Last month, I had the opportunity to return to my high school to give a speech to the student body. It was my 10-year anniversary since graduation and the school had asked me to come back.
For the speech, I decided to talk about my personal experiences with failure. Something I don’t think students get enough support and coaching for when they experience it firsthand. You can read the full speech here but I wanted to share three things I learned from giving a speech.
At some point, you’ll likely be in the position to deliver a speech so hopefully this will be helpful in your preparation or helping you “level up” your future speeches. I’m by no means a professional speaker but I think I can provide a bit of value for you here.
If you have any other tips or ideas for speech writing, please post them below! I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Tell Personal Stories, Be Passionate, and Be Real
I know, it’s three rolled into one learning but I think it’s important. I had just read Delivering Happiness by Tony Hseih before the speech and he mentioned the three keys to his speeches. And they helped me out a lot.
I remember the night before the speech, I read my girlfriend my speech. She said she liked it but she wished she could get to know more of “Peter”. So I added an additional personal story to the speech.
I think it ended up being the best story of the speech. And it really helped bring my “real” self to the audience. So as you write your speech, make sure you’re checking off all three boxes:
✓ Tell Personal Stories
✓ Be Passionate
✓ Be Real
Making It About Learning
Speeches are difficult because you have to consider who is in your audience and what you think they’ll find valuable. This thought can spiral into thinking too much about your audience and losing your authenticity because you’re thinking too much about what other people will think about your speech.
What I found really helpful as I was writing this speech was making it a learning process for me. I was fortunate to be writing a speech that was on a topic that I had significant expertise in – me! – but I think you can do it for any speech.
If you have a keen interest in the topic of the speech and you make it an opportunity to dive deeper into the topic or better structure your opinion of it, then you make it a much more exciting and pleasurable experience for you. The process of writing it becomes educational and sharing the speech with other people becomes a bonus!
So focus on the process, make it as valuable as possible for you, and you’ll be able to better detach yourself from the outcome of the speech (e.g. how it is received) which is the worry that many speakers have when giving a speech. If the audience loves it, then that’s just icing on the cake.
Give Yourself Plenty of Prep Time
I started brainstorming ideas for my speech about three weeks before the speech date. And I wish I had more time!
I had written any thought, insight, or anecdote related to the speech down in Evernote so I would be able to review them at a later date. This was a really helpful process because I began thinking about my speech early on and began to connect the dots on certain themes at that point. The end result was not the same as I had first imagined it as initial themes and anecdotes that I thought would work well were replaced by others. But it really did help “marinate” my ideas.
I think speech writing is such a fabulous opportunity to reflect and learn. So I’m really thankful that I had given myself plenty of time to research the topic and brainstorm anecdotes that I thought would be valuable for the students. So if you have the luxury of time, make sure you use it as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and how your experiences have shaped who you are.
What are some of your speech writing experiences? What does your preparation process look like? Feel free to post below!