Memorable Speech Writing
Being asked to give a speech at a public event such as a wedding or a funeral is enough to make even the most relaxed person break out into a cold sweat. However, coming up with material for a memorable speech doesn't have to be as painful as it seems. The following are some ideas on how to approach this type of writing task.
- Consider your listeners: Will you be speaking to friends and family? Colleagues? Strangers? Think about who will be in the audience and adjust your tone and your language respectively. Use a formal or informal approach as you feel appropriate. If unsure about how to proceed, or if there will be a mixed audience, follow your gut instinct. As long as the speech is sincere, it is likely to be well-received.
- Say it with a quote: Figuring out how to begin may be the hardest part. One effective opener is that of a favourite quote - either one's own or that of the person being honored. Choose one that clearly evokes the personality of the one you are speaking about. Alternatively, start off with a quote that expresses a universal sentiment - something everyone can relate to.
- Tell a story: Another way to get started is with a personal anecdote related to the subject of your speech. If you are writing about your daughter's wedding, for example, you may want to share a memory from her childhood that evokes your feelings for her. If eulogizing a friend, you may want to talk about a particular moment with that person that is special to you. It doesn't have to be profound - only meaningful. Something as simple as singing along to the radio or going hiking with someone can set a mood of appreciation and connectedness.
- Be creative: Standard literary devices, such as metaphor and simile, can help you get your point across elegantly and succinctly. Combining different media, such as music or slides, can also help convey what words can't. Play with different ideas of presentation; speeches don't have to be synonymous with boring.
- Rehearse repeatedly: This may sound obvious, but read your piece out loud several times before you consider it finished. Listen to the rhythm and the sound of the words, the inflections you give them. Are you satisfied? Is your speech easy to give? A good speech should feel natural, just as if you were having a conversation with someone. Remember that a line that looks good on paper may become quite a tongue-twister once you try to say it. Choose your words carefully, with performance in mind.
- Leave lots of space in your prose: Think about where you want to breathe or pause to let the audience contemplate what you have said. You could give the most brilliant insight, but if you plough right over it without a stop, it won't be effective. Give your words a chance to sink in.
- Think holistically: Are there any actions you wish to incorporate into the piece (such as giving a toast or presenting a gift)? If so, you will want to take these into account while writing, setting up a good moment.
- Use tasteful humor: Regardless of the event, a little levity always helps. Some worry that laughter is not appropriate at serious events, such as a business meeting or a funeral, but in fact, that is when it can be the most powerful means to open people to your message. Be sensitive, but be light.
- Write from the heart: Glib might be clever, but honest is better. Think about what this person (or occasion) really means to you. If the answer is nothing, you may want to question whether or not to give the speech. If you have no choice in the matter, try to think of what the person (or event) means to the others in attendance, and shape your piece accordingly. In the end, giving a speech is a public service, and as much an honour to write as to be recognized within it.