Great charity speech writing: the five ‘p’s

Some politicians have you hanging on their every word while others lose you after the opening sentence. Ever wondered why?

I blame the speech writers …

Here are five top tips to help you write a speech or presentation that’ll keep your audience captivated.

1. Preparation

As with any successful piece of writing, you need to start by thinking about your audience and aims. Who is the speech for?  What do you know about them? What do they already know about this topic? Then, most importantly: What do you want them to do/feel/think after they’ve heard you speak?

Picture someone who represents the majority of your audience. Create a quick profile of this person – their age, interests, motivations – and write as if you’re speaking to them.

Do your research. And keep doing it. Make sure you’re completely up to date on the subject, and have considered all arguments. You don’t want to be caught out by a topical question on the day.

2. Perspective

Think about how you can deliver your message in a way that’s original, relevant and inspiring. For example, could you tie it into the news or current affairs? What fresh insights or intriguing anecdotes can you share?

Well-written speeches “show” rather than “tell”. Paint a picture for your audience. Illustrate the issues through a personal story of someone your organisation has helped or a quote from a volunteer.

3. Polish

Once you’ve roughly drafted your speech, go back and refine your structure. Do you have a clear opening, middle and conclusion/summary?

Remember to include linking sentences that take you from one part of the speech to the next – they can very briefly say what you’ve talked about and what you’re going to look at next.

A quick extra “P”: proofreading. Get someone else to read over PowerPoint slides and handouts to help pick up any errors.

4. Practice

Read your speech out loud. If you stumble over complicated phrases or long sentences when you’re practising, you risk losing your thread – and possibly your audience.

You might find it helpful to add in “stage directions”, for example, “Pause for effect/laughter/to allow audience to read PowerPoint”.

5. Perception

Some people decide whether your speech is going to be any good before you even open your mouth. What can you do to alter this? Good biographical details in the programme and event’s marketing materials will help. So will how you’re introduced. Offer to write this blurb for the person organising the event.

Make sure your title is intriguing or catchy. A question can work well, so can an offer of insight. For example: “Ten things you didn’t know about Charity X’s work in the UK”; “Can you afford to ignore social media?” or “How one hour of your time could save a life this Xmas”.

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