Writing a public speech

Best writers are masters of dialogue. They can tell the whole story and convey complex characters through written conversation. Writing a great public speech has a lot in common with this type of storytelling.

Writing is re-writing

There are writers obsessed with detailed outlines, there are also writers who are good without those. Still, there is or was no good writer that would not need to re-write his work over and over again. I heard many of those anecdotes that some re-write until they bleed from their bottoms, some do it until they loop themselves into one of the first versions, some do it until they can’t find what they want in pile of copies.

The fact still is: Your first copy is just a draft, it’s bad in principle. If you think that your first writing is good – good for you, now make it this much better. If you think it is good enough – it isn’t; raise your standards.

On one side it is a little overwhelming this principle. Who has the time to write and re-write when deadlines are on your back? I agree. I also think that this is one of the reasons we don’t see this much of great writing anymore. Yet, on the flipside think about this: If you thought that those witty lines were thought out on the fly, now I assure you, vast majority weren’t. Even if it looks like that. Think of great, touching or funnies speeches you can think of – those are effect of relentless work, often team effort.

This is where 99-1 rule of genius matters

Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.
— Thomas Edison

Once a writer, whom I know very well, re-wrote one sentence 104 times (from his own remarks). He then erased that entire paragraph in order to shorten a part that slipped out of control and distorted proportions.

Was the effect worth it? Well, audience looked interested and feedback was good. Wouldn’t they If that paragraph was there or was there not re-written? I think no. Because this fine-tuned speech, through many, many, many of these little changes was in the end almost entirely different than the first version.

Pareto rule or 80/20 rule

But hey Przemek, – you could say - wouldn’t it be possible to find essential parts of speech, improve those and have very decent speech with 20% of effort?

Hypothetically yes. After practice and with experience you could come up with fairly universal template of a speech. But wording, timing, anecdotes and compelling story still would be an effort-intense challenge. Context is the key word in here. This is why we have to re-write as much. This is why those 80% of the effect is still not good enough.

Przemek Kucia

Share or like it if you liked it. And tell me: Have you ever tried writing yourself? Or maybe you have different opinion on the matter? Please, post in comments.