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How to Write a Great Speech

TED Talks, here we come.

You can't avoid it. Someday, somewhere, you will have to be the best man or maid of honor at a dear friend's wedding. And when that time comes, you will have to stand up and give a speech. This course is your ticket to making sure that your speech has the bride or groom laughing and crying tears of joy rather than avoiding your gaze as they shift uncomfortably in their seat. Here, you'll learn

  • how to hook your audience. No sharp pointy objects required; instead you'll use the Greek techniques of pathos, ethos, and logos.
  • what not to do with your hands and feet. 
  • the best way to vary up your sentences and avoid putting people to sleep. Would you believe it involves grammar? Grammar: life of the party since the Stone Age.
  • how to use personal anecdotes to make your audience feel like you're BFFs—and listen to what you have to say.
  • the difference one voice can make, and how to use yours to enhance your message.

You'll learn all these techniques from the best, most impassioned speech givers of today and yesterday, all the while writing and delivering speeches about what you're passionate about, whether it's healthier snacks in your school vending machines, harsher punishments for parole violators, or world peace.

Twenty years from now when you're giving that speech at your dear friend's wedding, you'll think to yourself, "I'm so happy I took that speech class with Shmoop." And also, "When do we get to eat the cake?"

Course Breakdown

Unit 1. How To Write a Great Speech

This 12 lesson nano course is designed to teach students about rhetoric, introduce them to some great speakers, and teach them how to write and give a speech, all while hitting the Common Core 9-10 ELA standards.

Sample Lesson - Introduction

Lesson 3: Persuade Me, I Dare You

Some of the best public speakers are super enthusiastic. We're talking three venti double-shot lattés enthusiastic. But before we get into hand waving, shouting out to the audience, and jumping around on stage, let's start with what it is you're actually saying in a speech. You can jump around like a wild hyena on stage all you want, but if what you're saying is dull, pointless, or confusing, you just look like a wild hyena.

"Hey, there's nothing wrong with us wild hyenas."

So, what should you say in your speech? Well, that depends on your goal. A persuasive speech's goal is to convince our audience to think like we do, to make a change, to go out and do something or say something. Sometimes we even want someone to stop doing something. Want to convince your mom to stop driving past you at school and hollering out the window at you about visiting grandma's later? That's fair game for a persuasive speech.

But even once you've got your topic figured out, you have to remember that you are not writing an essay. Nope, you're writing something that people will hear, rather than read, which means that you need to present your ideas differently than you might in writing. That said, you can apply a few essay-writing tricks to speechwriting. We're talking stuff like:

  • having a clear argumentative statement, or thesis.
  • presenting boatloads of supporting evidence.
  • linking it all together with strong topic and concluding sentences.
  • grabbing your audience from the get-go with a killer intro.
  • wrapping it all up in a bow with a great conclusion.

Doing this stuff takes some hard-core planning. You should plan your speech as seriously as you plan your approach to a Las Vegas all-you-can-eat buffet. Shmoop calls this the Essential Element of Speech #1: Organize and plan your content to reach the listener emotionally and mentally. And you are actually closer to nailing this than you realize.