Being concise is the secret to effective speech writing - saying the most in the fewest words.
If I asked you to write a list of memorable speeches, the chances are that the Gettysburg Address would appear on that list. So it's remarkable to consider that that speech is less than 300 words (272 to be precise!).
In 272 words, Lincoln conveyed sorrow, respect, patriotism, determination, and hope, an outstanding feat, and one that few of us could achieve without practice!
We can take a valuable lesson from the Gettysburg Address concerning effective speech writing. Conciseness matters.
Effective speech writing means staying on message. Unnecessary 'waffle' in a speech not only bores your listeners, but it can also confuse your audience. Aside from its historical context, Lincoln's speech was so memorable because it remained tightly focused.
To deliver a message that makes an impact, you need to make sure that your speech uses the fewest words possible, and that each word supports your overall theme.
Compare these - which do YOU think is better?
The two sentences are stating the same topic - one uses 28 words, the other only 14!
Once you've written your speech, go back through it and look for lo-o-ng sentences that could easily be divided into two (or more!).
See how the second example has more impact than the first? Effective speech writing prefers simplified sentence structure that is more direct.
We overuse long phrases so often that we do not even realize it! In our desire to explain thoroughly and eloquently, we overextend our wording.
The tendency to 'stray' comes when we deviate from the subject at hand to tackle related information. Effective speech writing requires that using an outline to stay on target. Imagine an archery target. Does each idea in the speech hit the bullseye of the thesis statement? If not, save the idea for another time.
When editing written work, check that every paragraph relates to the central message of your speech.
Writing in the passive voice tends to make sentences more protracted, more confusing, and dramatically reduces their impact.
Not sure what this means?
With the passive voice, the subject of a sentence becomes the object (or is missing altogether).
The active sentence has five words - the passive has seven! Moreover, the overall message is explicit in the active voice.
If you struggle to identify the passive voice in your work, then I recommend the Hemingway App (it's free online!). Hemingway was famed for his simple, unadorned use of words and the app will help you adopt this style in your writing. Grammarly is another modern writing assistant with more plug-in options than Hemingway for Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Edge, and now Google Docs. Some reviews of these grammar tools will point out that none of these tools are perfect. That said, Grammarly is an invaluable to the author of this article for limiting unintended use of passive voice. See my 2018 review of Grammarly.
There is much truth in the old idiom 'a picture is worth a thousand words.' Pie charts and diagrams can help you present a considerable amount of information in a very easy-to-understand way — data and facts that might otherwise be boring.
It is critical that your speech includes all the key points. Covering the material with proper depth is why I recommend that you DO NOT worry about being concise in your initial draft - instead, write freely, then edit your words. That way, you will see that all the main points are covered and focus on pairing away the unnecessary words and details.
If there are no time constraints or targets for the length of your speech, remember the wise words of the Academy Award-winning actor Sir John Mills -
'Be sincere, be brief, then be seated.'