speech for someone else.

The speechwriter has a difficult job: get the speaker to explain what they want to say, translate it into a memorable speech, make it sound natural and credible, and have the speaker deliver it as created. 

Not always easy. So here are a few tips.

  • At the first meeting, record your conversation with the speaker. Get their instinctive first key thoughts on tape. Listen for the types of words that come naturally from their lips. Listen for distinctive speech patterns that make them who they are.
  • Really listen to the way they speak. Get their voice inside your head. Then mimic it.
  • Ask them what’s the one thing they want the audience to take away from their speech. Write it out as one simple sentence. This is the controlling idea of the speech.
  • Make sure you have a dynamite opening that hooks the audience.
  • Create the speech by talking out loud, mimicking the speaker’s voice.
  • Keep the sentences short. Give the speaker plenty of time to control emphasis, pacing. And plenty of time to breathe.
  • Don’t write the script as a mass of grey text. Write the script with one thought per line, with double spacing to indicate emphasis. This way the speaker finds it easy to deliver, and they are starting to think you are golden.
  • Have the speaker rehearse the speech out loud. Make any necessary changes if your words are not coming smoothly from her or his lips.
  • Respect the speaker. If they say it doesn’t feel right, change it.
  • Try for one more rehearsal out loud before the speaker actually delivers the speech.

The role of the speechwriter is to motivate, inspire and reach an audience through someone else. It’s a special skill to be able to make sure both the speaker and the audience are happy.

Always remember it’s not you speaking. So it’s important to work collaboratively with the speaker as much as possible.

And regardless of who’s delivering the speech, always remember it’s all about the audience. So, ask not what the speaker should say.  Ask what the audience needs to hear.

Halina St James, founder of Podium Coaching and creator of TalkitOut

Halina St James takes the worry out of presentations with her Present Like a Pro video training course. It’s available now from the Podium Coaching online store, together with her popular TalkitOut: From Fears to Cheers e-book and workbook.