Speech writing “how to” guide

Speeches are a fun and interesting genre. What I liked most about writing speeches is the creative ability it affords you. There is so much potential in speeches to motivate people and to create change. Even writing this speech, I could feel that excitement.

With that being said, speeches are meant to attract people’s attention. Because of this aspect, the technical information included must not be too intensive. If it becomes too boring, then people will no longer pay attention and you will not be able to get your point across. I struggled with this in my experiment because I needed to explain how a citizen could create a law, therefore, explaining how a bill becomes a law. It was important to include because not all citizens are aware of this process and it also emphasizes that citizens play a big role in this process. However, I was worried that it would sound too technical and I would lose the audience’s attention. Additionally, for the same reason of not losing the audience’s attention, speeches must not be too long.

To help write my speech, I analyzed three speeches given by President Obama. I based my speech off of him because I was writing as a president speaking to the United States and I admire Obama’s speech giving skills. Here is what I learned from analyzing Obama’s speeches:

Obama’s First Presidential Inaugural Address is the first speech President Obama addressed to America as the president of the United States. The point of this speech is for Obama to tell the country that he is here to help them. He discusses how strong our nation is, but also the hardships we must face and concur. This is why in my speech I chose to at first discuss all America has accomplished and then discuss my main point: why federal election day must be made a federal holiday. I also decided to break my speech up into small paragraphs—sometimes only as small as a sentence. Obama’s speeches are written this way so that he has a built-in time to pause and emphasize points. Additionally, Obama constantly is referring to his audience directly, saying “us” rather “you”. Obama emphasizes that he is an American too, which is why I say “we” and “us” in my speech.

In Obama’s final presidential State of the Union Address, Obama delivers a speech to Congress, giving the administration’s view of the state of the nation and plans for legislation. This speech is composed of the same aspects as the ones seen in Obamas inaugural address previously mentioned. However, what stands out to me in this speech is Obama’s use of very personal and specific examples. Obama refers to all of the American people and then touches on specific people. For instance, he mentions “the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open” and “in the Dreamer who stays up at night to finish her science project”. I think that these specific examples are very impactful because they show that Obama isn’t only talking to America as a whole, but to the individuals that make up America as well. This is why in my speech I include specific examples of children whose dreams will be crushed if federal election day is not made a federal holiday. Additionally, unlike other presidents, Obama uses small pieces of humor in his speeches, like when he refers to Vice President Joe Biden directly in his speech (this got a laugh out of the crowd). This is why I included my line about how it doesn’t matter if you prefer the Yankees or the Red Socks.

In Obama’s presidential Farewell Address, Obama is reflecting on the change the country and the citizens have accomplished and how America has a bright future ahead. Again, this speech has all the characteristics previously mentioned. What stood out to me in this speech particularly was how powerful of a connection there seemed to be with Obama and the people. In most Obama speeches, Obama uses “we” to show that he is like all other Americans. A particular part in this speech that stood out to me is when Obama says “But that’s what we did. That’s what you did. You were the change.” Rather than say “we” will be the change Obama states that it was always the people who made the change. This is inspiring and is why I chose to emphasize how it is the people who will ultimately make the change.

Here are some quick tips to know when writing speeches:

  1. Speeches are meant to inspire and persuade people.
  2. Speeches must mean something to people in order to inspire and persuade them.
  3. The audience you are speaking to is crucial. If you do not write your speech for the right audience, then your speech will not be as impactful as it could be.
  4. Know your audience. For example, you should be aware whether including a bunch of academic information will either bore your audience and make them lose attention or intrigue them and make them want to listen more.
  5. Speeches cannot be too long because then you will lose your audience’s attention.
  6. Be simple. If your words become too complicated then it will be hard for the audience to follow.

I hope this helps you if you need to write a speech!

2 thoughts to “Speech writing “how to” guide”

  1. This is an excellent breakdown of the speech-writing process, as well as an interesting analysis of some of Obama’s most iconic speeches. I agree that he’s a great speaker, and his words never fail to inspire me. However, as I read your blog post I wondered how the auditory, visual, and performative parts factor into this genre. You’ve given a great explanation of how to write a speech, but how do you give one in the “right” way, or in the way Obama did? What’s the role of volume, cadence, body language, and tone of voice? These are some factors that make speeches “multimodal,” and I’d love to hear your thoughts on the “live” aspect of speeches sometime. But as far as the writing goes, right on!

  2. Hey Chloe! To start off, I liked your point on how speeches can be creative because I think that a common stereotype of a speech is that they have to be stiff and follow a certain structure, although that really isn’t the case. Drawing on Obama’s past speeches was a good way to bolster this initial argument — his sense of humor and the ways in which he riles up listeners is all marked by at least a smidge of creativity. In your sample excerpt, you did a great job of emulating Obama’s tone and the ways in which he implements driving concepts into his speeches.

Leave a Reply