How to write the perfect speech

With conference season almost upon us, there are many who will, in a Pavlovian response, break out in cold sweats.

The Milibands and Balls’ will all know that feeling. The constant redrafts, the search for jokes in late night hotel bars and the stale smell of curled up sandwiches and cold chips in the bedroom cum office!

Having to make the ‘speech of your life’ at every conference and convention necessitated all these things.

And with JP I along with, over the years, Gez Sagar, Tony Sophoclidies, Ian McKenzie and Mick Halloran, always had to improve on the last one, walking the tight rope between Nye Bevan and Les Dawson. Every conference closing speech has to be a ‘tub thumping barnstormer.’

Occasionally you would get a genuinely contribution from a punter. One year we got the best line ever from someone who left a message at the hotel reception:

“The only Tory worth backing to win is Frankie Detorri!”

Now those former SPADS to TB and GB have to go through the same hell AND deliver the speech too.

So for anyone who’s worked through the night to draft a speech  – and it needn’t be for conference, it could be a best man’s speech or an address to your work colleagues – take a look at this.

This is the astounding speech Bill Clinton delivered to nominate Obama at the Democrat Convention.

What’s fascinating for me and helpful for everyone, is you can actually see what he ad libbed and deleted from his original text.

Never have the words ‘check against delivery’ meant so much!

Now folks.

There’s a reason for this.

Clinton peppers his speech with these moments to get the listener to refocus.

But he also humanises the text even further by making you think correctly that’s he’s speaking from the heart and not a TelePrompTer.

Just look at way he improves the line about Michelle Obama.

And he also has the swagger to pull it off, learnt from years of stump speeches and reading the crowd.

So the tips for making a great speech:

  • Have a set speech text. It’s great to adlib but you need a structure otherwise you’ll ramble on and on. (Hello Clint!)
  • Do your research. As Republican Vice Presidential Nominee Paul Ryan discovered you can make a great speech but if the facts don’t stack up, you get shot down
  • Use humour but only when you want to make a point. A joke not grounded within the context of your speech’s key messages sticks out like a sort thumb
  • Finally, and most importantly, you’re NOT making a speech. You’re talking to someone. Bill’s great skill is in spite of addressing thousands of people, you feel as if he’s talking just to you

So if you can, just spend 50 minutes watching the master at work.


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