“If you started something two weeks ago, you’d be two weeks better at it by now.” ~ John Mayer
This is true for anything: weight goals, a musical instrument, programming language, and… a speech. It typically takes about two weeks to prepare a really good speech, and almost everyone has some sort of process that works for them.
Writing a speech starts with a topic. It can come from anything: maybe it’s a presentation for work, a toast for a wedding, or the next project in your Toastmasters manual. Regardless, speeches need a topic. See the blog post What This Moment Could Be for ways to find speech inspiration!
Once you know what you’re going to be talking about, the next step is choosing what points you’re going to cover from that topic. I usually do this by creating a mind map (something many other Toastmasters like to do as well). With my topic in the middle, I write all the points I can think about it outside the centre bubble, with sub-points connected to all the outside points. This allows me to see in one place all the things I can talk about, and makes it easier to see how these points might be connected, which is useful when you’re constructing the order of your speech.
Regardless of how you choose your points, the next step is to organize them. There are so many ways to organize a speech. If you’re telling a story, chronological order might be the most appropriate. If you’re trying to make an argument, you might want to start with your weaker arguments and finish with your most compelling points. The order in which you structure your speech is specific to the type of presentation you’re given, and should be chosen based on what is going to make your presentation most effective.
After you’ve figured out the order of your points, it’s time to fill in the content of your speech! Some people find it useful to write out every word of their speech (be careful if you choose to do this… It may end up sounding like you’re reciting a script!), but some people prefer to just jot down the key things they want to cover under each talking point. Either way you do it, you need to practice your speech many times before you present.
This way you can figure out what sounds good and what doesn’t so you can tweak your speech before you’re in front of your audience! Practicing will also make it easier if you find you’re nervous in front of a crowd because delivering your speech will be automatic after you’ve rehearsed it multiple times!
Two weeks. That’s all it takes! So why not start your next presentation now? In two weeks, you might wish you did!