Jul 18, 2011

Ground Rules For Writing Great Leadership Speech

"Talk doesn't cook rice" ~ Chinese Proverb

Totally agree. I also think good talk can make you want to cook it (rice) or cook it better, or even start hunting for some meat to go with the rice.

I quickly spot ''all talk - no action'' guys, girls, or wanna-be-leaders who CAN speak. Providing the action follows, great talk is lasting power.

Famous phrases or ''soundbites'' are surviving decades. This is more impressive now, when our attention spans seems shorter, and we are overwhelmed with information.

I am not American, 60 years old, or into history or politics, but even I know who said ''I have a dream'' , or

''And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.''

(These are ranked as 1 and 2, on the American Rhetoric Top 100 Speeches of 2oth century)

I listened to these (and other speeches), to get my own conclusions, feel, to understand and learn what the elements of the great speech are.

Then I read and watched interviews with famous speech writers (political and corporate). Then I practiced, wrote and rewrote. Finally I wrote much better speeches for myself, friend and clients.

Am all for actions, but using the right words (at the right time) can spur action, motivation, interest and success.

Great words expressed in a great way outlive their creators. They outlive those who said them and they outlive generations.

It is easy to go with cliche after cliche and phrases people call - plain boring. It is tough to make them hear you, let alone to ''press the button'', touch the heart of someone, without which your impact is (what you don't want to be) - a big ZERO!

What else tells us how valued a great speech is?

Presidents hire a team of writers to write the speech, corporate communication guys write for CEO's, or other representatives of top management.


If you are in majority who are intimidated or overwhelmed with the task the following ground rules will help.

1. Study great speeches, new and old - read them and watch them.

2. Keep sentences short and clear. ( 8 - 14 words, some shorter) Remember, you write for the ear, not for the eye.

3. Make an outline of your speech (introduction, body, conclusion)

4. Make the message and principles clear. ( Ask: ''Am I passing the message here, or am I saying the words?'' ) Couple them with audience's interests and needs.

5. Write/Speak (as much as possible) about what you are passionate about, that will be in line with purpose of your speech. Don't try to make it '' sound'' as a speech.

6. Tell stories that illustrate the subject. Offer vivid examples, make them personal, meaningful, relevant to your topic and occasion.

7. Research/confirm all the facts and research your audience. Talk to experts, read articles, magazines...Have even 10 times more material than you need for the speech, but don't forget you have to be writing, not just researching!

8. Rewrite the speech. It will improve it.

If you think it is taking you too long, some experts take 30 - 60 hours of researching and writing a good 20 minutes speech!

"It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.''-- Mark Twain


If someone is writing a speech for you, spend time with him/her. This is important so the writer will know exactly your principles, your vocabulary, conversational style, what you stand for and love, and even who you are as a person. This will help speech feel natural.

Following these guidelines will make the task less devastating.

I listened to people and hair on my neck stood up. I know it can be done. I know it is worth trying.

I wish you to come up with a great speech (at your company's function, or any place where you want to leave the impression). I do not wish you to be just one more guy dressed well, who went up and down the stage without anyone being able to repeat or react to one word.

Need help? E-mail me for free initial consultation.

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