Have you got that big presentation coming? Or, perhaps, it’s just a regular meeting, but you still want it to go smoothly.
Writing a speech for a presentation is a prerequisite for its success. No ifs or buts.
In this article, we shall explore how you can craft a speech that will work perfectly for your presentation.
Why Do You Do This?
This is the question we all need to ask more often, and not just when it comes to presentations.
What is the ultimate goal of your speech?
Often that variable is given: e.g., your boss may have given you the assignment to introduce the company to the new employees.
However, sometimes, you need to do a little more digging. This is especially relevant for business propositions.
“Ask not what our business can do for you, ask what you can do for our business” should be your principle in the speech and in life.
If you are a software engineer, perhaps, you’ve noticed a security issue that needs fixing.
If you are an SEO company, maybe, you can help that other business optimize its website.
Your presentation and speech must revolve around the solution to the supposed issue. This should eliminate vagueness and really pique the audience’s interest.
How Do You Do This?
What stylistic should I go for? How do I structure my speech? How do I make it perfect?
Let’s tackle all these fundamental questions (and more) one by one.
The Stylistic of a Speech for Presentation
Before you do as much as pin down your first sentence, you must know exactly what tone you are trying to emulate.
Do not try to sound too smart, too grandiloquent. Go for a casual, conversational tone.
You simply can’t hide the lack of substance with pretty fluff. Words matter, but only when they make sense.
You need to gear your speech towards an appropriate age/industry/national group. Thorough audience research should help.
A basic example would be avoiding the 70s slang when presenting to Gen Z. The same applies to specific terms, cultural and professional references.
Rhetorical devices help keep the audience’s interest and attention span longer.
There is a simple question to be asked first:
What do you appeal for: logos, pathos, ethos? Do you mean to inform, inspire, build credibility?
Your overarching rhetorical strategy will, of course, depend on your goal.
If you are a stakeholder reporting on the net income growth, you may want to focus on logically structuring your data.
If you are an environmental activist, you should steer your speech towards emotional topics such as the future of our children.
If you are a company looking to garner those investments, you definitely want to appear credible and trustworthy.
Of course, a good speech is a combination of logic, emotion, and proof, with a little slant towards the dominating approach.
The Structure of a Speech for Presentation
While a tone of voice and rhetorical devices definitely enhance your speech, a structure is a foundation.
To ensure your speech has a solid structure, you should follow the steps described below.
Brainstorming and Researching
Once you know the presentation’s topic and purpose, you can start brainstorming.
Brainstorming doesn’t have to be orderly. Just write down everything that comes to mind.
Once you are done spreading chaos over the blank canvas, you can start organizing your ideas.
Some you can discard after just a bit of logical analysis. Some will require a lot more research and careful consideration.
Do not just assume that you know everything, even if you’ve been an expert for many years. After all, some knowledge you hold dear to the heart may already be outdated.
In addition to regular research, you should pick your co-workers’ brains. They can offer insights you haven’t thought of before or a completely new perspective.
Talk to existing customers, run a survey, find proof that you are not alone in your ideas.
Do not limit your research to your own head. As great as it may be, you cannot outsmart the entire world.
In any case, once you’ve assembled your dream team of ideas, you can get down to serious business, also known as batching in professional circles.
Batching Ideas and Matching Examples
Batch your ideas into groups > Combine similar ideas into one > Put them in the order of priority.
You want to put your most important ideas first, since this is where people pay the most attention.
This is an ideal time to create an outline. It should guide you further through the speech writing process.
Once that is done, you can start matching your ideas with corresponding examples.
There can never be too few examples. However, the general rule is at least one example per idea.
It’s best if you can think of something from your own experience. Add a little personal touch – that is sure to resonate with the audience.
For example, if you are a quality engineer, you may talk about how your proposed decision once helped the company decrease scrap by 5%.
When relevant, it’s recommended to dress your ideas in cohesive infographics. These should make the content of your speech much more compelling.
And don’t lie – the truth will be out one day, and it won’t be pretty.
Writing a Killer Script
Now that you’ve amassed all the necessary information and crafted an outline, you can start writing.
We want to emphasize one more time that an outline is not enough.
There’s been too many presentations that failed because the speaker just couldn’t bother with the script.
Your speech normally includes the following elements:
1) Short intro
But not too short. In a couple of sentences, you should mention your name/company, explain why the audience should listen to you, hook them with a story or shocking statistics, and transition smoothly into the actual speech.
2) Main body
This is where you do your ideas/examples part.
The tactic here should be to enunciate the idea, provide an example, summarize, and transition to the next idea.
Do not be afraid to repeat yourself. In fact, the more you reiterate information, the higher chance is that your audience will pay attention and remember.
In the end, you should summarize the key takeaways and end it all with a bang, aka call to action.
Q&A is necessary in too many cases to be ignored.
Allot at least 10-20 minutes for this part (factor in the length of your speech and the number of participants).
It may be even longer if your goal is to present and sell a product.
State your unique selling proposition/main takeaways one more time and provide some contact information.
And do not leave the room immediately. Some people may come up to discuss business opportunities or simply express their gratitude. You do not want to miss out on that.
Editing and Rehearsing
This is an often overlooked but nonetheless critical part of any speech writing journey. What is important here? Let’s break it down.
Consider the Timeframe
Now that you have your script, you can try presenting it within the allotted interval.
Here we would like to stress that this should not be the first time you even think about time constraints. It’s worth looking up the average word count for the length of your speech in advance.
However, only while practicing can you discover the number that works for you.
Perhaps, you did not account for pauses after rhetorical questions, and now you need to make your speech shorter.
Perhaps, you practiced so much that the speech is done after just 7 minutes instead of the required 10. In this case, you can add a bit more substance to the text.
Only while practicing can you figure out if your speech truly flows and fits the designated timeframe.
Ask for Opinions
Let’s say you think your speech is perfect. You may want to just round it all up and call it a day. However, this is not the right way of going about it.
Sometimes you may be incapable of spotting your own mistakes. This issue is especially pronounced when you don’t write for your regular audience.
Even after thorough research, there is a chance of failure.
The jargon you think everyone gets may, in reality, be obscure. The jokes may fall flat or even offend the participants. Some references may be culturally inappropriate or, at best, unfamiliar.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion before you finalize your speech and put it all aside.
Ideally, you would want to find an editor from the same generational/industry/cultural group as your audience. However, any editor is better than none.
Precaution is always welcome, especially when stakes are high. By asking for opinions, you can avoid embarrassing moments or even losing your job.
Bonus Tip: Adding Speech to Speaker Notes
Make this final touch once your speech is ready.
You should create your presentation based on the speech – this is obvious.
There are various presentation software types. Here is a helpful guide to help you choose.
Every slide in that presentation should correspond to a particular milestone in the speech: introduction, idea #1, example #1, idea #2, example #2, Q&A, conclusion, etc.
To make the job easier, add speaker notes to every slide. Speaker notes should contain the part of your speech that is relevant for a particular slide.
You may, of course, write your speaker notes on the good old sheet of paper. While perceived as old-fashioned by some, convenience should come first.
The Bottom Line
Writing a speech for presentation is a long and arduous process.
They say you need to spend one hour for every minute of your speech. While that does sound extreme, the truth is not far from that estimate.
Let’s reiterate it one more time. To write a great speech for your presentation, you should:
1) Establish the goal of your presentation
2) Make stylistic choices such as the tone, rhetorical devices in advance
3) Brainstorm and research ideas
4) Batch ideas into groups and find relevant examples
5) Write a script consisting of intro, main body, Q&A, and conclusion
Edit and rehearse the speech based on the allotted time and experts’