How to write a perfect speech | BBC Ideas


The secret behind any great speech…
it all begins with the speaker, having somebody
who has that world view, who knows what they want to say, who knows what story
they want to tell. That’s critical, a speechwriter can
come up with something on their own, but it really needs to be
a collaborative process with the person who’s speaking. We approach any speech by asking yourself what story
do we want to tell. We try to come up with a headline
for the speech first, whether it’s one, two
or three sentences, because that’s what
you have to hang everything on otherwise it won’t hold together. Tonight, I want to talk about what
kind of future we’re going to have and what kind of a nation
we are going to be. One thing all great speeches
have in common is that they’re bigger
than the place, they say something
bigger than the moment. Something like
Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, he said it wasn’t just
to consecrate the ground where soldiers gave their lives, it was to dedicate ourselves to making sure that a nation
conceived in liberty could endure. So any great speech
has to speak to something bigger than that particular moment, you have to look beyond the headline
you’re going to get the next day, you have to look beyond tweets. We wouldn’t necessarily write
speeches with an eye towards what people will say
about it in 50 years, but you’re thinking about the broader
sweep of history and where you fit. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is, Ich bin ein Berliner. You know, other things that make
a great speech are authenticity. And authenticity is, you know, it’s something
more than just the truth, it’s actually saying what’s true, and I just don’t mean the facts,
I mean things that people know, the way people speak
in their everyday lives. Not every great speech has to be
up here like Lincoln or Kennedy, and people can tell when
you’re trying too hard. A lot of times great speeches are just talking to people
where they are. Your fervour, your energy,
your courage, always is something that’s going
to carry me forth. Humour goes a long way in speeches,
but it’s also very hard. President Obama would also say,
“Give me some more jokes in here”, and comedy’s difficult. We were always very lucky that President Obama had
a great sense of comic timing. And he knew it, but he was always
good at telling jokes. He relished… he’d always dig at himself first
in a self-deprecating way, just to open it up so that he could
dig on somebody else. I am told that the last
three speakers here have been the Pope, Her Majesty the Queen, and Nelson Mandela, which is either a very high bar or the beginning
of a very funny joke. You want to know where you are
and who you’re talking to, even if it’s as small
as visiting a high school and knowing who the mascot is. That handshake at the top
of the speech goes a long way, and then you have
the permission structure to take the audience
on a greater ride. I want to thank
all of the students here. The smart, powerful, creative,
accomplished, young women of Mulberry School for Girls,
you all are beautiful. Any aspiring speechwriter should
just start writing, constantly. Whether it’s journalling, whether it’s preparing a speech you
wish you had the chance to write so that you have something
to show somebody. I’d also say read widely. That’s where empathy comes from, is understanding other people’s lives
and world views beyond your own. I don’t have any classic training
in speechwriting, I started out as a pre-med student and chemistry changed that course
pretty quickly. But I would tell students,
take a lot of history courses. It doesn’t always have to be
writing and composition. History, economics, philosophy because you’re going to pull
from all those disciplines in any good political speech. And with that I just have two more
words to say… Obama out. Thanks for watching. Don’t forget to subscribe and click the bell to receive notifications for new videos. See you again soon!

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  1. Good luck, aspiring speechwriters! If you enjoyed this video, give it a thumbs up and don’t forget to subscribe because we publish new videos every week 😊

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