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THE LOST ART OF GREAT SPEECHWRITING

PREP WORK

Effective Opening Should

These are my notes from The Lost Art of the Great Speech:

Writing makes you think. A well -written speech is a


disciplined speech. It does not ramble. It gets to the point.
Even if you prefer to read from notes, the notes will be

How to Write One--How to Deliver It

Establish a common ground between the speaker and


the audience
Set the tone for the speech
Reinforce or establish the speakers qualifications
Arouse interest in the subject
Take advantage of the speakers grace period
Segue smoothly into the subject

CONTEXT

more useful if theyre based on written text.

Every speech is an opportunity

Having the written text of a talk can be helpful because it

can easily be shared as a blog, article or email.

Preparation process

Types of Openings

- Research and brainstorming Find data, quotes,


anecdotes, stats etc
- Purpose How exactly should audience members feel
and react
- Outline Come up with all of the points that you could
make (might be like 20 points). Then narrow that down
to the main 3-5 points that you will make
- Thesis Decide the main unifying theme of the speech

- Novelty opening Could be fictional, or disorienting.


Kind of gimmicky
- Dramatic openings Use of suspense. Startling the
audience or something like that.
- Question openings Asking the audience questions
- Humorous openings Making some kind of joke as an
ice breaker
- Reference openings Making some kind of reference

you can adjust.

ORGANIZATION

REFERENCES

Make sure your credentials are clear to the organizer.

Tell em what youre gonna tell em. Tell em. Then tell em
what youve told them.

There are a lot of different reference types that can be


used;

Techniques

- Location I love these mountains. What a great city.


- Personal Started from the bottom now Im here
- Literary Reference Some kind of quote or story
reference
- Twists Take a common clich or Jargon and turn it
upside town

And Moses said unto the LORD, O my Lord, I am not


eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken
unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow
tongue. Exodus 4;10

BEFORE SPEAKING
Know who else is presenting and what theyre talking
about. Also know the order. This context can be really
helpful and should influence the speech. E.g. if someone
before you is covering a lot of material that you think you
would cover, you really want to know that in advance so

Decide a primary purpose for your speech. Think what do


you want people to think or feel as a result of hearing your
speech.
Primary purposes
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.

To
To
To
To
To
To

entertain
inform
inspire
motivate
advocate
convince or persuade

Know the details of the organization thats hosting the


speech. Know the audience and how many people to
expect.

- Cause and effect


- Problem and solution
- Thought modules individual thoughts tied with all the
supporting ideas

OPENING
Well begun is well done.

- Date What a wonderful time of year

LANGUAGE

During the opening, you have a grace period. Similar to the


presidents first 100 days.

The greater our skill with the language, the more clearly

In a very formal setting, its appropriate to acknowledge


the key individuals before the speech.

A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a


failure, and then fail all the more completely because he
drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the

we think, and the better we express our thoughts.

English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because


our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our
language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts.
George Orwell

"An orator or author is never successful till he has learned


to make his words smaller than his ideas."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


- Be yourself dont sound phony
- Talk with the audience. Not to them or at them. Dont
lecture. Use personal pronouns
- Dont hesitate to use personal references
- Use strong active verbs and vivid nouns
o Standing ovations vs Everyone sprung to their feet
- Prefer the active voice to the passive voice
- Use specific, concrete language rather than generalities
o Control the message vs ceding control to the listener
- Use Jargon sparingly, if at all
- Get to the point

- Whatever you say, say it right.

COMMON MISTAKES
- Advise / inform - Advise means to give advice or
counsel. Inform means to provide information.
- Affect / effect - To affect something is to exert influence
on it; to effect something is to make it happen.
- Aggravate / irritate - To aggravate something is to make
it worse; to irritate is to create a new condition.
- Alternate / alternative - Alternative is a noun meaning a
choice, preferably between two possibilities, not
several. Alternate is the adjective thats related to the
noun alternative.
- Amount / number - Amount is used for bulk quantities;
number is used for countable quantities.
- Appraise / apprise - To apprise means to inform; to
appraise means to evaluate.
- Assure / ensure / insure - To assure is to promise
someone, as in John assured Mary he would be on

time. To ensure means to make certain, as in Mary


gave John an alarm clock to ensure that he would be on
time. To insure means to safeguard, as in I have my
home insured against fire.
Averse / adverse - To be averse to something is to
oppose it. Averse can apply only to a person. Adverse
means unfavorable and usually applies to conditions.
Bad / badly - Bad is usually an adjective and thus
describes a noun; badly is an adverb and thus tells how
something is done.
Between / among - Generally, between should be used
with two persons or things, and among should be used
with more than two.
Compare to / compare with - Use compare to when
discussing things that are dissimilar. Use compare with
when discussing things of the same category.
Comprise / compose - The whole comprises (includes)
the parts; the parts compose (constitute) the whole.
Consensus - Consensus means agreement, but not
necessarily unanimous agreement. The word often
appears in the redundant phrase, consensus of
opinion.
Convince / persuade - To convince someone is to bring
the person to your point of view. To persuade someone
is to induce the person to do something.
Could care less - If youre inclined to use the expression,
use it correctly and say I couldnt care less,
Criterion / criteria - Criterion is singular. Its plural is
criteria.
Different from / different than - Than ordinarily is used
with comparative adjectives. For example, better than,
stronger than. But different is not a comparati ve.
Therefore, statements such as Her cake is different
than mine are not considered good usage. Her cake is
different from mine is preferred. Use different than
when a clause is to follow.
Disinterested / uninterested - Disinterested means
impartial; uninterested means unconcerned.
Enormity / enormousness - Enormity refers to
something that is monstrous or appalling;

enormousness refers to size, either figurative or


physical.
Feasible / possible/ viable - An undertaking may be
possible, but it might not be feasible if the cost is too
high. Viable means capable of independent life. The
use of viable as a synonym for feasible is jargony at best
and should be avoided.
Few / Less - Use few (or fewer) for things that are
counted; less for things that are measured in other
ways. Thus, fewer dollars, less money; fewer hogs, less
pork; less food, fewer calories; less hay, fewer bales.
Flaunt / flout - Flaunt means to show off, usually
ostentatiously; flout means to ignore contemptuously.
Founder / flounder - Founder means to sink or fall
(usually nautical). Flounder means to struggle or thrash
around.
Further / farther - Use farther for physical distance and
further for figurative distance, time, or a continuation of
something other than distance.
Graduated / graduate from - Wrong "My son graduated
high school last year." Right "My son graduated from
high school"
Hopefully - Hopefully is an adverb meaning in a hopeful
manner. It should not be used to mean I hope or it is
hoped
Imply / infer - Imply means to convey an impression by
what you say or do; infer means to draw a conclusion
from what you hear or see.
Important / Importantly - Importantly is an adverb and
should not be used except to modify a verb.
In behalf of / on behalf of - To speak in behalf of
someone is to plead that persons case. To speak on
behalf of someone is to speak in the persons stead.
Liable / like - If you are liable, something unpleasant
might result. Likely expresses simple probability with no
unpleasant connotation.
Lie / lay - Lie is an intransitive verb, which means it does
not take an object; lay is transitive. The main reason for
confusion is that lay is also the past tense of lie. The past
tense of the transitive lay is laid. The past participle of lie

is lain, and the past participle of lay is laid. The present


participle of lie is lying; the present participle of lay is
laying.
Literally / figuratively - Many a good figure of speech is
ruined by being preceded by literally.
Loathe / loath - To loathe is to feel intense dislike or
even hatred. Loath is an adjective meaning "reluctant."
Mobile / movable - If something is mobile, it can move.
If the thing is movable, it can be moved.
Prescribe / proscribe - To prescribe is to dictate a course
of action; to proscribe is to prohibit.
Sewerage / sewage - Sewerage is a system for disposing
of sewage.
Shall / will - Shall and should have been replaced by will
and would.
Tandem / parallel - In tandem means one after the
other; parallel means side by side.
Those kinds / that kind - Where these or those is used
as a demonstrative adjective, it must modify a plural
noun. When a singular noun is needed, the singular form
of the demonstrative adjective is required. Thus, these
(or those) kinds, and this (or that) kind are correct.
Ultimate / penultimate - Ultimate means last and it
often connotes superiority. Penultimate means next-tolast, nothing more.
Whom / who - Whom is the objective form of the
pronoun who. It is the correct form for the object of a
verb or a preposition.

PRO DEVICES
- Triads Things in groups of threes seem to be more
memorable (nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, phrases,
clauses, sentences)
o E.g. Unwept, unhonored, unsung
o E.g. Of the people, by the people, for the people
o E.g. Duty, honor, country
- Anaphora Repetition of a word or words at the
beginning of successive phrases, clauses or sentences
o E.g. I have a dream

- Repetition (Alliteration) Repetition of similar sounds in


sequence
o Need to be careful of committing spoonerism
o E.g. I am not a perfect servant. I am a public servant
- Antithesis Placing two ideas next to each other that
are sharply contrasted
o E.g. Give me liberty or give me death
- Simile Comparison of one thing to another, usually
different categories
o A righteous person is like a tree placed by the water
- Metaphor Comparison of one thing to another, but it
differs from a simile in that it describes the thing being
compared as if it actually were the other.
o E.g. He was as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar (Simile)
o E.g. When it came to standing firm, he was the Rock
of Gibraltar (Metaphor)
o Dont mix metaphor: E.g. Your company is at
crossroads today, and we are going to navigate
some stormy seas in the new few months.
- Analogy A comparison with real similarities. Similes
and metaphors are usually from very different
categories
o E.g. The human heart is like a fuel pump
o E.g. A computer is like a desk. The hard drive is like
the filing cabinet and the desk is like memory.
- Hyperbole Exaggeration for the sake of emphasis
o E.g. She ran so fast she left her shadow ten yards
behind
o E.g. A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds
up to real money. (Understatement).
- Surprise Springing a dramatic surprise

Indirect quote Not the same exact words. Still would


require referencing the source
Idea The principles and ideas of old quotes can be
leveraged and repackaged

Sources
-

Bartletts Familiar Quotations


The Home book of Quotations
The Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations
1911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said

The Ultimate Book of Business Quotations

ANECDOTES
Anecdote is a short factual story that is either personal or
non personal.
Common source: The Little Brown Book of Anecdotes
What makes a suitable Anecdote
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Must be true or perceived to be true


It must give insight into the nature of the subject,
speaker or the event
It must be interesting or amusing
I must be simple enough for the audience to grasp
easily
It must illustrate, support, or lead to a point that the
speaker had made or wants to make.

CLOSING
There are several different types of closings

QUOTES
Use the wisdom of the ages. You can use past quotes, and
ideas to construct your own ideas.
Ways to leverage quotes:
-

Direct quote

Summary closing summarize the high points of the


speech
Direct appeal salesy, asking for the order
Reference closing Just like openings
Inspirational
Thesis closing
Humorous

Anecdote