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Speechwriting Tips From the Pros

By Dave Zielinski


One of the most effective tactics to use in crafting speeches—especially those including PowerPoint slides—is to heed author Stephen Covey’s principle of “starting with the end in mind,” says Jim Endicott, head of coaching firm Distinction Communication in Portland, Oregon. To that end, Endicott has his clients create the last slide in their PowerPoint decks first, asking them to use three key points or less, and not exceed one line of text per point.

“The exercise helps create a laser focus on what you want the audience to think or believe differently at the end of your speech,” Endicott says.

Nick Morgan, president of the speech coaching firm Public Words and author of the book Trust Me: Four Steps to Authenticity and Charisma, uses a related method. He tells his clients to begin the speechwriting process by creating a one-sentence summary of what their talk is about.

“Everything that relates to that summary goes into the speech script, and things that don’t are left out,” Morgan says. “I think one trick of great speechwriting is knowing what to leave out. That kind of focus on your key message also is a good way to save time when writing speeches.”