Updated: Apr 20
It is hard to remember how you learned to read, or add, or subtract.
But there was a method:
And now you can do it!
It is the very same for speech writing.
There is a method -
Use the method every time
And you can do it!
Before you begin - consider the purpose of your speech.
Are you informing, inspiring, educating, making your audience laugh?
Think about this; it will help to align your thinking and the language within the speech.
Creating your points:
The ‘Scatter Gather Sort See’ technique stands up to the test of delivering a speech on an international stage, global stage, conference stage, a commencement stage, a family gathering or a class presentation speech.
Like many effective methods, it is simple.
Scatter your ideas...
Gather up the really relevant ideas...
See means to visualise – we will explore this in greater detail when discussing delivery.
Many people make the mistake of taking up the pen, addressing the page, chewing the end of the pen and eventually marking the page with something like…
“Ladies and Gentlemen…’
Having read this article, it is my hope that that will never happen …. never ever again!
Yes, take up a pen; yes, address the page, however the marks made should be scattered all over the page. Scatter your ideas - all of them, related and unrelated. Go off piste, go wherever your mind takes you. Mark everything you can think of in relation to your speech subject.
Don’t judge, just make your marks.
Mark means to write.
Your page should have lots and lots of one liners, single words and groups of words. Give yourself permission to go far and wide with your thoughts. One thought will lead to another; go with it. Pull ideas in from past experiences, books you have read, historical events, funny situations, memories, research … and the list goes on. Spend time on this part. This is the part of speech preparation where you are creating your content.
Once you have scattered (and I would advocate you take a break and revisit the scatter page before you deem it complete), you are now ready to Gather.
Gathering your thoughts and ideas is the part of speech preparation where you will use both the creative and the logical side of your brain.
Creative where you decide what thoughts and ideas ‘go together’ from a creative perspective;
Logical where you decide what thoughts and ideas ‘go together’ from a logical perspective.
Allow for both.
On a practical note, I use a coloured pen for this part and I circle the ‘related ideas’ in different colours. The first time you do this, you may find that you need lots of colours as you struggle to find relationships between the ideas you have scattered and therefore, you may attribute different colours for every idea.
Stop this practice!
Ultimately each colour is going to represent a point within your speech. An audience member will not be happy to sit patiently through a speech of 20 points …. perhaps 3 or 4 at an exceptional push!
Work hard on this and use your creativity and logic!
You will know you are ready to move on when you have used just 3 colours. Many of your scattered ideas will be circled and many more ignored (you will have decided that they are not for use in this speech).
Now it’s time to Sort!
Write all related ideas together on a new sheet of paper. At this point I usually bullet point my ideas resulting with 3 ‘paragraphs’ of bullet points.
Each ‘paragraph’ represents a point or a ‘part’ of my speech.
Now it’s time to address the issue of time!
How long have you got for this speech?
TED advises 18 mins which usually includes creative visual aids to keep the audience engaged.
Toastmasters recommends 5-7 mins.
I suggest about 8 minutes. This will be enough time for you to make an impact but not too much time that your audience start to bum wriggle!
That said…. And this is important!
If you are an invited speaker ask your host what the timings are and never ever go over (as far as humanly possible) - It’s rude. You will be taking from someone else’s time.
So … back to those 3 ‘paragraph of bullet points’.
Now we slash!
Get rid of debris,
And now get rid of your redefined debris
Sieve and keep the gems.
Now you have your 3 points.
It is important to note that at no stage have we written out full, beautifully worded sentences in classic written format.
If you elect to do this, you will be heading down the ‘learn my speech by heart’ route. A route liberally sprinkled with ‘written speak’ and not ‘spoken word’- there is a difference and an audience will hear it.
And this route is hard.
You must completely memorise the whole speech while running the risk of forgetting or losing your place and it can become a stressful battle. Don’t take that route!
See the 3 points you want to make (your 3 paragraphs or bullet point list)
Take each point individually
Examine the content of each point
Sort it out in your head
What is the ‘message’ of this point?
What are the key factors of this point?
Does this point follow a path?
Are there steps to this point?
Sort it out
Say it out loud
See the point in your mind
See the journey of this point
Each time you say it out loud, you will become more focused on what ‘sounds’ right, what sounds fluent, what sounds convincing. Each time you say this point you will say it in just a slightly different manner. This is a good sign. This is when you start taking ownership of your point and as an audience member, I will believe you.
Repeat this method for each point
When you rehearse the delivery of your speech, practice the points as individual ‘sound bites’ in different orders (this is a handy technique for rehearsal!) … consequently you will remain very fresh.
Linking your points:
Now you are ready to link your points.
Linking your points is inextricably linked to your delivery.
You move from one point to the next point both verbally…
With each new point you move from your current speaking space to a new speaking space - physically. (Unless you are speaking into a microphone at a lectern!)
(More about how to use a microphone in another article)
We call this The Link Line.
It serves many purposes.
1 - It is a signpost.
It allows you to bring your audience onto your next point without them having to work hard to ‘keep up!”
2 - It keeps you and your speech organised
3 - It breaks the visual for your audience and keeps them with you.
Decide to make this a very strong link and not a weak link!
A strong link with a verbal and a physical component.
The link line is a sentence that brings the speaker to the next point.
This can be the opening of your next point or a carefully crafted line that ‘sets up’ your next point.
Physically, (and when not attached to a lectern) you will move to the ‘other side’.
It is essential that you never break eye contact with your audience as you move to your new speaking space.
This is one part of the speech you WILL have to learn off by heart
Consider it carefully
Create each link line for each point
Embed and be consistent
Stretching the ‘link line’ point.
If you find when you have scattered, gathered and sorted your points, that you have a recurring ‘theme’ that can be captured in a single line, you have a gem!
This is be called an ‘anchor statement’
“I have a dream”(Martin Luther King) . ‘Yes we can’ (Barrack Obama)
The Anchor statement can be your link line to introduce each of your points. It provides your audience with an idea to hold onto and provides you with the scaffolding to build each of your points.
Closing your speech
Now you have your ‘content’ or main points.
Now you are ready to close your speech.
You are very clear about what you have said within the body of your speech.
Now answer this …
What do you want me to do, to think, to imagine, to consider?
Then ask me, remind me, challenge me, let me know…
Be very, very clear.
Again, this part of the speech is super endorsed by the delivery.
The close is the last thing your audience will hear so remember … make it good!
Make it powerful.
Verbally: be clear about your take-away message. If you finish with a toast, or an ending that involves a person, be sure to say the person’s name last.
Absolutely…. the very last word spoken should be the person’s name.
Physically: be in the centre. Stand at your tallest. Be confident to hold the silence and subsequent applause that follows your last utterance with a smile.
Remain for 5 seconds and then leave.
Walk off or sit down with confidence! You will be remembered.
Opening your speech
You now have your points, your close; now we are ready to look at the opening of your speech!
Your audience will make up their mind about you in the first 9 seconds; this is how long you have to make an impression. This is your time, be very careful…… use it well!
Thanking people, showing exits, organising notes or testing microphones are not very impressive and not good use of your crucial first 9 seconds. This is a frequently-made mistake that will have an audience reach for their phones to check messages or emails.
A strong statement of fact, a shocking statistic, a well-known and much loved quote, or best of all, a short story will leave the audience wondering where this is going. These are excellent ways of securing your 9 seconds and making the audience yours. The opening does not have to be long, it doesn’t even have to let the audience know anything (specific) about your subject but it has one very significant purpose. To grab the attention of your audience. To make them sit up and want to listen to you!
Linking your opening in a clever and creative way to the body of your speech is what you should be aiming for.
Physically, set the tone!
Stand tall, look at your audience. Use the all powerful pause to create the platform you want. Whatever has gone before is in the past. (Good introduction, bad introduction, excellent/weak preceding speaker). This is your time, your speech, your journey - your audience.
Never start until there is silence (wonderful opportunity to use that pause). Wait for as long as it takes, and then, into the silence and with a wonderful commanding presence, you ‘deliver’ your opening.
So … your opening, your link lines and your closing should be readily available to you and therefore known by heart. If your opening is a story and you ‘own’ it, you can change the way you say it each time.
Now that you have your speech verbally ready, you will need to work on the delivery.
An excellent speech, poorly delivered, is not an excellent speech!
‘How to Deliver Your Speech’