HOW TO WRITE AND GIVE A SPEECH


About the Author

Joan Detz, the author of this text is a New York-based corporate speechwriter. Detz earned her Master of Arts degree in the English language from the College of William and Mary. Her speechwriting has earned her award of excellence from the International Association of Business Communicators.

Book Synopsis

Every page of the book is filled with professional advice, podium tested examples and practical tips that are useful for speech writing and delivery. The book instructs the reader how to focus on the topic, assess the audience, organise material, simplify and sharpen language and make humour function. The book also stresses on learning how to handle tough questions and answer sessions, deliver speeches with style and get good media coverage, getting information and the nitty-gritty details that can make or break a speech. In other words, you will learn proven ways to make speeches lively, interesting and memorable.

Book Structure

The book is segmented into 12 chapters.

Chapter 1 is interrogatively entitled So You’ve Been Asked to Give a Speech… Now what? If you are asked to come and give a speech, you don’t just race to the library to do some research nor hunt for some introductory jokes. If you are smart, begin, instead, by asking yourself, “what do I really want to see?” And then be ruthless in your answer. You must focus on your subject. You can’t include everything in one speech. Let me repeat that so that it sinks in: you can’t include everything in one speech. In fact, if you try to include everything, your audience will probably come away with nothing. Decide what you really want to say and don’t throw in any other material. For instance, if you are speaking to a community group about your corporate ethics, do not think that you must give them a complete history of your company. If you are speaking to an alumni group to raise funds for your university, do not throw in a section on the problems of high schools. If you are speaking to a chamber of commerce about the need for a new shopping centre, do not digress to the tax problems of small businesses. If you have nothing to say, ask yourself some basic questions about your department, your company, your industry, whatever, and think like a reporter. Better still, you should think like a child, more so that children always come up with great questions, probably because they are not afraid to show the ignorance. To get yourself off the challenge of not having what to see, you should ask questions such as what, where, when, and how? These questions will lead to some interesting ideas.

Chapter 2 of the book is entitled Assessing Your Audience. The author quotes Lord Chesterfield thus: “you must look into people, as well as at them.” Before you spend one minute researching your topic, before you write one word of your speech, first analyse your audience. You must try to determine how much the audience already knows about the subject, where they got information from, how much more they need to or want to know, et cetera. You must also try to determine the attitudes of the audience, especially why they are coming to hear you speak. Try to know the level of interest in the subject, whether voluntary or imposed on them by a boss. You should also try to find out if they will be hostile, friendly or apathetic. A word of caution about hostile audiences: don’t be too quick to assume that an audience will be hostile and never give a speech with a chip on your shoulder. Even if the audience doesn’t agree with your viewpoint, they may appreciate your open-mindedness, your careful reasoning, and your balanced approach. A word of advice about apathetic audiences: some people won’t be the least bit interested in your subject. Maybe they’re in the audience just because they were obligated to attend, or because it was a chance to get out of the office for a while. Granted, you may be interested in your subject, but you will find plenty of people who aren’t. Surprise them. Startle them. Wake them up. Use anecdotes and examples and humour to keep the attention. In this chapter and audience assessment, the author also discusses sub-concepts such as preconceived notions, size, age, gender ratio, economic status, educational background, political orientation, cultural life, et cetera.

In Chapters 3 to 6, the author examines concepts such as where and when you will speak, how to research a speech, writing the speech and how to simplify your speech.

Chapter 7 is about style in speechwriting and delivery. Business executives, politicians, and civic leaders give thousands of speeches every day. Most of these are forgotten as soon as the audience leaves the room – if not sooner. But, some speeches do linger in the minds and hearts of audiences. What makes these speeches special? Style. Speeches with style have a certain ring that makes them easy to remember as they have a psychological appeal that makes them seem important to remember. Speeches with style create an impact that makes them irresistibly quotable. The author offers different techniques that professional speechwriters can use as tripartite division, parallelism, imagery, inversion of elements, and repetition.

In Chapters 8 to 11, the author discusses concepts such as how to make humour more functional, special occasion speeches, the nitty-gritty details and delivery.

Chapter 12 is entitled Media Coverage. Your speech probably won’t merit coverage on network television news, but there are lots of other ways to get good publicity for your speech. Start small and work your way up the publicity scale. Begin with the basics and do as much as your budget and your time will allow – and, yes, as much as your material will allow. Face it – not all speeches are newsworthy! If you expect the media to pay attention to a routine speech, you will be disappointed. The author identifies nine ways by which you can get good publicity for your speech as giving it a catchy title, distribution of copies to the audience, giving a copy to your employee information on staff, sending an advance copy of the speech to the trade publication that serves your business, sending an advance copy to a nearby colleges and universities, preparing news releases for newspapers and local radio/TV, appearing on a radio or TV interview programme, reprinting the speech and taking a direct mail approach, and submitting a copy to fight our speeches.

Evaluation

The language of the book is simple and the presentation very sequential and logical. This is expected, given that the author is a professional communicator. To ensure concrete conviction on the reader as part, Detz generously employs classical/literary allusions. She injects a good dose of conceptual creativity and detailed analysis to arouse interest and achieve notional clarity respectively.

However, the error of notional Concord (notional inconsistency) is noticed on page 6, “even the audience doesn’t agree with your viewpoint, they might appreciate…” In this sentence, a third person singular verb does and a third person plural personal pronoun they are used with the word audience, showing conceptual discollocation. Even though English is gradually adopting this style of discollocation, purist still believe there is no grammatical justification for it.

Overall, the book is a masterpiece. Do you want to master the art of speechwriting and delivery? Then you need this book. It is simply irresistible.

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