Secrets of a Speech Writer by Ted Parsons, DTM

Ted Parsons, DTM has been a Toastmaster since 1966 and has been a member or our clubs for 38 years.

Ted Parsons, DTM has been a Toastmaster since 1966 and has been a member or our clubs for 38 years.

We all want to give a wonderful speech! Unfortunately, we try to deliver using all the many aspects of an award winning speech. What to do? I am going to share some tried and true, on the mark, and totally awesome lessons from my own personal experience! If you try it, you’ll like it!

  1. Be a verbivore. Use specific and appropriate vocabulary for clear messages. Do NOT use cliches! How many did you count in my last two introductory sentences?
  2. Be an outliner. Do NOT write your speech. All we do by writing everything is to try to remember every word. Remember that the best speeches are conversations with individuals in your audience. Outline your speech. Know your main points. If you must use note cards, do so. Using cards and the Rule of Threes means your talk will be much more spontaneous, real, and conversational. See Secret numbers 3 and 6.
  3. Be spontaneous. Do NOT spend three weeks practicing every day. A key component of the best speeches are the spontaneity and the ease of delivery. Practicing too much leads to memorization. Practicing too much leads us to pass our peak of readiness. And practicing a lot takes a lot of time. Do not just practice. Remember that if we keep doing the same thing over and over and expect improvement, that is a definition of insanity. Practice correctly. And remember to time yourself. Make allowances for audience reaction, use of visual aids, and the occasional ad lib. Perfect practice (within reason) makes perfect.
  4. Be lazy. I am. Why spend weeks on a talk when I can spend 10 minutes during the meeting outlining some thoughts? Heresy! See Secret number 5.

  1. Be a reader. I have been able to deliver speeches that are excellent just because I have retained enough of what I have read. One talk was about an imaginary discussion between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams concerning disagreements about a draft of the Declaration of Independence. Read magazines, books, newspapers, and Internet news clips. Read the Toastmaster Magazine! Just make reading a part of your day even if just for five minutes. Always have reading material with you.
  2. Be a user of the Rule of Threes. Three examples. Three quotes. Three sub-points under each major point depending on the length of your speech. This rule allows us to easily recall what we want to say. Notice I did NOT use the word “memorize”.
  3. Be a fun-loving person! Stretch your mind and stretch your body! Exaggerate with gestures. Smile a lot. You have a friendly audience who are going to applaud whatever you do. I gave a humorous talk about how Toastmasters has many physical exercises to help build up our speaking strength. Everyone was chuckling and laughing! I had fun.
  4. Be a listener. Listen to your evaluators. Listen to other speakers. Incorporate some of their successful techniques. I practiced a talk at a club the night before I was to be the speaker in my area evaluation contest. My evaluator strongly suggested I make some changes. I made the recommended changes. My talk was much better at the contest the next evening. In fact, one contest evaluator said he found nothing to improve, while the other pointed out just one factual error.
  5. Be imperfect. Don’t worry about making mistakes. You WILL make mistakes and leave material out of your talk. Who will know? No one. Besides that, applaud your mistakes. Without mistakes, we shall never improve. I unintentionally leave out material in every speech. No one knows.
  6. Be knowledgeable. Talk about personal stories-real stories. Talk about something you already know. That makes speeches lively, memorable, and easy to plan. One talk of mine was about a time in France when, as a child of 10, I went exploring in a nearby forest. The project was Working with Words. This one was one of my most well-received talks ever.

Those are 10 secrets for giving wonderful speeches. Try these! They work for me.

About Ted Parsons