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Public Speaking starts with Writing

Whenever you’re asked to speak in public (and you will, sooner or later, at work or socially) you should start thinking about writing. Wait! What? Writing?

Most people faced with the challenge to deliver a speech or prepare a presentation will almost automatically start typing or power-pointing. That’s one way to work on a speech. I recommend to grab a piece of paper and a pencil (yes, a pencil!) and write!

Hand-writing your speech has multiple benefits; amongst them I would highlight the following 3:

  1. Writing your thoughts down will help you assess their suitability and how they fit within your wider message. This is particularly important because every speech needs to have a thread of consistency and only writing will allow you to test consistency as your text unfolds.
  2. Writing your ideas down will help you remember what you have to say when it’s time to deliver the speech. Whether notes are used or not is a personal preference but the process of scribing your speech will serve as delivery practice. As you compose, your brain (almost unconsciously) begins to store parts of your speech and builds a sense of continuum and story line.
  3. Writing your speech will also allow you to identify more easily areas (and language) that need editing, paragraphs that need removing and parts of the speech that need further development. The calligraphic exercise will provide you with a ‘speech helicopter view’ that, in addition to consistency and practice, will tell you whether you have a proportionately distributed introduction, body and conclusion.

You may be thinking that you could do all those things with a computer’s word processor and, yes, you can. The weakness in typing a speech when you prepare one, however, is the same as in reading a speech when you deliver; it does the job but it lacks emotional connection and impact. Autographing will create a relationship between you, the speech and its future audience that (thankfully!) a computer cannot recreate.

When you’re asked to do a speech or presentation at short notice, jotting words down is even more important as the lack of preparation time will make remembering words much harder and achieving consistency and structure almost impossible. Whenever you find yourself in such situation I would recommend pencilling a very brief introduction (things you want to say first to break the ice), no more than a couple of points on the subject matter (i.e.: pros and cons is an effective approach) and a brief conclusion and call to action.

With or without the time to prepare, spending a few minutes organizing your thoughts on paper will make all the difference to how eloquently and calmly you speak. Try it next time you have to prepare a speech or are asked to say a few words at short notice. A good speaker is a good writer. Public Speaking starts with Writing.

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