How to use style when writing speeches for executives

Speaker with microphonesExecutives generally don’t have the time to write their own speeches and if you are a communications professional then at some point you may be asked to write one.

It’s not just about sparing your executive the effort however. As a comms pro you have the right skills to do the job, and you’re uniquely placed to provide the service, being based (most likely) at the centre of the organisation.

After getting your head around all the content, messaging and structure, you’re part way there. But all this work may be undone if the style is wrong, and doesn’t mirror the speaking style of the person you are writing for.

You might be wondering whether anyone notices these subtle issues of style, and how much of any of it really matters in the big scheme of things.

My view is that yes, people always notice and that it matters a lot.

When speeches are inconsistent with the executive’s usual speaking style, people pick up on it, and even if they don’t register this consciously, they know there’s something in the speech that jars with them, even if they can’ identify it. If they are consciously aware of the inconsistency, they may see the inconsistency as a sign of the speaker being disingenuous.

This doesn’t just apply to speeches. It’s the same for presentations and any other formal speaking duties that executives may need to perform. For that matter it applies to ghost writing too.

The point is not to write in your own voice, but in someone else’s. And if you’re writing for many people, you may need to develop a variety of speech writing styles.

So how does that work exactly?

I had this situation a few weeks ago when I was preparing a speech to be addressed to four heads of state. The key questions I considered were around the executive’s mannerisms, quirks, idiosyncrasies, phraseology and favourite metaphors. What was it that would make the speech personal to the speaker?

I see it as getting inside someone else’s head in order to write in their voice, and to me that entails observing their speaking style.

You can watch and listen to executives speaking casually, at staff meetings, on video, at external events, conferences or during media interviews. Make a note of their phrasing, favourite words, expressions, figures of speech, type of humour and so on.

Try out subtlety different versions of how you style the speech and see for yourself what difference it makes. Tweak your styling here and there, and play around with different combinations.

After producing your speech, it’s worth following-up on how your executive handled the script. You need that feedback in order to know how it worked out, and what fine-tuning may be needed in future.

You can ask your executive this question, but ideally, you also want to be in the audience, hearing the speech first-hand, seeing how your executive performs, and seeing what impact it has on those present.

These tips work, so why not give them a try? Overall, matching speech styles to those of your executive speakers helps them to speak in their own unique voice. It aids consistency and credibility, and provides focus, reach and impact for your messaging.

Picture: audiolucistore

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