I have to write what?  Did you say a speech?

Just the sheer thought of writing a speech can send many students into fear.  Speeches have long been regarded as a formal type of speaking that requires a ton of work and practice.  While speeches can be very formal, there are more exciting ways to introduce this real-world type of writing to students.  Let’s begin by simply clarifying what a speech is.

What is a speech?

Speeches are a type of communication that allow the speaker to inform, entertain, persuade, or narrate.  Consequently, this type of writing works well after students have previously written an article, a poem, a short story, and a persuasive piece.  After completing all of those, chances are students will have a type they enjoy most and can target that for the topic of their speech.

Audience Awareness:

When presenting a speech, the speaker must be aware of the audience’s perspective.  If one is presenting an informational speech, the speaker must know if the audience has limited or no prior knowledge regarding their subject.  Obviously, this audience type will require more basic information to be covered.  Additionally, the speaker should anticipate the audience’s thoughts, questions, and or lack of understanding.  This will allow the speech to be more successful in meeting its intended purpose.

Throughout the speech, the speaker must maintain a polite, courteous tone.  Even if the objective is to persuade, this must be done through facts, not through the use of badgering or harsh words.

Idea Development & Support:

Speeches are delivered from the perspective of a more informed speaker to a less informed audience; consequently, they should contain sufficient details and idea development for the audience to feel fully informed.  Idea development may be in the form of stories, statistics, personal reflections, visual aids, or the discussion of counter arguments.  The support should be supplied according to the author’s purpose.  Furthermore, the speaker should gather their information from a variety of sources.


Noteably one of the most important organizational elements for a speech is the hook or lead.  This may either directly state the purpose or it may only be implied.  Speech writers will also need to place their ideas in logical order, which maintain unit and coherence with the speech main’s idea.  Throughout the speech, the author must use transitions that shift from one supporting point to another.  Upon reaching a conclusion, the speaker should attempt to review their main points in an informational speech.  A persuasive speech would ask the audience to move towards a certain action.  Additional speech purposes might make a personal appeal to the audience and even others might challenge the audience.

Is This Source Too Old?

When gathering information for a speech, it is important to consider the age and supplier of the resource.  Although, an entire article could be written just on the subject of evaluation sources used in research, some general tips about how to know if sources are up-to-date include the folllowing:

  1. Topics focusing on the sciences need to be more up-to-date, as this information is constantly changing and developing.  Consider if you want to the library and checked out a 1990s book about computers; certainly, this information would be out of date and worthless in supplying an audience with desired information.


  1. Many web sites have dates to show when they were last updated.  If you are viewing a web site in 2011, and you notice that it has not been changed since 2005, you may want to consider a different source.


  1. Humanities information that is 50 or 100 years old will most likely still be relevant to those particular topics.


  1. Many online news sources have the exact date, hour, and minute that information was posted.


As these tips indicate, the major consideration when deciding if a source is too old, is the simply the topic you are referencing.  Some topics get better with age, while others require constant updating.

How Does A Written Speech Look?

Many people believe that a speech is supposed to have some magical appearance.  Yes, business letters have a specfic form and poetry does too, but speeches are essentially just a compilation of paragraphs.  A speech should contain:

  • An introduction.

◦      States the purpose for your speech and presents a thesis.

▪      A thesis statement is simply a highlight as to what the body of your speech will contain.


  • A body.

◦      Contains accurate, up-to-date information.

Contains strong supporting arguments.


  • A conclusion.

◦      Restate your thesis, summarize, and provide an appropriate conclusion.

Speech Delivery:

Speeches are meant to be heard, not read.  After students have successfully researched and written their speeches, these tips will be helpful during delivery:


  • Use correct body language.
  • Do not stay seated during a speech or read from notes.
  • Make appropriate use of hand gestures and facial expressions.
  • Do not read from your notes.
  • Maintain good eye contact throughout your speech.
  • Occasionally pause and allow your audience to reflect on your statements.
  • Test all audio-visual aids prior to speech delivery.
  • Limit PowerPoint presentations to essential information.  Do not go overboard with animations, sound effects, etc.
  • Do not cram a large amount of tiny print, onto a tiny slide.
  • Dress appropriately.

Final Thoughts:

As with all styles of writing, be authentic and personable.  By combining an intriguing idea with sufficient details and a personal affect, speech writers can wow their audiences with a stunning presentation.

Writing a speech: tips for writing and presenting