6 Steps to Writing an Hour Speech in 48 Hours
So, you’ve got to give a presentation and you do what most people do—procrastinate. Right? I’m a professional speaker and that means I’m a pro at putting off working on material. You know how it is. You’re busy binge-watching House of Cards and of course, you’ve got to organize your spice rack—even though all you have is Lawry’s Seasoned Salt. And all of a sudden: bam! That deadline you’ve had weeks to prepare for is two days away.
Last week, I got a big gig. The good news: it was a repeat client. The bad news: it was a repeat client—meaning it would be the exact same audience. It’s one thing for Prince to sing "Purple Rain" over and over again, but nobody tells a comic, “Do that joke about your grandmother and the sperm bank again.” (It’s a good one, though.)
So, after a few panic attacks and martinis, it dawned on me—I wrote an entire book on writing speeches. I cracked it open, followed my own advice, and ended up writing a hit speech! (But let’s hope the client doesn’t ask me back for a third time because I can’t handle the amount of Weight Watcher points in a Cucumber-Mint Martini. (Delicious. Ask me for the recipe.)
Here are the six steps to writing a great speech in a pinch:
- Open with a story about a member of the audience. One of the WORST openings is, “Let me tell you a little bit about myself.” Boring! Who cares? Find out who will be attending and call them up so they can give you insider information about their favorite topic: themselves! Everyone loves a great story about THEMSELVES.
- Tell them the promise of your speech, guaranteeing that they’ll leave learning stuff that will help them make more money, get healthier, or have better relationships.
- Establish your credibility by telling a story about how your techniques helped someone become happier, richer, healthier, sexier. Be as humble as you want out there in the real world, but on stage, don’t shy away from shameless self-promotion. Name drop that time you shared the platform with Hillary—unless you’re speaking at a Tea Party event. Refer to your published works. “I remember this one time while having lunch with Oprah…” Again, unless you’re at a Tea Party event.
- Guide them with your fab action steps. Give specific advice on how they can move forward. Give three tips and tell a story about how you discovered each of them and why they work. Any more than three steps means you’re writing the Unabomber manifesto.
- Give an emotional heartfelt story. Even if you are a techie talking about computer programming, you need to reveal something about yourself. Tell them that emotional story about how your first kiss lead to discovering PHP programming.
- Leave them with a call-to-action. In corporate speak, this is called "The Take-Aways." Give the audience a simple command to get their stuff together. Don’t get too long winded with homework, but ask them to “imagine,” “think about…,” or “buy your book at the back of the room!”
Give your speech, sell your products, go home, and enjoy that drink. You deserve it!