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planning, writing and delivering a great speech

Planning, writing and delivering a speech is not a chore, it is a critical way to project a positive image about you and your organisation.

If you don’t have the time or skills then hire a professional writer. There is no cost on a good image. Former US president, Bill Clinton as an example, earns $300 000 for a 50 minute keynote presentation, so there is value in speaking well.

If you want to tackle the challenge of writing your own speech, these tips could help in composing and writing it and delivery.

Power points are the death of good writing and effective speech-making – avoid using a power point and never read from a PowerPoint unless your audience is blind or illiterate.


  • Start your speech with a strong concept, reinforce it in the middle – say something that will help people wake up and pay attention, and leave them with a memorable end to your speech that reinforces the beginning and ideally leaves them feeling uplifted.
  • People who know their speech is going to be broadcast have soundbytes in them – memorable four to six word sentences, eg Clinton once said "most of the big things in life are simple." But be original, avoid clichés or copying others.
  • Have no more than two great ideas, ideally just one and repeat it in different ways at least three times in the speech, emphasise it by using examples.
  • Do not have too many figures in a speech, people forget them. Rather say two-thirds than 75%. Avoid legalese – words like “thus”, “in order”, “hereunder” – use modern spoken English without jargon or slang.
  • Research your subject, have interesting information from your company or about the issue you are discussing.
  • Read your speech out loud after you have written it, cut that which sounds cumbersome when spoken. Time yourself, rather speak under time than over time.


  • Be well dressed, hair carefully groomed, don’t wear showy jewellery, walk tall and with dignity to the podium.
  • Smile.
  • Begin by striking up a conversation with your audience, keep your thanks or welcome informal and sincere.
  • Jokes can break the ice, but be very careful, nothing sexist, racist or that could offend any religious or ethnic group.
  • Do not speak too quickly, speak in a measured manner, giving emphasis to key words or concepts.
  • Be empathetic, say something that tells your audience you know something about them, their city/organisation, their interests. An anecdote is always good. Be sincere, not contrived.
  • Do not drone, ideally do not speak for longer than 30 minutes. Ensure your hosts allow you to take questions for at least 15 minutes.
  • A good event organiser will ensure you speak before the main meal is served and after the starter, never speak before or after dessert, everyone either wants to go or their tummy is full and they are sleepy, either way concentration is poor.