Welcome to the final installment of our five-part blog series on the POWER method for speechwriting!
In this blog we’ll be covering how proofreading and editing your speech can be that final layer of polish that takes your presentation from boring to bravo. If you’ve been following along in our POWER method series, you now know how to write a speech, this final step in the process will help you to refine your speech.
Revision is the best friend a writer can have. The trick is to use revision as a tool to make your writing clearer, sharper and more powerful.
While you may have spent hours crafting a beautiful paragraph that has flowery language, boisterous adjectives, and a story that makes your heart soar with glee when you read it, you may still have to cut it from your final draft.
The most frustrating part of writing a speech (or anything for that matter), is taking out the sentences that you love because they don’t add any value for the audience. Sometimes a painstakingly crafted story, sentence, or phrase can be beautifully written, but not well received or directly tie to the purpose of your speech.
What that means is that just because it’s important to you, doesn’t mean that it will resonate with your audience. And if you’ll recall from our previous blogs, you’re not writing for you, you’re writing for the audience.
We often refer to William Faulkner popular piece of writing advice, "murder your darlings". The idea is to proceed objectively and without sentiment. Once a project has begun to take on a life of its own, you must proceed with honesty and humility, eschewing all petty biases and superficial interests in order to tend to the needs of your writing without distraction.
In this blog we’re going to cover some of the top words and phrases to avoid in your speech, get advice on how to refine your message from a leading TEDx speaker coach, and questions and suggestions to reflect on your writing,
Before we get started with the “R” of the POWER method, let’s recap the other letters in this process.
Write with Power – The Power Method
The term POWER is an acronym for presentation writing and over the course of this series we will dive deep into each letter:
- P – Purpose – How to write with purpose. No one has ever heard a speech and said, “that was great, but what was the speaker’s point?”
- O – Organize – We will teach you how to organize your thoughts and how to write the outline to a speech.
- W – Writing – Writing tips and techniques are the best tools at the disposal of any good presenter. We will cover how to harness the power of the pen.
- E – Engage – Engaging your audience is of the utmost importance, if your audience is not engaged in your words and delivery, it’s going to be an uphill battle.
- R – Revise – Even Michael Jordan wasn’t good at basketball to begin with. He was cut from his high school team. As much as it is painful, we learn our best life lessons when we are challenged. No one starts out on top, the greats are the ones who stick around until the end. It’s been hypothesized that it takes GRIT and roughly 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill.
Now that we’ve had a refresher on the POWER method, let’s get into the “R” of the process.
Refine, Refine, Refine
There are about 24 words and phrases that you should always try to avoid when writing a speech. You can download our full list, but here are some of the top offenders when it comes to mucking up a speech:
“I” or “me” - this presentation is not about you, it’s about the audience. Remember we want to write audience-centric talks. Replace “I” and “me” with “you”’, ”we”, or “us”.
“A little bit” - this phrase will water down your content, it minimizes your point.
“Just” - waters down your content the same way that “a little bit” does.
“So” - this word is a filler. It’s a transition word between thoughts. It’s a lazy way to introduce a new idea or topic.
“Talk about” - used repetitively and sometimes with bullet points. If you need to engage listeners, saying “talk about” is monotonous, you’ll lose the audience’s attention.
“I’ve been asked to speak about” - this phrase is sometimes seen as an attempt by the speaker to sound important. You want your audience to relate to you, not feel as if you’re trying to puff yourself up.
“Sorry” - apologizing for your presentation is a sign that you’ve not clearly communicated or shown the audience what you’re trying to convey.
With so many words to avoid using, it can take a few edits to get through the full list. One way to get the job done faster is to use the Find Command in your document to search for the words or phrases one at a time throughout the entire speech. This option lets you find the words to edit without having to read through the entire speech scanning for all of the words and phrases.
Speech Editing and Proofreading Tips From The Pros
Through years of being a TEDx speaker coach to 100's of clients, Fia Fasbinder has some of the most helpful insight and tips for how to add polish to your presentation like a professional speechwriter.
Fia always insists that the editing process should focus on tightening up your speech around that one big idea. Make sure that the central idea of the speech gets clearly stated in the introduction, mentioned in each of the points of the body, and sometimes even flatly stated.
For her second pro tip, Fia recommends treading lightly with humor. If your audience is drunk, you can keep a few jokes, but if your audience is sober (they probably are), watch out. Jokes are difficult even for comedians. Try to aim for David Sedaris style humor, not Rodney Dangerfield. Sedaris says, “never tell a joke, always tell a failure.”
Simplification is another key component to writing a good speech. Don’t get stuck in the weeds. The number one mistake we see is when folks include too much detail. The audience doesn’t need to know the date you went to the emergency room, they want to know the smell of the room and the feeling it gave you. Too much detail can be distracting from the main point. When you’re trying to evoke an emotion or an image, less is more.
Questions to Ask Yourself as You Reflect and Revise
After setting your piece of writing down and sleeping on it for a night, pick up where you left off, and reflect on the following questions from the perspective of your audience:
- Is my purpose clear and compelling?
- Have I considered the questions and concerns of my audience?
- Have I written in the form and style appropriate for the setting?
- Have I included stories, examples, evidence, and supporting details?
From the perspective of Moxie's staff speechwriters, consider the following:
- Does my introduction grabbing the audience's attention?
- Does my conclusion successfully bring my presentation to a close?
- Do my paragraphs flow from one to the other?
- Have I organized my ideas in a way that takes your audience on a journey?
- Have I included audience engagement techniques that gains and maintains attention?
After revising, try one of these proofreading techniques to polish your writing:
- Read your writing out loud to catch run-on sentences, over-used words, errors, and typos.
- Read backwards. Start with the last sentence of your piece and read one sentence at a time from the end to the beginning. By focusing on one sentence at a time, you'll notice ways to improve your writing more easily than reading quickly through your draft from start to finish.
- Share your writing with a colleague, friend, or family member.
For more information on how to engage your audience, best practices to rehearse your speech, how to land a TED talk, editing like a pro, or for information on Moxie Institute's professional done-for-you speechwriting services or award-winning speaker coaching, schedule a breakthrough call today using the link to the right. We are excited to help!
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What’s Next For Your Presentation?
As we transition through our 4 Pillars of Presentations, so is our focus from speechwriting to slide design. Follow us as we dive into the neuroscience of persuasion. This series will cover Moxie Institute's STYLE Method.
- S = Slide Theory
- T = Telling Your Story
- Y = Your Slide Design
- L = Learn Imagery and Data Visualization
- E = Examples