Speech Writing and Editing
Do audiences lose interest in your talks?
If attendees are falling asleep or leaving mid-oration, it might be time to go back to the drawing board.
Although speech writing is a practised art, merely simplifying and shortening your presentation is often the key to delivering a memorable performance.
Let’s see how to do it.
Mirthy talk format
Feedback from the Mirthy community suggests that the ideal length for a talk in a retirement development is 30 minutes.
This permits sufficient exploration of a topic while keeping an audience alert and engaged.
Upon receiving a booking request, we’ll specify your talk window to allow you to prepare ahead of time.
In social clubs, event organisers may book your services for up to an hour, providing more flexibility in your content and delivery.
However, it remains advisable to keep your primary content to 45 minutes and use the post-talk discussion section (outlined below) to generate follow-up audience interaction.
Mirthy’s mission is to help older adults reconnect within their communities.
Therefore, we ask speakers to supplement their main content with 1-3 post-talk discussion questions to foster attendee interaction and exploration of subject matter themes in a group environment. This section should last for 15 minutes.
If it’s a larger audience, attendees can discuss the questions in smaller contingents or pairs before feeding back to the wider group.
While the official length of the speaking engagement will vary depending on the organiser, attendees may stay behind for a cup of tea or to ask individual questions.
Benefits of an organised speech
Enhanced public speaking skills
We’ve discovered that structuring your talks using this format can improve public speaking skills.
This is a primary aim for many Mirthy members seeking to hone their approach and improve their performance.
While the content and delivery of your talk are essential factors, applying them to a tried and tested framework makes a significant difference.
While Mirthy attendees are generally receptive and respectful to all hosts, they also sacrifice their time to attend.
With the correct format in place, your audience will derive greater enjoyment from the talk.
Therefore, try to condense your best material and leave attendees wanting more.
Speeches often have distinct or overlapping aims, including education or pure entertainment.
In all cases, we must cater to the human attention span, which is almost always shorter than we imagine.
By trimming the fat, we can make our performance more punchy, improving knowledge transfer and information retention.
Part of the speaking process includes listening to feedback from you listeners and improving your presentation where possible.
Simply put, a happier audience equals better reviews.
This allows future attendees to tune into the best events and ensures a meritocratic advantage for high performers.
A direct consequence of improving your speech structure and skills are extra bookings.
Event organisers are keen to create successful meetups for their attendees and can achieve this by selecting the strongest profile that resonates with their audience.
This means more public speaking events and extra pocket money for you.
Speech editing challenges
We sometimes hear from our speakers that it’s difficult to condense an expansive or complicated topic.
And we understand.
However, while you may want to provide comprehensive coverage of the theme, it’s preferable to use the engagement as an introductory vehicle, piquing an audience’s interest and encouraging them to explore the subject after the event (or book you for another talk!)
You’re likely a subject matter expert on your chosen topic.
Perhaps you’ve spent your whole career in that field or years developing your hobby.
It’s therefore important to place yourself in the position of your audience, who might be completely new to the theme.
By adopting the beginner’s mind and addressing the core concepts in a shorter presentation, you can avoid confusing attendees with complicated, information-dense topics.
One danger of shortening your speech is trying to cram the same amount of information into the available talk window until the presentation bursts at the seams.
This often results in speaker overwhelm, where your delivery becomes too fast and flustered and the audience struggles to keep pace with all the talking points.
Top tips for speech writing and editing
We’ve just seen why shorter speeches are often better and some common issues with speech editing. So let’s look at how to do it.
As we’ve said, tackling a large, complex subject can be overkill for 30 minutes. So try to separate larger topics into individual talks.
For an overview of the topic, keep the material fairly light and introductory.
Otherwise, you may want to follow the mastermind approach and pick a specialist subject within the larger topic.
There are certain techniques for conveying information in easily digestible ways.
Perhaps the best example is storytelling, which throughout evolution, has been used to spread messages among larger and larger groups.
As such, we’re almost biologically primed to internalise such messages.
Stories instantly engage audiences and leverage their previous knowledge, without having to explain individual elements.
By illustrating the themes of your talks in this way, you ensure your most powerful points hit home.
Sometimes it’s impossible to create a story around every talking point.
Analogies offer the perfect substitute and are perfect for explaining complex topics in a way that even beginners understand.
Piggybacking a new piece of information on a concept the attendees already understand can save significant time trying to describe an abstract topic.
Use simple language
Although a topic might be second nature for you, your audience may not appreciate the intricacies of the subject, at least without a general introduction.
Therefore, simplify your language wherever possible.
While your inner poet may baulk at such a suggestion, simple language facilitates clarity and improved memory recall.
Adopt a beginner’s mind
We’ve already mentioned the expert trap and confusing your audience with a complex topic.
It’s possible to counteract this tendency by adopting a beginner’s mind.
By imagining that you were starting fresh and seeking to fast track your knowledge and understanding of the subject, you can extract the primary talking points and accelerate the editing process.
Try to create 3-5 core points you’d like the audience to internalise.
Imagine that an attendee wants to summarise what they’ve learnt for a friend after the talk.
If in doubt, select fewer main points to allow more time to explore and explain each one.
After outlining each point, logically divide your talk into sections around each one so that they segue seamlessly.
Aim for one point per paragraph
You’ll no doubt have identified a recurring theme throughout this article; simplification!
Rather than endless sentences that trail into oblivion, convey one point with each paragraph or sentence.
Keeping this in mind can cut the waffle while retaining the necessary information in the recommended time frame.
Use visual/audio aids
There’s only so far you can go with the spoken word.
The best Mirthy speakers infuse their presentations with audio and visual clips.
This not only segments your talk, but engages every sense, making the presentation more enjoyable.
Note that such a multimedia approach might depend on the venue and their facilities, such as access to a TV, projector or speaker system.
A simple, yet often overlooked aspect of public speaking is sheer repetition and practice.
However, this becomes especially important when cutting your speech down to size.
Therefore, rehearse behind closed doors and time yourself.
For bonus points, record yourself.
Reviewing your speech allows you to revise redundant sections and polish your delivery.
Sometimes we’re just too close to our material to be impartial.
In this case, we need external feedback.
Recruiting family and friends to listen to your presentation ahead of time is one of the best ways to ensure a successful event.
But don’t get defensive. If you truly want to improve, it’s vital to seek honest advice.
Loved ones can highlight boring or overworked sections, allowing you to safely edit excessive content.
Watch other speakers
Improving at any skill requires dedication to the craft, and public speaking is no different.
Luckily, many others have trodden the same path and rather than reinventing the wheel, we can shortcut our progress by applying their hard-won techniques.
Use the post-talk discussion
If, after all the advice in this article, you’re still struggling to contain your talk, there’s still hope.
Those extra topics you can’t bear to leave out could potentially be worked into the post-talk 15-minute discussion with audience participation.
Active learning is better than passive consumption, so by encouraging attendees to collaborate on the topic, not only can we foster social connection, but also increase engagement and enjoyment.
Clarity and simplicity are often the cornerstones of good public speaking.
By writing and editing your speech to make it more concise, you create the necessary structure for a powerful performance…
Which allows your content to work its magic.