Leadership studies is a discipline that by definition often deals with public speaking and speechwriting. If you choose such a course, be ready to write, prepare and deliver speeches on a regular basis, however uncomfortable you may feel about it. Speech-related tasks in leadership studies can be very varied: your professor may ask you to deliver a speech aimed to perform a certain function as a part of a case study. You may have to prove your point in front of an audience. You may have to do it as a part of a debate. In other words, it is an important part of any leadership-related course, and the specifics of your job may vary. However, the primary goals usually remain the same: to influence the audience, to convert them to your point of view, occasionally to inspire and motivate them to do their best when dealing with a problem. Some common principles remain the same, and if you master them, you are unlikely to experience problems with anything your professors can throw your way.
Normally, one learns them through experience; however, we at %WEBSITE% decided to make the lives of all leadership students easier and had our writers prepare a complete guide to writing speeches in leadership studies – the guide you are reading right now.
How to Write a Speech in Leadership Studies: Topic Choice and Preparation
1. Choose an Interesting, Inspiring and Relevant Topic
In some cases, your professor furnishes you with a topic. However, usually you have to do this part of work by yourself. Fortunately, the subject of leadership is an extremely multi-lateral one and offers plenty of topics worth covering. Here are some suggestions that can help you find something you will be comfortable talking about:
- Talk about one or more great leaders that inspire you and discuss what makes or made them special and capable of achieving their results;
- Talk about specific styles of leadership and what they mean for both the leader and the followers;
- Talk about what makes a great leader and why different types of organizations, movements, businesses etc. require their leaders to have different sets of qualities to succeed;
- Talk about how a good leader should deal with a particular challenge.
Here are some topics you may come up with:
- Henry Ford: What Qualities Led Him to the Degree of Greatness He Achieved?
- Leadership in the Digital Age: Does It Evolve Fast Enough to Meet the Ever-Changing Tech Challenges?
- What Makes for Effective Decision Making in Modern World?
- What Lies at the Foundation of Ethical Leadership?
- Are Leaders Born or Made?
As you can see, there are plenty of directions – they are only limited by your own ingenuity.
2. Choose a Structure That Best Fits Your Purpose
Some aspects of a speech are better left unchanged no matter what you are talking about. For example, the optimal distribution of space: 10 percent opening, 80 percent main part, 10 percent conclusion. You can deviate from it, but only if you have a very good reason to do so. Nine times out of ten, it is better to limit opening and conclusion to short yet powerful statements and dedicate the rest of the speech to meaningful content. However, the way you organize this content may vary. Here are some of the most popular variations:
- Narrative-based speech. Exactly what it says on the tin – you put a narrative at the center of your speech. You introduce a character (it may be yourself or another person), tell about an issue he/she had to face and proceed to describing how he/she overcame it. This structure helps you connect with your audience emotionally;
- Buildup. You introduce a key idea and proceed to build up the information related to it, layer by layer. In the end, you look back at what you have built and draw conclusions;
- Investigation. You present your audience with a question and get them interested in finding an answer to it. You then proceed to unravel the mystery, gradually moving to a satisfying conclusion;
- Ping Pong. You discuss an issue with two clearly defined viewpoints on it, and represent both of them equally. Move back and forth, gradually increasing the audience’s interest in who will get the upper hand.
3. Prepare an Outline
A speech is a text that heavily depends on all its parts closely working with each other and performing their functions. That is why it is so important to make sure it has a tight structure and that you left nothing to chance. In an outline, you write down an approximation of what you will say in each part, how many points you will use to support your main idea, what evidence you will use to back them up, how you will move from one point to another and so on. It is especially important to plan how much time you will spend on each point – this will help you correct yourself if you later notice that you are lagging behind or moving too fast.
How to Write a Speech in Leadership Studies: Composing and Structuring
1. Start with a Strong Opening
The opening is the most important part of a speech – people only listen to the speaker attentively for about 10 seconds before they form an opinion and either lose interest or focus on you. If you do not use this fleeting timespan to show your credibility, build rapport with the audience, establish command of the room and the topic, you are very unlikely to have a chance to do it later. So pay closest attention to how you start and use your first sentence to maximum effect. Here are some suggestions of how to build strong openings:
- Make a seemingly completely irrelevant statement – the audience will tune in just to find out where you are going with it. The next sentence should bring the speech back to your topic. E.g., ‘There is only one movie I watched more than a dozen times – [Title]. And this is why – there is hardly a better illustration of what a true leader should be anywhere’;
- Start with a quote, either by a well-known author or somebody you know personally (relative, former boss, mentor, colleague, etc.). You can even invent a quote if you are feeling creative and have a good idea – nobody is going to check;
- Refer to your personal experience. For some reason people are especially interested in personal stories, and you can capitalize on this.
Do not worry about being polite and be passionate instead – this is what leadership is all about. Jump to the meat of the thing right away, without gradual introductions – it will only increase the audience’s interest. If you still want to greet your audience, put it into the second paragraph – nobody will notice.
2. Calculate the Length of Your Speech
Speeches are always limited by time, and if you deliver yours in front of the class, this limit is likely to be very short and strict, as your professor wants everybody to deliver one. However, you will be given a time, not word limit, and it may be hard to convert one into another. There are a few ways to do it:
- Find a collection of speeches on your topic and read it aloud for the allotted amount of time. A usual book will not do because the language used in speeches is generally simpler;
- Use an online tool for converting between words and minutes. However, remember that people have different rates of speech (ranging from 125 to 175 words per minute), and tend to further change this rate when talking in front of an audience (usually trying to talk faster). Therefore, the results that these tools return are not set in stone.
3. Relate Everything in Your Speech to a Single Goal
Every speech has a purpose. In leadership studies, it is usually to persuade, motivate or inspire the audience, although other purposes (e.g., to share information) are possible as well. Define the overall purpose of the speech before you start writing and keep it in mind throughout the entire process. Everything you mention should be related to this purpose and move it forward. If something does not do it, edit it out or do not mention it in the first place.
4. Keep Your Structure Clear
Audience should be able to naturally follow you throughout the speech without getting confused. Make sure your train of thought is clearly visible and progresses logically. Do not introduce irrelevant anecdotes to illustrate a point; neither should you jump from one point to another and back again.
5. Reflect the Importance of Each Point in the Structure
Firstly, the amount of time you spend talking about each point should be proportionate to its importance. Even if you have really good fact or quotation to mention about an unimportant point, do not spend too much time talking about it, lest the audience is confused about its relative importance.
Secondly, arrange your points in a meaningful order. Usually it means that you either progress from the least to the most important one (gradually nurturing the audience’s interest and using stronger arguments every time) or vice versa (offering the most important argument first and following it up with supporting evidence).
How to Write a Speech in Leadership Studies: after Writing, before Delivery
1. Memorize the Opening and the Conclusion
You do not have to memorize your entire speech – in fact, it may even be detrimental for overall effect, as it will be obvious that you are talking not to the audience but at it. In addition, if you stumble, it is much harder to get back on track if you retell the speech word for word, than if you reconstruct it in your mind from a few main points. With the main part of the speech, it is less important how you word it as long as you speak confidently and do not forget anything. However, the opening and the conclusion have to be built carefully and are heavily dependent on using specific wording, which means that you should know them by heart to achieve the desired effect.
2. Trim the Fat
In leadership studies, it is very important to lead your audience in the right direction without easing up for even a second. Every sentence and every word should move your main idea forward and lead up to the most important takeaway. Reread your speech carefully and make sure everything you say is relevant and you never drift away from your train of thought. Ask somebody you trust to listen to you while you deliver the speech and ask him/her if it was easy to follow you. If he/she found some parts confusing, change them (usually by removing excessive fragments).
3. Make Sure Your Speech Is Properly Paced
It may not be obvious while you write it, but should become more evident from your test delivery of a speech. Ideally, you should gradually build up your speech to a climax, achieve this top point, make the most powerful statement, and finish quickly. If you put all your strongest arguments and express the main idea too early, you can end up with an ending that occupies half a speech and far outlasts its welcome. Always give the audience a reason to keep listening to you, then end with something emphatic, shocking, unexpected or thought-provoking.
4. Incorporate Non-Verbal Elements
Even if you know your speech perfectly, it does not mean you will be able to deliver it well. You cannot just stand still and talk to your audience: you have to incorporate many additional elements into your speech, such as body language, facial expressions, pauses, silences, intonation, increases and decreases in volume and so on. Do not leave these things to chance – if you do not have much experience in delivering speeches, you will end up looking and sounding unnaturally or freeze up altogether. Instead, plan ahead when you are going to use any of these techniques.
Writing and delivering a high-quality speech in leadership studies is no small thing – with all the attention paid to communication and influencing people in this course, it is hardly surprising that the standards are usually pretty high. However, we hope that with the help of this guide you will be able to do better and more than ever!