When preparing for a speech, should you write it in full or work off the cuff?

The importance of writing a speech instead of improvising


You’ve been asked to give an important speech on a topic you’re knowledgeable about. But there is endless debate over whether it’s a better idea to write your speech out in full or just speak from what you know with only a rough plan.

I find writing it out is always the best option. As you’d learn on a public speaking course, you don’t necessarily want to read from it when you speak, but the process of writing in full what you want to say helps you in a number of ways.

It gives you a chance to refine your ideas 

As strange as it sounds, speaking off the cuff can sometimes lead you to saying things you don’t necessarily mean. In an effort to keep your mouth moving and the words flowing, your talk and talk until suddenly you realise the thing you just said isn’t actually what you meant, has an important caveat you didn’t mention or is just plain wrong.

Writing our your speech avoids these problems. You have the time to refine your ideas until you’re 100 per cent happy with what you’re saying and every fact and figure you mention is true.

Writing your speech out in full helps you refine your ideas.Writing your speech out in full helps you refine your ideas.

You can rehearse

Giving a good speech is all about rehearsal. Ever seen a TED Talk? What comes off as an effortless and free-flowing speech is actually the result of many hours of rehearsal and presentation skills training. It’s ironic, but making things look effortless actually requires a lot of effort.

If you don’t write out your speech, rehearsing becomes a lot harder because what are you really practising? Rambling for 15 minutes? When you write your speech in full, you can practise the cadence of your delivery, the words you want to emphasise, the spaces where you’ll pause for effect. All of these things make it easier for your audience to take on board what you’re saying.

Flagging possible misinterpretations is easier

As well as refining your ideas, writing out your speech helps you communicate with them more clearly by avoiding possible misinterpretations. Now it may be true that you have everything you want to say in your head, and can just rattle it off whenever you’re asked – and that’s great. But for tricky subject areas, it’s super important that you choose your words carefully. It should be obvious that the time for choosing the best way to phrase something is not milliseconds before you have to say it. Writing your speech out gives you the time to pre-empt where your audience might become confused, and then account for that with what you say next.

To learn more about the courses we have on offer at ICML, get in touch with a member of our team today.

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