How to Write and Give a Speech: A Practical Guide for Anyone Who Has to Make Every Word Count

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9781250041074: How to Write and Give a Speech: A Practical Guide for Anyone Who Has to Make Every Word Count

With more than 65,000 copies sold in two editions and recommended by Forbes and U.S. News & World Report, this newly updated how to guide offers sound advice on every aspect of researching, writing, and delivering an effective speech. Filled with anecdotes, tips, examples, and practical advice, this accessible guide makes one of the most daunting tasks manageable-and even fun.

Speaking coach Joan Detz covers everything from the basics to the finer points of writing and delivering a speech with persuasion, style, and humor.

Topics include:

- Assessing your audience
- Researching your subject-and deciding what to leave out
- Keeping it simple
- Using imagery, quotations, repetition, and humor
- Special-occasion speeches
- Speaking to international audiences
- Using Power Point and other visual aids
- And many more

Updated to include new examples and the latest technology, as well as a section on social media, this is a must-have for anyone who writes and delivers speeches, whether novices or experienced veterans at the podium.

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About the Author:

JOAN DETZ is also the author of Can You Say a Few Words? and It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It. She coaches executives, offers media training, and conducts presentation skills workshops for major organizations around the world. A popular presenter at professional conferences, she also teaches seminars in public speaking and speechwriting. She lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:



A talk is a voyage. It must be charted. The speaker who starts nowhere, usually gets there.
It usually starts out simple: You get a phone call or an e-mail inviting you to speak at an event. Maybe your alma mater wants you to come back to campus and talk about your career. Maybe the local Chamber of Commerce just wants you to say a few words about your business at the chamber’s next meeting. Maybe your favorite charitable organization wants you to stand up and share your expertise with the rest of the members.
But sometimes it’s not so simple. Perhaps your boss wants you to give a presentation at a nationwide convention. Perhaps you’re asked to participate in a podcast or a webinar. Perhaps your professional organization invites you to speak at an international conference.
What do you do?
Do you automatically say “yes” and then start scrambling to pull some remarks together?
Not if you’re smart.
Remember: A speaking invitation is exactly that—it’s an invitation. You have options. You get to decide if you:
• immediately accept the invitation exactly as they offered it (I don’t recommend this)
• accept the invitation with some minor changes (for example, ask them if they can adjust the schedule a bit to accommodate your travel requirements)
• thank the conference chair for the invitation and say you’ll need a few days to review your calendar before giving them an answer (this discreetly allows you to determine if the event is worth your while)
• let the organization know you’d love to speak with their members, but it’s not possible this month (then suggest some months when your calendar would permit)
• graciously decline
The point is: It’s an invitation, not a subpoena. And as the invited speaker, you have some choices.
The time to position yourself for speaking success is right now—when you first accept the invitation and set the terms of your talk. Why agree to speak for thirty minutes if you know you can cover the topic in fifteen? Why accept their 4 P.M. speaking slot (which will complicate your airport commute) when you can ask to speak at 2:30?
Begin by asking yourself, “What do I really want to say?” Then be ruthless in your answer. You have to focus your subject. You can’t include everything in one speech.
Let me repeat that so 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 example, if you’re speaking to a community group about your corporate ethics, don’t think you have to give them a complete history of your company, too.
If you’re speaking to an alumni group to raise funds for your university, don’t throw in a section on the problems of America’s high schools.
If you’re speaking to a local school about the need for new foreign language studies, don’t go off on a tangent about the principal’s salary.
Get the picture? You’re giving a speech, not a dissertation. You can’t include every wise thought that’s ever crossed your mind.
Remember Voltaire’s observation: “The secret of being a bore is to tell everything.”
Suppose that you can’t think of anything to talk about.
Well, if you don’t know what to say, ask yourself some basic questions about your department, your company, your industry, whatever. Think like a reporter. Dig for good material.
•  Who? Who got us into this mess? Who can get us out? Who is really in charge? Who would benefit from this project? Who should get the credit for our success? Who should work on our team? Who will suffer if the merger fails?
•  What? What does this situation mean? What actually happened? What went wrong? What is our current status? What do we want to happen? What will the future bring? What is our greatest strength? What is our biggest weakness?
•  Where? Where do we go from here? Where can we get help? Where should we cut our budget? Where should we invest? Where should we look for expertise? Where do we want to be in five years? Where can we expand operations? Where will the next problem come from?
•  When? When did things start to go wrong? When did things start to improve? When did we first get involved? When will we be ready to handle a new project? When can the company expect to see progress? When will we make money? When will we be able to increase our staff?
•  Why? Why did this happen? Why did we get involved? Why did we not get involved? Why did we get involved so late? Why do we let this mess continue? Why are we holding this meeting? Why should we stick with this course of action? Why should we continue to be patient? Why did they start that program?
•  How? How can we get out of this situation? How did we ever get into it? How can we explain our position? How can we protect ourselves? How should we proceed? How should we spend the money? How will we develop our resources? How can we keep our good reputation? How can we improve our image? How does this program really work?
•  What if? What if we could change the tax laws? What if we build another plant? What if the zoning regulations don’t change? What if we expand into other subsidiaries? What if costs keep rising? What if we did better recruiting?
These questions should lead you to some interesting ideas. Need more inspiration? Visit a Web site from another field. Check out a blog with a different perspective. Read an academic journal from another discipline. Scan a magazine you don’t normally read. Look at a foreign publication. Follow an RSS feed for a week or two. Join a new LinkedIn group to discover what others think. Do something to get a fresh perspective.
In short, welcome inspiration wherever you find it. The American painter Grant Wood once admitted, “All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow.”
Mystery writer Agatha Christie confessed she got her best ideas while doing the dishes.
Author Willa Cather sought inspiration by reading Biblical passages.
So, learn to keep your eyes and ears open. Take your good ideas wherever you can get them.
Think less about the past and more about the future. Thomas Jefferson said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past.” Most audiences will feel the same way. Don’t bore them with a five-year historical review of your industry. Instead, tell them how your industry will impact their own lives over the coming year.
One good way to focus your content: Ask yourself, “If I only had sixty seconds at that lectern, what would I absolutely have to say to get my message across?” There’s nothing like a sixty-second limit to focus the mind!
Ask yourself, “What would interest this group?”
Media mogul Ted Turner once found himself in a situation where he was scheduled to give a speech in New York, but even en route to the city, he still had not decided on his message: “I just thought, what am I going to say?”
You can imagine the reaction from the dinner audience when Ted Turner announced he would give $1 billion to United Nations causes. Turner’s speech didn’t just make jaws drop in the audience. His speech transformed philanthropy.
Your speech doesn’t have to give away $1 billion. But it should be interesting.
And it can’t run long. I’ll give Thomas Jefferson the last word:
“Speeches that are measured by the hour will die with the hour.”

Copyright © 1984, 1992, 2002, 2014 by Joan Detz

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