Writing an effective speech for a special occasion is a task that many face with fear and hesitation. Saying the wrong thing or being wrong about the facts could lead to embarrassment, humiliation and hurt feelings. By preparing carefully and effectively practicing the speech beforehand, the speaker can approach the event with confidence. Whether the occasion be a toast to an important person in the family or business, a graduation speech, a funeral farewell or an acceptance speech for an award, memories are made by the carefully chosen words of an effective public speaker.
Write across the top of the page, either on paper or on the computer, what it is you want your audience to know, understand, feel or believe by the time your speech is over. Do not give them ten things to figure out. Focus on one main aim that will summarize all that you intend to say. It could sound like, "Graduation from high school is the first step in making your future dreams a reality." Some people comfort others with ideas such as, "Death is not an ending, but a new beginning and a full realization of who we are and who we have become."
Identify the audience. Once you know who you are primarily speaking to, you can set an adequate tone and select words that communicate powerfully to that particular audience. Effective public speakers are aware that there may be others outside the circle of the primary audience who may hear the message as well. Depending on the nature of the speech or the size of the secondary group, it may be necessary to direct a few words to them as well. A speech directed toward the graduating class of a school could have brief comments congratulating parents and faculty as well.
Now support your main idea with, ideally, three supporting points. Each of the supporting points must give evidence that what you stated in the main aim is correct, accurate and true. Every suppporting point must be distinct and provide support that the others did not. Illustrate each supporting point with a short illustration from life experience, literature or other cultural sources.
As the speech comes near the conclusion, stop and rephrase and restate the main aim. This reminds the listener about the topic of your speech and reinforces that topic. The conclusion is a good place to make personal statements of how you as the speaker relate to the subject of the speech.
Now that you have the body and conclusion written, add the introduction. Remember the target audience and address them in language fitting to the setting and the occasion. "What's up, my homies" might work at the MTV music awards, but not fit for the graduation class of the U.S.A. Military Academy.
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Stephen Saylor is a bilingual educator and translator who has been writing since 2005. He has contributed articles to websites such as rockeros.net and XtremeMusic. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from Michigan State University and a Master of Arts in education from San Diego State University.