now that we have constructed a skeleton for our speech, we are ready to add some muscle and fesh to the bones. This is where the majority of the writing work takes place, so it makes the most sense to start here.
You may not be delivering your speech by reading from a fully written text; in fact, most of the time you won’t want to. (We’ll discuss this further in Lesson 10.) Nevertheless, it will be a very helpful exercise to write out your frst speech word-for-word, exactly as you will deliver it. This will help you to understand a number of fundamental principles involved in good speech writing. In this lesson, we will address the most important part of your speech: the body.
As we discussed in Lesson 5, there are many types of speeches that you might fnd yourself asked to give, but all of them follow more or less the same pattern when constructing the body. Therefore, we will tackle the
most challenging form of speech, the persuasive type, and use that as our template on how to create a power- ful body. All other types of speeches will follow this pattern to some extent, even though the goal will not be to persuade the audience of an opinion. So if you are giving an informative speech or a demonstrative speech, you won’t be concerned with the aspect of proving your opinion to be true, but you will still be able to use this structure to build the body of your speech.
Selecting Your Main Points
The frst step in writing the body of your speech is to decide what your major points will be. You will tell the audience what your topic or thesis is in the introduc- tion (which we’ll cover in Lesson 9), so in the body you will want to start breaking down your topic into several major sub-points or aspects of that topic.
In the case of a persuasive speech, your sub- points will be the pieces of evidence you want to bring in to prove that your thesis—the opinion you stated in the introduction—is true. Before we go any further, however, we should briefy consider how many sub- points your speech should include. This will depend largely upon how much time you have to speak. If you have 20 minutes, you can probably include three sub- points; 10 minutes might restrict you to two; 40 min- utes might permit four.
The main rule of thumb would be to have between two and fve sub-points. Only one sub-point is not a sub-point at all; it’s a secondary topic or thesis. More than fve sub-points, on the other hand, becomes too much information. Remember our shotgun/rife analogy: It’s better to cover a few points in depth than a lot of points superfcially.
You already created a preliminary outline in the last lesson, so let’s use that to begin building a full speech. We’ll use the outline that we created on the topic of painting miniatures as our example, even though it’s not a persuasive speech. Here is the body portion of that outline:
Ways to use a paintbrush
smooth strokes are best (Smith 22)
but sometimes rough strokes add texture
[need more info on various strokes from
How to select paint
“lifeblood” quote from Smith 36
importance of primer (Smith 12; Jones 29;
why paints are different—summarize Smith
Different modeling materials
metal (Jones 128–132)
plastic (Brown 33–40)
ceramic (Smith 13–17)
This is going to be a demonstrative speech, so
you won’t need to prove anything; rather, you’ll need to demonstrate each of your sub-points in some man- ner, explaining to your audience how each sub-point is an important aspect of painting miniatures. This will be done both physically and verbally: You’ll want to have visual aids that will illustrate your points and enable you to show your audience what you’re talking about, but you’ll also need to explain in clear language what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
As you sit down to write, however, you might sud- denly realize that your points are out of sensible order. You think through what you’ll need to say for each point, and realize that it makes more sense to begin
your speech with point 2 instead of point 1. So, your frst point will now be “how to select paint.” This will allow you to use a nice quotation from the Smith book early in your lecture, helping your audience to under- stand one of the most important elements of painting. You will want to put that into plain English in your speech, so you might write something like this:
One of the frst important things to consider when painting miniatures is what paint you will use. As John Smith writes in his excellent book How to Paint Realistic Miniature Figures, “Paint selection is the lifeblood of any painting project. Selecting the wrong paint for your project is like eating poison— bad paint can kill your favorite fgure.” Therefore, the frst step in painting miniatures is to choose an appropriate paint.
There are, of course, many types and brands to choose from. As you can see [gesture to row of paints], it can be a bit intimidating to choose if you don’t know what to look for. The best place to start is to select an appropriate primer to use as a base- coat on your fgure, because a good primer will allow you to use some paints that might not adhere to your fgure otherwise.
I have taken the raw material from my outline and feshed it out into a workable frst draft of my speech. I introduce my frst sub-point by explaining that paint selection is an important aspect of painting minia- tures, and this leads naturally into the quotation from the Smith book.
I next work in my frst visual aid, which will be a row of paints set up in front of the podium. By gestur- ing to them, I am working them into my speech, giving the audience a nice visual aid to bring my words to life, while also not permitting them to become a distraction from my words.
Next, I move onto the importance of selecting a primer, following my outline, and will spend a paragraph or two in the speech explaining how to
do so. But notice one other thing that I did in that last sentence: I explained why primer selection is important to my topic.
explaining the Significance of Your Sub-Points
This is the step in speech writing that many beginners omit, but it’s one of the most important elements in a successful speech. It is not good enough to tell your audi- ence that something is important or that something is true; you must also tell them why it’s important or true.
Let’s return to the example that we used in Lesson 5, where you are a lawyer in a court trying to prove that John Smith murdered Bill Jones. Your introduction will contain your thesis, that John Smith shot Bill Jones, so the body of your speech will consist of presenting several points of evidence and explaining how each piece of evidence proves your thesis. Here again is the outline we used for that example:
Thesis: John Smith murdered Bill Jones. Evidence 1: Here is the revolver that he used to
Explanation: It has been proven that this gun fred
the fatal bullet, and Smith’s fngerprints were
found on the handle.
Evidence 2: Jones and Smith were seen arguing just
before the shooting.
Explanation: Smith was angry with Jones and
threatened to kill him, and three witnesses heard
him just prior to the gunshots.
Evidence 3: Smith has no alibi for where he was at
the time of the shooting.
Explanation: Since Smith was seen by witnesses at
the scene just moments before the crime, it is
beyond doubt that he committed it. Conclusion: There is no reasonable doubt that
John Smith shot Bill Jones.
If this court case were constructed as a speech, each piece of evidence would consist of a major sub- point in your presentation. Point 1 would be to show your audience a revolver and tell them that it was the gun used to kill the victim. But showing them the gun is not enough to prove that John Smith is guilty—you must also explain how that gun proves his guilt.
Imagine a lawyer standing up in court and show- ing a gun to the jury. He says, “See this gun? It was used to shoot Bill Jones! So now you know that John Smith is guilty.” Then he sits down.
Has that lawyer proven his case? Obviously not. Now ask yourself what was missing from his presenta- tion, and you’ll immediately recognize that he needed to explain how that gun was connected to John Smith as well as to the murder. No matter how convincing the lawyer’s evidence might have been, it was worthless without a clear explanation of how it proved his thesis.
This principle is equally true of your speech. It won’t matter how well prepared you are, how much research you’ve done, or how much of an expert you are on your topic; if you don’t explain to your audience how each sub-point supports your thesis, your speech will miss its goal.
Fortunately, however, we already thought about that detail and included it in our outline. The gun proves Smith’s guilt because his fngerprints were found on the handle. Similarly, the selection of a cor- rect primer is important in painting miniatures because it allows the painter to use a wider variety of paints. In both these examples, the speaker has given the audi- ence a clear understanding of how the sub-point relates to the thesis. The goal of the persuasive speech will be furthered because the audience will understand how one piece of evidence proves the truth of the speaker’s opinion; the goal of the demonstrative speech is fur- thered because the audience understands how primer selection relates to their own hobby of painting.
arranging Your Sub-Points
When we sat down to write our speech on miniature painting, we decided to rearrange our sub-points, moving point 2 up to point 1. The reason for this was simply that it made more logical sense to begin with that point, since the other two points built upon the selection of paint. In other words, to begin with the foundational point and build upon it with subsequent points made for a more logical fow of thought.
This is one of the most commonly used methods to determine how to arrange the sub-points in one’s speech. Here are some other methods you can use:
n Topical: If your main topic is broken down into sub-topics, then arrange those points by topic. An example of this might be the main point “How to Plan an Ideal Vacation.” Sub- topics of this might include “Look for the Best Prices,” “Choose a Suitable Climate,” and “Travel at Off-Times.”
n Chronological: You can arrange your points in chronological order, either forward in time or backward. You might be speaking about the history of your club, and you could begin at its origins and move through signifcant events up to the present. Or you might want to demon- strate where the present economic crisis origi- nated, starting in the present and working your way back through recent history.
n Cause and Effect: This is a very useful method when creating a persuasive speech. Your points might be three or four current problems in the health-care industry, and at each point you would explain what caused that problem and what effect it has on health care. This method would focus on the root causes of issues, rather than on their solutions.
n Problem and Solution: This is a variation of the cause-and-effect method, in which you would focus instead on the solutions of the existing problems without being too concerned with where those problems originated. Your points would then be organized into three or four major problems about which your audi- ence is concerned, offering solutions to each.
n Step-by-Step: This is similar to the chronologi- cal method in the sense that you will address one step that must be fulflled before the next step can be started. It’s useful in demonstrative speeches, such as the miniature painting exam- ple used earlier.
writing and rewriting
Finally, it is worth touching upon the question of writ- ing styles at this point, although we will delve into this topic in greater depth as we go along. But at this point, you might be feeling somewhat overwhelmed at the prospect of taking that skeletal outline and converting it into a lively, interesting speech. Don’t be dismayed— you are not alone!
For many, there is nothing quite so intimidating as a blank sheet of paper you must fll with words. I’ve been a writer in various felds for more than 30 years, and I still feel that sense of intimidation when I frst sit down to begin a writing project. This is just as true when writing a speech as it is when writing a book, because both are dependent upon words and ideas. You might have the most brilliant ideas for your speech, but they won’t be worth much if you can’t put them into suitable words.
The most important thing to understand now is that you are beginning your frst draft, not your com- pleted speech. The words that you put on paper or type
into your computer are not the fnal words that you will speak before an audience; they are merely the beginning. Once you have gone through your outline, you will want to go back and make changes.
One of the most important areas of change will involve those gaps you discover as you write the frst draft. You already discovered some gaps when you converted your raw notes into an outline; now you’ll most likely discover a few more as you fesh out the skeleton. As I said previously, you never know how much you know until you try to explain it to someone else. Putting your outline into fully written form will bring to light areas where your information is incom- plete, or where you need better examples to illustrate your points.
This might involve some further research, or it might mean going back to one of your previous sources for more information. Whatever is required to fll those gaps, you will have to return to your frst draft and make some changes to add the new informa- tion. You might also feel that your wording isn’t as good as it could be in some portions, and this will require that you go back through your speech and do some rewriting.
Rewriting is the hardest concept for beginners to grasp, and many frst-time public speakers simply skip the step. Those who do, however, rarely make that same mistake a second time—the embarrassment of delivering a poorly written speech is a strong deter- rent. You must remember that you will be essentially reading what you’ve written in front of an audience, so you should make sure that it’s written well in the frst place.
It may seem like a lot of unnecessary work at this point, especially if you are planning to deliver your speech from an outline or from notes, rather than reading a fully written speech. We will discuss these various methods of speech delivery in a later lesson,
but for now this exercise is very important because it helps you to think through exactly what you intend to say when you get up to speak.
It is an easy temptation to think that once you’ve put your outline together, you’re ready to get up and speak. You’re not! You need to know in advance what you’re going to say—exactly what you’re going to say— at each point in your speech. The best way to do this when you’re frst learning how to speak publicly is to write out your speech verbatim, and then read it aloud to yourself. This will show you the areas of weakness and help you discover ways to improve.
So take the time and effort to do some rewriting on your frst draft. You will be immensely glad you did when you get up to speak.
writing for Speaking, not reading
Remember that you are writing a speech, not a novel. This distinction infuences the length of your speech as well as the style. And the best way to understand both those distinctions is to read your speech out loud once it’s written, pretending that you are actually deliv- ering it in front of the audience.
You will be quick to notice areas where your wording is uncomfortable or unnatural to you as you speak them aloud. The words might read well, but a speech is meant to be heard, not read. This exercise will help you to understand that distinction, and will help you to cultivate your own natural speaking style.
Reading your speech aloud will also help you to smooth transitions between points. In our fgure- painting speech, the three main points are not closely related at frst glance, so we’ll want to make some sort of transition when moving from point 1 to point 2. It’s easy to forget this when you’re writing, but speaking it out loud as though you were in front of an audience will make you recognize when transitions are rough.
Finally, time yourself as you read through the frst draft to see how long it takes to deliver the speech. Most people have a great fear of not having enough to say when they give a speech, and the most common solution is to include far more information than you think you’ll need. That’s not a bad approach in your frst draft, since it’s easier to cut information than to add it. All the same, don’t be afraid to make those cuts if your speech takes too long. Conversely, if you’ve been asked to speak for 15 minutes and your speech only takes three, you’ll need to bolster it with more informa- tion, better examples, some anecdotes, and so forth. It’s true that you have not yet written the introduction and conclusion, but those elements add only a small por- tion of time to the overall speech. Plus, reading aloud through just the body will frequently make the intro- duction and conclusion practically write themselves