A speech essay is an essay you’re writing to yourself that organizes your thoughts as to what you will say in the speech you’ll deliver. This speech essay is an important preparatory step toward delivering your speech, because you're organizing your thoughts around the dynamic delivery of a speech to an audience and not around a written essay that simply lies on the page. It is this essential distinction that makes the speech essay different from other essays you research and write in class.
Identify the type of speech you will deliver. Know if you will be giving a persuasive speech, an informative speech, a how-to speech, or an analytical or narrative speech. Each type has a different purpose: A persuasive speech tries to convince the audience to accept an idea or take action; an informative speech provides information; a how-to speech explains the steps involved in a process; an analytical speech examines a concept or process; and a narrative speech tells a story.
Determine the goal of the speech. Most speeches have a general goal and a specific goal. The general goal is the basic intent of the speech. For example, decide whether the general goal of the speech is intended to entertain, inform or persuade. The specific goal is a statement that identifies the exact response you hope to obtain from the audience. For example, “I would like the audience to take action to help stop animal experimentation from pharmaceutical and cosmetic companies.”
Conduct the necessary research. You can use your own knowledge and experience when writing the essay. In fact, sharing a personal experience often “touches” the audience because people relate to what you have experienced. Research adds credibility and, of course, research is absolutely necessary if you include statistics, percentages, facts or quotations. Credible sources include publications, websites such as those that end in .org, .edu, .biz and some but not all .com sites and individuals who possess specialized knowledge.
Write the introduction. The introduction has five goals: To get the audience’s attention, to create a bond of goodwill with listeners, to set the tone, to establish the speaker’s credibility and to provide a lead-in to the content, according to Rudolph Verderber and Kathleen Verderber, co-authors of “The Challenge of Effective Speaking.” Introductions can make a startling statement, ask a rhetorical question, tell a relevant story, refer to the audience’s personal experience or use a thought-provoking quotation.
Develop the body. When writing the body -- which is the “meat and potatoes” of the essay – present the main points and subpoints in logical order. You can use topic order or arrange points by categories or divisions. This is the most common order of arrangement for speeches, according to Verderber and Verderber. Time order organizes points chronologically and is most effective for detailing steps in a process or relating a story. Another option is the logical-reasons order, which organizes points by the reasons that support the speaker’s goal and is especially appropriate for persuasive topics.
Write the conclusion. The easiest way to conclude is to restate the main points, but according to Stephen Lucas, author of “The Art of Public Speaking,” you should “conclude with a bang, not a whimper." Conclude with a brief but thought-provoking quotation, make a dramatic statement, pose a provocative question or refer back to the ideas presented in the introduction. Many accomplished orators combine two or more of these methods in their conclusions, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
- “The Art of Public Speaking: Sixth Edition”; Stephen E. Lucas; 1998
- “The Challenge of Effective Speaking: Twelfth Edition”; Rudolph F. Verderber and Kathleen S. Verderber; 2003
- Mount Holyoke College.edu: Differences Between Oral and Written Communication
A college instructor for more than 14 years, Carol Rzadkiewicz earned a Master of Arts from the University of West Georgia. She is also a freelance writer and author of three published novels, and her work has appeared in such print publications as “Predicate Magazine” and “The New Review."