Imagine you are developing a very important speech. You have identified the speech structure, the points, the stories, the beginning and ending, and you have written it out. You are now looking at the written words, trying to work out how to get the speech to the next level- and you are stumped. The speech could be for your wedding reception, a eulogy at a family funeral, a keynote at a conference, an important meeting, or even a speech competition. In this blog, I will explain some of the simple online tools I use to hone the words in my speeches.
My goal in speech writing is to have clear, concise information and stories that illustrate my points. When I am telling stories, I want the audience to have vivid details to the extent that they feel that they are actually witnessing the event.
The most important piece of advice I can give you is that every word has value in a speech, and getting to the exceptional level requires you to analyze words to see if you can find ones that give a better sentence flow and visual detail.
THESAURUS (MS-Word – Toolbar/Tools/Language/Thesaurus or Shift+F7)
I use the Microsoft Word Thesaurus extensively- whether I am writing speeches, blogs, newsletters, or even books. There are times that I find a specific word I use is getting repetitive in my sentences, so I use the thesaurus to come up with a different word. I want my sentences to stand out and clearly describe what I am saying.
Example sentence that would get changed:
“The speech title is an important part of a public speaker’s speech” – This is a clumsy sentence with too much word repetition. I would plug “speech” and “speaker” into the thesaurus and look to see if there are any better words to frame the sentence. If not, I would spend time playing with the sentence until it sounded better – “A good speech title will get the audience sitting up in their seats with interest, you immediately have their full attention”.
Another useful place to find an online thesaurus is http://www.thefreedictionary.com/dictionary.htm. It helps find more visual words in sections such as synonyms, related words, and antonyms. An online visual (MindMap style) thesaurus can be found at http://www.visualthesaurus.com/
IDIOMS (words that mean something other than the literal meaning)
To try and add additional quality to my writing, I will also check out what common idioms are available to see if I could weave them into a sentence. You can enter a word into the search engine of the following website http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/. If you type in “word” in the search engine it comes up with about 120 idioms. One of them is “take my word for it” – I decided that this would fit in the heading of this blog heading – Exceptional Presenters Get Noticed and Promoted – “Take my Word for It”.
I also find idioms useful for developing humor. I take a common idiom and change the last word.
When I am editing sentences to provide more visual details, I sometimes use my list of action verbs (internet search words “action verbs” will get you a compilation). I use them a lot when telling stories; it helps me bring the audience into my story and become part of it. Look how I started off this blog with an action verb – “Imagine you are developing a very important speech. You have identified the speech structure, the points, the stories, the beginning and ending, and you have written it out. You are now looking at the written words, trying to work out how to get the speech to the next level- and you are stumped”.
Quotations can also add color and detail to a speech. A quotation that relates to your subject matter can be used at the beginning of a speech, at the end, or even to enhance a point in the main part of it. It is appropriate to identify who the quotation owner is. You can see me using quotations in my demo video on my web site at www.davehillspeaks.com. One of my favorite quotation sites is http://www.quoteland.com/
WORD COUNT (MS-Word – Toolbar/Tools/Wordcount or Ctrl.+Shift+G)
If your speech needs to be a specific length, use the rule-of-thumb: 700 to 800 words = about 7 minutes of speech time. MS-Word has a toolbar which will automatically count your words in your Word Document.
FINAL NOTE – Putting It all Together
Envision (ACTION VERB) yourself sitting down writing a speech; you have used the thesaurus, idiom and quotations to bring depth to your sentences. As you sit looking proudly at your creativity, the words of Truman Capote come to mind – “To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make” (QUOTATION). Mark my words (IDIOM), these simple techniques will help you bring your speech writing to the next level.