If the thought of sitting down and learning how to write a speech sends chills down your spine and little drops of sweat down your face, you’re not alone.
For a lot of students, just seeing the word “speech” in your assignment instructions is enough to set off that anxiety, especially if you aren’t very comfortable with public speaking. However, if you have a really good speech, public speaking is a lot easier.
When it comes to writing a good speech, learning the right way to do it can be a big game changer for your confidence in both your writing skills and your public speaking skills. Standing in front of your audience with that perfect speech in your hands makes a world of difference, and even if you don’t really believe that right now, when you’re done with our advice you will.
This blog will give you the tools and knowledge to learn how to write a speech that hits the right audience no matter what you need the speech for. We’ll walk you through every step so you can be confident that you’re going to ace that assignment and present with pride.
Female student presenting a persuasive speech to a friend with a megaphone
Why is it Important to Learn How to Write a Speech?
In the professional world, being able to write an effective speech is an important skill for a variety of different types of job positions. Politicians and public figures are required to make speeches regularly, some jobs require higher-ups to make speeches to the public (such as a police chief) and certain types of industries often present awards where recipients are expected to deliver an acceptance speech. You may also be required to give presentations or proposals at work, which you’d need to write a speech for as well.
Outside of the professional world, you might encounter plenty of times in your life where you’ll need to deliver a speech. Wedding toasts, acceptance speeches, eulogies, and even pep talks are all possibilities in your future, and speech writing skills come in very handy for those scenarios. In fact, there’s a chance you may have landed on this page when Googling “how to write a speech” for one of these reasons and not just for school.
No matter the reason you have to give a speech, the advice in this article is sound and applicable to every type of speech you need to write. So, let’s get right down to business and dive into every detail you need to know.
Famous Speeches That Will Inspire You to Write the Perfect Speech
To begin your journey into speech writing, it’s worth taking a look at some iconic speeches that have made a strong mark on the world. These speeches have stood the test of time and are still relevant today because they were written effectively and checked all the boxes we’ll outline in this guide. Now, they serve as examples of the power of persuasion and good writing.
Here is a selection of five famous speeches that are now known as some of the best speeches in history. Read them, study them, and make note of how they resonate with you.
Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”: Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1863
Widely considered one of the best speeches of all time, Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” was delivered during the Civil War in 1863 and contained only 275 words. However, in just a few minutes, Lincoln had the attention of everyone in the audience and left a mark on history. He wasn’t even the only speaker that day, but his words resonated farther than anyone else at the time. You’ve probably even heard the famous opening lines before: “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation…”
Queen Elizabeth I’s “Spanish Armada” Speech: Tilbury, Essex, 1588
In 1588, Queen Elizabeth I stood in front of her troops in England dressed in battle armor as they prepared for the incoming Spanish Armada invasion and delivered her “Spanish Armada” speech to inspire them. It was iconic not only for the content of the speech, but the impact this speech had. At the time, it was very rare for a woman to be in any position of power, let alone present herself infront of her troops in armor as an authoritative force. Just take a look at this quote: “I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm.” It was persuasive, powerful, and effective.
Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech: Washington, D.C., 1963
Delivered in 1963 during the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is arguably one of the most famous speeches of all time. Its use of repetition, emotional appeal, and call to action have been referenced hundreds of times to this day, even over 50 years later. We probably don’t even need to quote his famous line because you likely already know it, but here it is to remind you: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” Speech: Fulton, Missouri, 1946
While it wasn’t his only iconic speech, Winston Churchill’s “Iron Curtain” speech (also known as “The Sinews of Peace”) is one of his most well known. He delivered it in 1946, in the middle of the aftermath of World War II, to stress the need to establish peace between the Allies and the Soviet Union. This speech is also responsible for coining the term Iron Curtain, which was a defining term during the Cold War era. Here’s that famous line: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.”
John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address: Washington, D.C., 1961
In 1961, John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the 35th president of the United States, and delivered his iconic Inaugural Address to a massive crowd outside the Capitol. As one of the most iconic speeches in modern history, his use of rhetoric and emotional appeal helped cement his position as a charismatic new leader who won over the hearts of people around the world. This speech is most well known for its iconic call to action: “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what can do for your country.”
Woman presenting a speech to a casual audience in a coffeehouse
Rhetoric and The Power of Persuasion
If you read the famous speeches listed above, you’ll notice a few common elements within them that made them so effective when they were delivered. The most common element is their use of rhetoric to harness the power of persuasive writing.
Rhetoric is most commonly known as the art of persuasion. It’s a language technique used to appeal to an audience and influence them, but it can also be used to inform an audience of something and convince them to believe it. Rhetoric is actually one of the three ancient arts of discourse (also known as the trivium), with the other two being grammar and logic.
At its core, rhetoric is about writing and delivering your speech in a way that connects and appeals to the specific demographic of your audience. There are three core rhetorical techniques of appeal:
1. Pathos: The appeal to emotion
2. Logos: The appeal to logic
3. Ethos: The appeal to ethics
It’s up to you how you want to appeal to your audience and listeners, but the topic you’re covering and the purpose of your speech will dictate how you do so. Most speeches utilize a combination of the three to cover all their bases. For example, if you’re making a persuasive speech on why everyone should stop eating meat, you could use pathos and ethos to talk about animal cruelty and logos to talk about the potential benefits there could be.
To learn more about rhetoric and how you can use it as a persuasive tool, read our blog on how to write an argumentative essay.
The Core Elements of an Effective Speech
No matter what you’re doing, every effective speech has a core set of common elements that make it so powerful. Each speech should always include these in order to get the highest grade possible and have the most powerful impact on the audience.
The core elements of a good speech are:
● Simple, direct sentences that are easy to follow
● A persuasive call to action
● Rhetoric and persuasive language
● An attention-grabbing speech introduction
● A clear take-away message
● An appropriate tone that matches your topic and message
● Descriptive language and diction
● Smooth speech delivery and pace
Young man making a speech into a microphone in front of a class
How to Write a Speech: 8 Steps You Should Follow
Every student who wants to learn how to write a speech the most effective way should follow a core 8-step process. This process is the easiest way to write a speech that works really well for your specific audience.
We’ll expand on each of these 8 steps in the next sections, but here is a list of the steps so you can follow them carefully.
1. Choose your topic
2. Gather your information
3. Write an outline
4. Structure your points
5. Write a great introduction
6. End with a call to action
7. Practice your speech
8. Make any edits or revisions
1. Choose a Great Topic
Narrowing down a good topic to use for your speech can also be tricky. You want to choose something that will actually interest your audience, but it also needs to be relevant for your assignment. It should also be something that you care about or are at least interested in, because the more passionate you are about the topic the more engaging and effective your speech will be.
If you’re writing an informative speech, the good news is that most topics will work as long as you can find enough research. Since you don’t really need to take a stand one way or another, your biggest challenge will be figuring out how to present your information in an engaging, interesting way. With a persuasive speech, the best topics are those that have two sides to an issue, like a debate topic.
Depending on your class, you may not get a choice on speech topics. When you’re stuck with something you don’t care about, you have to be able to find a way to make yourself care. Do some Google research and see if there’s a sub-issue or subtopic that interests you.
For some inspiration, check out our list of 200 informative speech topics and 100 persuasive speech topics you can use or build on for your assignment.
Male student in the middle of a speech delivery in class
2. Figure Out What You Need to Know First
Before you start to write your points and outline, you need to make some decisions. Information gathering is an important step in any writing process, but when what you’re writing is entirely dependent on a few key elements, you want to make sure you’ve made the right decisions first.
There are three key things you need to know before you write any speech:
Each of these things plays an important role in an effective speech because they will guide how you write it. You need to know who you’re talking to, why you’re talking to them, and how long you’re talking to them for before you can even start planning and outlining your speech. Otherwise, if you go in blind or just wing it, you probably won’t get your point across in the way you really intend to.
Know Your Audience
The entire point of a speech is to connect with your audience and deliver your message in a way that they can absorb. To do that, you need to understand who your audience is and how they think.
For example, an audience full of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies is very different from an audience full of elementary school teachers. If you’re a politician trying to secure the vote of both audiences, your CEO audience isn’t going to care about budgeting the education system, while the elementary school teachers aren’t going to care about corporate taxes. Talking about something your audience doesn’t care about is the worst thing you can do to hold their attention.
To fully understand your audience, answer the 5 Ws:
● Who is your audience? In other words, who are you going to be speaking to? This will determine what type of language and diction you’ll use when it’s time to begin writing.
● What does your audience already know? How familiar are they going to be with the subject matter? This will dictate how much background information you’ll need to provide.
● Where will you be presenting your speech? Understanding how you’ll present the speech gives you a better feel for what kind of environment you’re working with. For example, presenting a speech in a big open conference room is a completely different feeling than presenting a speech in a small seminar room.
● When will you present your speech? Are you going first, or will you be able to listen to a few of your classmates’ speeches beforehand? Sometimes you don’t know this information ahead of time, but if you do it can be helpful in the writing process. For example, if you’re going last, you have to consider the fact that your audience has already listened to many other speeches and will have a harder time focusing on you – so make sure it’s interesting and catchy.
● Why are you presenting your speech? We’ll go over the purpose of your speech next, but it’s important to know what your intention is when you’re narrowing down your audience so you can decide on a good call to action.
Determine Your Purpose
The purpose or intention of your speech determines how you’ll write it. Are you giving this speech in order to provide information to your audience, like during a presentation? Maybe you have to make an argumentative or persuasive speech to convince your audience to think a certain way.
All of those speech purposes mentioned above will dictate how you write and present your speech. Based on the purpose of the speech, you’ll know what kind of language to use and what type of rhetoric will work best.
For example, if you’re presenting a persuasive speech about a topic you are very passionate about and want everyone to support your cause, you’re going to present it in a different way than you would an informative speech. You’ll likely want to use emotional language that tugs on your audiences’ heartstrings, whereas in an informative speech you’d probably want to take more of a logical, fact-based approach.
Know the Length of Your Speech
It might seem kind of straightforward, just like an essay assignment when you have a certain word count to hit. But the thing about speeches is that your length has a more important role to play than just a word count.
For starters, the length of your speech determines how long the speech will be in terms of time. When you don’t have a set timeline to work with, you have to make a decision based on the context. A best man speech for a wedding, for example, should only be a few minutes while a speech for a presentation that’s worth 30% of your grade might be as long as 10 or 15 minutes.
The more time you have to fill with your speech will guide your writing. Holding an audience’s attention for 15 minutes is a lot harder than holding it for just a few minutes. This is especially important for a persuasive speech, where you’re relying on your audience staying interested because you want them to support your perspective.
While you’re writing your speech, stop and recite it every so often and time yourself. This will help keep you on track and let you know if you need to cut anything or narrow down your sentences any further.
Male college student in a blue shirt making a persuasive speech into a microphone
3. How do You Start Writing a Speech?: Writing The Outline
You should always start by creating an outline first. An effective speech relies heavily on its structure. Your audience isn’t reading what you write down; they’re listening to you say it out loud. If you start going on tangents or jumping around between points, it’s going to be really hard for your listeners to connect the dots and follow what you’re saying.
To begin your outline, write out the main points you want to make about your topic. Make sure you write them out in an order that’s easy to follow, since your audience will be listening along. Give yourself space in the outline for your introduction, each main point and supporting explanations, and the conclusion. Look it over to be sure that it makes sense in this particular order.
Once you have your outline written and your points in order, it will be very easy to write the rest of your speech and make sure that everything stays organized and flows well. All you really need to do at that point is fill in the gaps and connect your points.
4. Organize Your Sentence Structure and Flow
Speech structure is extremely important. Each point should be presented one at a time so that your audience doesn’t have any trouble following along and staying on track.
Try to keep your speech to three main points if you can. Your audience doesn’t need every single small detail about your topic, and they certainly won’t remember that much either. Once you decide on those three main points in your outline, you can use them to connect the dots in your writing and tie them together smoothly.
Here are some ways to make sure your speech structure is ideal for your listeners:
● Sentences should transition smoothly from one idea to another. Pull from our list of transition words for some extra help on this.
● Talk about one point at a time. Jumping from one point to another makes it difficult for your audience to follow along as it’s easy for them to lose track and become confused.
● Use short, direct sentences as much as possible. Long, complex sentences work in formal essays, but aren’t as easy on the ears as they are on the eyes.
● Go for a narrative structure as if you’re telling a story. When you tell a story, you start at the beginning and work to the end in a narrative order. You don’t jump around from piece to piece and expect your listener to follow along. Write your speech the same way.
Female college student talking to her listeners on her podcast
5. Write an Attention-Grabbing Speech Introduction
Your speech introduction is extremely important. In fact, its significance might be on par with the actual content of the speech itself. This is the part of your speech where you’ll have the most of your audience’s attention. If you don’t do enough here to keep that attention, the rest of your speech won’t land.
There are 3 main parts to a speech introduction:
1. The opening hook
2. Purpose and context
3. Transition into the speech body
Every good speech needs to begin with a great opening line or hook. If you don’t hook your audience and grab their attention right away, you’re in for a really difficult presentation. As we mentioned before, your audience isn’t reading an essay and doesn’t have anything to follow along with, so they’re listening to you by ear. When you start boring them, you’ll lose their attention fast.
Next, your speech introduction should outline your purpose. It can be a little more direct than you’d write in an essay. For example, a sentence like, “I am speaking to you today about something very important – our precious ecosystem” is not acceptable in an essay but is a great line in your speech introduction. If your audience isn’t really familiar with your topic, this is also where you’ll add some background information to give them context.
Spend a good amount of time working on the beginning of your speech. We included the introduction as the fourth step in the process, but you can also choose to write it first if you come up with something earlier on. It’s often a lot easier to write your speech introduction after you’ve written everything else because you have a solid idea of what you’re talking about in the body of the speech.
If you need more help writing your introduction, check out our blog here. We go over tips and tricks for writing a good essay introduction, which can also be used for your speech introduction!
6. Nail Your Call to Action
A call to action is the part of a piece of content that tells the audience what type of action you want them to take. In marketing, this is usually the button that says something along the lines of “buy now,” “subscribe now,” or “get a free quote.” These types of calls to action are often more direct and straightforward because they are trying to get you to make a conversion. In your speech, your call to action is a little more subtle than that but should always be there if you’re writing a persuasive speech.
Think about what it is you want your audience to take away from your speech. Are you trying to convince them to do something, like eat less meat or support a certain cause? Maybe you just want your audience to be informed on a topic. Either way, it should be clear and in line with your purpose.
So, where does your call to action go? Your call to action should ideally be located in your speech introduction and again in your conclusion. A good way to think about this is to consider your call to action as the equivalent of your thesis statement in an essay or paper. It’s the statement you’re going to make in the beginning to tell your audience what you’re going to be talking about, and then a reminder at the end of what you want them to do. Make sure it’s something that counts.
Female professor making a short speech to a classroom audience
8. Practice Makes Perfect
It’s extremely important that you practice saying your speech out loud as much as you can. During the writing process, practicing your speech will help give you an idea of what it sounds like out loud instead of just written on paper. Sometimes things don’t sound that great when you actually hear them, so this gives you a chance to change things up if you need to.
Practicing your speech is also a great way to work on your speech delivery. The more you recite your speech, the easier it will be to remember. In turn, the better you remember your speech, the more confident you will be when you present it. You can even work out a few cool movements to make during certain parts of the speech for emphasis and flare.
9. Edit and Revise
Editing and revising should be your final step in any type of writing assignment you need to complete, and a speech is no different. No matter what you write, you should never turn in your first draft as is without looking it over at least two or three times.
Have someone else look over your speech or listen to you present it to them. It’s a lot more difficult to revise your own work because you wrote it, so you’re not always able to identify your own mistakes. It doesn’t have to be someone from your class or within the field you’re studying. All you need is a fresh set of eyes on your speech so they can identify any issues or mistakes that might have gone under your radar.
If this speech is worth a big portion of your grade, it might be worth it for you to have a professional editing service take a look at your work. This way, a professional can let you know which parts of your speech are working and which could be improved, and they can even offer you some extra pointers along the way.
Male student in a class debate making a political speech
Extra Tips For a Perfect Speech
As you start to write down your speech, here are a few extra tips to keep in mind.
● Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself. In fact, repetition is a great way to reinforce your speech and ensure that your audience remembers the key takeaways you’re presenting. Just don’t overdo it and repeat everything you say.
● Add your own flare. Most speeches are delivered in the first person, which is a great opportunity to be a little more creative. This is also a great way to express yourself in a way that stands out from everyone else speaking that day.
● Include stories or anecdotes if you can. This can be a great way to relate to your audience and keep their attention longer, while making your speech more interesting overall.
● Don’t over-share. You only have a certain amount of time to present your speech, so don’t try to stuff it with every possible detail you can think of about your topic.
● Get the tone right. If you’re presenting a persuasive speech about something you’re passionate about, show it. Be enthusiastic, interesting, and exciting when you need to be. If your speech is more serious, adjust your tone accordingly to make sure your point hits home.
Post-Writing: Tips to Help You Improve Your Public Speaking and Speech Delivery
Once you’ve learned how to write a speech and put pen to paper, your job isn’t quite done yet. You’ll need to work on your speech delivery and practice your presentation.
For some people, the thought of learning how to write a speech is terrifying solely because it means that at some point in the near future, you’re going to have to actually deliver one. Public speaking is a major source of stress and anxiety for a lot of students. You could write the most amazing speech you’ve ever heard in your life, but if you get up there in front of your audience and your hands start to get clammy and you start choking on your words, it’s going to fall short of making any impact.
Here are some extra tips that will help you get over your fear of public speaking and ace any presentation or speech:
● Practice with friends or family. We already mentioned how important practicing your speech is; it’s equally as important to practice in front of an audience to get comfortable with public speaking. Start out with an audience of friends, roommates, or family to work your way up and have them give you constructive feedback.
● Be prepared. The more prepared you are, the less nervous you’ll be when you walk up to that podium. Bring cue cards with you in case you forget a line or two and make a list of possible questions your audience might ask after your presentation so you’re ready for them.
● Work on your body language. This is a great way to keep your audience engaged and make sure that you don’t feel stiff and uncomfortable while you’re talking.
● Reduce your anxiety before the speech. There are many ways to do this. Get a little exercise in the morning of to release endorphins that help you de-stress, get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy breakfast, and memorize as much as possible as early as you can.
Check out our blog on how to improve your public speaking for even more tips and guidance on speech delivery, presentations, and more. With our help, you’ll wonder why you were ever afraid of public speaking in the first place.
Female student presenting a speech in front of a whiteboard
The Real Secret to Learning How to Write a Speech: Use A Professional Writing Team
If you’re still a little nervous about writing your speech, you always have other options. In fact, you don’t even have to write your own speech at all: our team of academic writers already know how to write a speech and are happy to handle all of the work for you.
Think of us like your own personal team of speech writers right there in your back pocket. We can’t get up and present your speech for you, but we can write you a powerful, effective speech that will give you the confidence you need to get up there and present. You can also use our services to have one of our professionals look over your speech for you and give you some helpful constructive feedback to make it even better.
To ace your next speech, order it from our professional team with our easy online ordering form, or get a free custom quote from our operations team now.