writing a speech – Talking in Public

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Let’s Compare Written Information to Spoken Information

Writing a SpeechOne of the areas I coach public speakers is how to convey information from a written report or project summary in a speech or presentation. Can you cover all the same information? What order should it be?


We don’t speak the way we write. Written work can sound overly formal when being read aloud for a speech. Sentences with numerous bullet points are difficult to follow in a speech without the use of a visual aid background – not something I recommend until you have mastered public speaking as it is too easy to rely on the visual presentation and just read what it says on the screen. More about that another day….


Let’s have a look at some direct comparisons of what you would find in a written presentation and how that is transposed to a speech.

Written InformationSpoken Information
Title of report, author's name, position etcIntroduction to speaker and topic
Table of ContentsSpeaker tells audience what is going to be covered
Charts, tablesElectronic presentation, live action with whiteboard or paper
Underlined or boldface words, exclamation pointsSpeaker writes word on whiteboard, repeats word in speech, uses gestures to emphasise word
PhotographsSpeaker relates anecdotes or stories to illuminate important points
ParagraphsSpeaker pauses between separate sections or ideas
Lists of items - bullets, numbers etcSpeaker counts off items to help audience keep track
Chapter HeadingsSpeaker says "Now I am going to talk about..."
Quotation marksSpeaker says "as X once said" or uses the words "quote" and "unquote"
FootnotesSpeaker takes a brief moment to explain words or references, particularly when some of the audience may not be familiar
Page NumbersSpeaker lets the audience know where they are - "First I'll describe X, then I'll tell you about Y"
Names, other identifiers (where a reader could go back in a report to check)Speaker refers to people, places, things by the same name each time. Speaker provides the reference back "X works in the same way as Y, which I talked about earlier"
ConclusionsSpeaker indicates by summarising (saying "in conclusion"). The final sentence of a presentation should be a strong summary and call to action if appropriate.

So you can see that there is a pattern for transferring the information you have already put into a report to a speech/presentation that will give your audience the opportunity to digest it.


In the next post I am going to summarise my favourite points for “speaking well”.

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