The Most Glaring Speechwriting Mistake

Christopher Witt —  October 25, 2017 — Leave a comment

Avoid this mistake when writing a speechThere are many advantages to writing out a speech.

But there are mistakes, too, that you can make, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro.

Writing your speech (not just outlining it, but writing it word for word) allows you to:

  • Clarify in your own mind what you want to say, what’s important
  • Make your speech tighter, more focused, more logical
  • Strengthen the transitions from one point to the next
  • Eliminate redundancies, digressions and tangential material, unnecessary phrases and sentences
  • Create emotionally engaging and memorable passages
  • Craft a story that builds through tension and suspense to a satisfying and insightful conclusion

Check out Should You Write Out Your Speech?

You may not have the time to write out every speech you give, but you owe it to your audience and to yourself to write out those speeches that have a lot riding on them.

(Or–shameless plug–you could have me or some other speechwriter help you.)

When writing a speech, there is one mistake you’ll want to avoid.

The most glaring speechwriting mistake is to make it sound like it’s written.

A written speech is, of course, written. But it should be written in a way that doesn’t sound as if it has been written. It should be written for the ear, not for the eye, to be heard, not to be read.

It should sound natural, almost conversational, like the dialogue in a well-written movie or play.

Most people will tell you to keep your sentences short and to avoid big words. It’s as if they want you to sound like a bad imitation of Ernest Hemingway.

I think you should sound like yourself at your wittiest, most articulate, most authentic moments. 

Your aim is first to make yourself understood, second to engage your audience’s hearts and minds in a way that wins them to your way of thinking, and third–if possible–to beguile them.

As you write your speech, speak it out loud. Does it sound natural? Does it sound like something you might actually say? Does it flow out of your mouth effortlessly? If so, great.

If not, if your speech sounds like writing, not like speech, rewrite it.

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Christopher Witt

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Chris Witt was born in Los Angeles, California. He currently lives in San Diego. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach.

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