A while back, we wrote about how to write a speech for someone else. So we thought it was only fair to write about what to do with it once it’s done. Because we know you can’t leave an audience hanging. Kudos, by the way, for hiring a professional to choose the best words for you. Your audience will thank you as well. Now to complete the final step of hashing out a killer speech.
Read. Re-read. Repeat.
First, read the damn thing. Again and again. The writer took the trouble of writing it and making it sound like you, now you should make it sound great. Like you actually put time and effort in. You don’t want to be up on that podium reading off a piece of paper. It’ll be brutally obvious you didn’t prepare. And you’ll lose points for that. Ideally, you won’t need the paper up there with you at all. But it’s comforting to have the backup. So do what you must, just make sure you make sufficient eye contact so you’re actually talking to your audience and not the paper.
Know it well.
You don’t necessarily need to memorize even word verbatim. But you should know the content inside out so you can improvise if necessary. That way you come off more naturally and the words flow like conversation. You want people to hear you and listen. And if you sound unsure of yourself while stuttering to try to pronounce “poignant,” they’ll see you didn’t write it, left it until the last minute and couldn’t be bothered to go over the written material.
Make it yours.
Perhaps the person writing it didn’t have the time to get to know you and write it based on your own roster of words. Whatever the case, you can rework it a little to make it sound more like you. Replace a few of their words with ones you’d more likely use. You want it to feel natural to you. Make it that way and it’ll feel natural to your audience too.
Practise, practise, practise!
In case you didn’t get that last part, practise! Once you’ve got all the content you want, actually practise delivering your speech. With all the pauses, gestures, giggles, scoffs, tear wipes or whatever else is in there. Perhaps even do it in front of someone. Or in front of the mirror. That’s good because you can practise your posture and body language at the same time. Record yourself for timing. Then listen to it and see where you need to improve. Make sure timing flows naturally ¾ not too fast, not too slow. However best fits your tone and tempo when you’re having a conversation with someone.
And remember to smile and look your audience in the eye. Now, break a leg!
As much as we love to advocate for the written word, there are some things you simply wouldn’t want to see in an email, text message or on social media before hearing it directly.
Seeing your best friend’s “she said yes” post on Facebook or Instagram before they excitedly call you on the phone to tell you first takes all the magic out of the experience, doesn’t it? That puts you on the same level of importance as the masses. Thanks, best friend, I thought we were closer than that.
Sharing words with someone in person immediately increases their value (both the words and the person). So give your words the significance they deserve. Otherwise, you could very well come off as offensive, inconsiderate or rude.
So, in the spirit of preserving the little human interaction we have left in the world, try to keep the following things for face to face. Or, at the very least, over the phone.
The first-ever “I love you.”
It’s terrifying enough to get the courage to do this. It is, after all, one of the scariest things to say for the first time. And after all that build-up, you’ll probably want to see the receiver’s reaction in front of your very eyes (assuming it goes well). Plus you’ll want to be there in the flesh for whatever comes next. Wink, wink.
“You’re fired/It’s over.”
Ending a relationship, whether personal or professional, is never an easy thing to do. Imagine being broken up with over a text message. Or being fired over an email. What does that say? “I couldn’t be bothered to waste another minute of my time with you.” And while you’re leaving them for a reason, no one deserves that kind of disrespect. Be a good sport about it and look them in the eyes while you break their heart.
Quite the milestone. And there will most definitely be more to be discussed in that conversation. Seeing that kind of announcement in a Facebook message would sound like a joke. Enough said about this one.
“Will you marry me?”
Another no-brainer. Texting someone, “Will you marry me?” would probably be followed by “Really?” or “Are you serious?” Don’t start your life together with an argument. There will be plenty of those to come.
Grandma, Uncle Joe, whoever it may be; someone’s passing should be communicated vocally. Unless, of course, it’s under extenuating circumstances. 1) It’s a form of respect to all those affected. 2) It puts you in direct contact with people you’d want to be around anyway.
If we haven’t made it clear by now: put the pen, phone, laptop or whatever it is down and knock on their door instead.
You’re a wordsmith, a whiz with words, a connoisseur of content, a prodigy of prose — you get the idea. So in light of that, your non-wordsmith colleagues come to you to write their speech. Here are some tips on how to do it so your colleagues command the attention of the room with your carefully crafted wording.
Write in a tone appropriate for the occasion.
If you’re giving a eulogy, you may want to steer clear of the jokes. If you’re presenting to a room of potential investors, you’re going to want to sound professional and successful (so they’re more inclined to invest in you). It would help to know the speaker in whatever capacity. If you’re just meeting them, sit down together and have a chat to get an idea of the way they speak, the words they use and their overall air. That’ll make it easier to write a speech that is uniquely theirs.
Say it aloud.
As you’re writing said speech, go over every sentence as you go and say it out loud. You want to ensure it flows like conversation. Make bullet points on the given topics and record yourself discussing them as if you were talking to your friends (this is to make it sound real, simple and casual). Then write out the recording verbatim if you have to. This is good practice, especially if you’re new to writing speeches.
Sound like a human.
Listening to someone give a speech that was obviously written by someone else is the ideal scene for dozing off. That’s not the reaction you’re going for, so make sure it sounds natural. You want to have a conversation with your audience — not put them to sleep with stiff and rigid wording. They may as well read the PowerPoint and ignore you altogether. If there is no supplementary PowerPoint, that leaves all the weight to perform on your words. So make sure you take extra care to choose all the right ones.
Go with the flow.
Remember, this needs to sound like they’re not reading queue cards (even though they likely are). Accommodate for natural pauses and expressions. If there needs to be a sneer or chuckle for the sake of effect, add it in. Every word should sound genuine, as if that person was talking to you from the head of their dinner table.
Contrary to popular belief, pauses are good! They give the speaker a chance to catch their breath for a moment; they let the audience absorb what was just said; and they reinforce whatever was just said because it makes it sound important enough to pause after. Indicate when to take a pause in the written speech. [short pause] That way you don’t run the risk of them doing it at the wrong time. Mapping out their speech in detail puts more control in your hands — which is where it should be.
Have them review it.
When you’ve written and re-written your speech, send it to the speaker and have them look it over. They can make changes based on what appeals more to them and in doing so show you how well you’ve captured their essence (or haven’t). Then you can make it even better and send it off for the world to hear. Ideally, they’ll memorize it and sound exactly how you envisioned. Unfortunately, ideal conditions aren’t common; the final delivery is on them. And at that point it’s out of your control. Fingers crossed.