There’s an old saying that the strongest memory is weaker than the palest ink, which is why you should never rely on memory for a speech of any length. Even if you intend to eventually speak from notes, writing out your speech in full will give you the reserve power to be completely confident while standing at the lectern.
Writing out your speech helps develop a consistent message throughout. It’s easier to edit and organize your remarks on a written script than having to change and juggle a stack of notes. If you’re working with a script it’s also easier to decide whether and where in your presentation to use visual aids. Also, having a full script from which to rehearse is the only way to accurately time a speech.
When doing your first draft include all relevant thoughts without worrying about length. Then edit, refine, and re-edit until you have a script that you’re reasonably satisfied with. I say reasonably satisfied because you’ll probably never achieve a script with which you’re completely satisfied; you’ll likely want to change something every time you look at it. It’s not unusual for experienced speakers to make changes to a speech while sitting at the head table waiting to be introduced.
If what you say is complex, mixed-up or vague, the audience is going to tune out, so your speech must be logically organized and easy to follow. Experienced speakers know that if something can be misunderstood it will be misunderstood. The best way to prepare a speech which your audience can’t misunderstand it is to write it out.
Although your audience may know where you are in your presentation, and where you’ve just been, they have no idea where you’re going. You have to craft your bridges and transitions in such a way that it all ties together, which is a lot easier to do with a script.
During the drafting of your speech ask yourself questions such as: What does this really mean? Is it important to this audience? Why is it important to them? What are some solutions to the audience’s problems? Which solution should I suggest? What evidence will best back up my recommendations? What actions do I want the audience to take? How can I convince them to do so?
Edit ruthlessly, eliminating all redundancies except repetition which you have deliberately included for effect. Although details make a talk come alive, too much detail obscures clarity, so don’t overdo it. Don’t assume anything; if you’re not certain about what you’re saying, don’t say it.
Ask yourself, could someone else give this exact speech? If the answer is yes, scrap what you’ve done and start over, putting more of your own experiences, opinions, and ideas into it. If you hired someone to write a speech, you wouldn’t accept a poorly-prepared product, so don’t accept one from yourself.
Quotations can often be used to prove that others share your views, but they must be relevant and the source authoritative. If the person you’re quoting isn’t well known to your audience, you’ll have to briefly state his or her qualifications. Don’t rely on memory to accurately recall the quotation, and never paraphrase; always read the quotation verbatim. Write the quotation out in full, with the source and the source’s qualifications noted if necessary. If you’re speaking from notes, write this information on a separate card.
If you’re going to speak from your script rather than from notes, there are nine important rules to keep in mind.
1. It's always better to have a lot of pages than to have a script that's hard to read, so be sure the print is large enough for you to read it comfortably.
2. Use upper and lower case regardless of the type size.
3. Each sentence should be typed as a separate paragraph.
4. The last sentence on a page must end on that page.
5. Double-space each sentence and triple-space each parqagraph.
6. Use only the top three-quarters of a page. This will prevent you from dropping your head too low and losing eye contact with the audience.
7. Number the pages on the top, bottom and on the back. This will make putting them back in order a lot easier should you drop them or they otherwise get mixedup.
8. Mark up the script with cues, such as underlines, double underlines, exclamation marks, slashes for phrasing, double slashes for pauses, and anything else that works for you
9. When you think it's finished, go over it one more time.