How do speechwriters learn their craft

from people, about people, for people

Speeches and texts trainer, speechwriter

How important are good speeches?

Your speech depends on whether the audience judges you as a busybody, a bureaucrat or just a boring person. However, you can also make people think you are a good woman or a good guy.


Many speeches in Germany are interchangeable. They are boring, superficial, without a heart. Whether a man is talking or a woman, a young person or an old person, a person or a computer? One does not know. As a bore, you can get away with comparatively well. There are many German speakers. The easier it is to stand out. And how good it is when people pat you on the back after your speech. Or just smile honestly at you. Good speeches can change the world ("I have a dream" by Martin Luther King). But it is enough if the audience thinks of you or your speakers: this is a good woman. Or a good guy.

What makes a good speech

The difference between a speech and a text is that a person stands in front of people. What does this mean for the speech? Talk about people as a person, for people.


Tell the audience how you came to your opinion from your own experiences. Talk about people, because people are what we are most interested in. And tell the audience what you get out of all of this. Example: Did you not tell the audience: "With us it only takes 20 instead of 24 hours to analyze a blood sample." Instead, tell them: "Imagine you're sick. It's serious. With us, you only wait 20 hours instead of 24 hours for the results of your blood test. That can save your life." And if you can get involved, all the better: Then say: "I still remember it like today. A nine-year-old, she had ..."

What makes a good rhetorician?

It would be easier to ask: What makes a good apple pie? Most of us have eaten good apple pie at some point. But good speakers are rare in our country.


Who is a good rhetorician in Germany?
N / A? Not that easy, is it?
Many only think of Gregor Gysi. Although he's no longer in the front row.
He looks natural. Not that aloof. Understandable. Has guts. Says what not everyone likes to hear. Says it believably. Humorous. And not boring.
If you agree with it, then just do it yourself. Heavy? At least try it! And I'll tell you what, if you try really hard, you can do it too. Yes, you have to give something for that: make an effort, be truthful, be courageous. You will only get something if you give something. But that's probably not asking too much.

How do I become a good speechwriter?

Well, you can't get away with a few manual rules as cheaply as you can. You have to become a better person.


It starts with you taking to heart what my grandma always said: Without diligence, no gain. So make an effort: collecting material, thinking and writing. Be truthful, because this is the only way you will be perceived. Dare to do something to be effective. Express yourself in an understandable way instead of elitist. And don't you dare to be bored. Remember that people are primarily interested in people.

Checklist for speeches. 25 questions to ask yourself

A good speech is like a good cocktail. It's all in the mix


Of course, you don't have to put everything into one speech. Read through this checklist before giving a speech, tick what you plan to do and at the end compare what you have achieved from it.

  • Am I addressing the audience?
  • Do I have something new to say?
  • Am I bringing a message?
  • Do I inform?
  • Am I surprising?
  • Do I offer something to talk about?
  • Is the speech never boring?
  • Does the speech encourage clapping?
  • Does the speech sound like the speaker?
  • Am I talking about people?
  • Is the human being the focus of the speech?
  • Is it clear what the audience will get from my speech?
  • Do I make you smile at least once?
  • Do I arouse emotions?
  • Do I show that I am enthusiastic about my material?
  • Am I revealing something about myself?
  • Is the speech easy to understand throughout?
  • Do I give examples or anecdotes?
  • Am I quoting?
  • Am I telling a story like a campfire?
  • Do I argue and measure myself against the strongest counter-argument?
  • Do I substantiate my knowledge with facts and figures?
  • Am I talking about values?
  • Do I convey hope?
  • Does the speech serve its purpose?

How do I fight my stage fright as a speaker?

There are breathing exercises. They might help. But what is the cause of the nervousness? That you are not sure that the speech is good enough. So write a good speech.


Don't think you can get away with a few breathing exercises from the rhetoric trainer. Although they are good too. Keep writing the speech until it is good. Then there's no need to be nervous. If necessary, don't speak freely. Then there is no longer any reason to be nervous. Because it is probably not asking too much to deliver a good speech sensibly. You just have to practice.

How do I act as a speaker?

Please don't believe the cynics who want you to believe that the most important thing is the nature of the presentation. What would that amount to? That we believe we can fool the audience.


Sure, you should look at the audience. But you do that automatically when you give a good speech addressing the audience. Sure, you should use your hands naturally. But you do that automatically when you describe something. Sure, you should take breaks from speaking. But you do that automatically when there are audience questions built into your speech.
Come in front of the people and talk to them.

What is the craft of speech writing? 12 tips.

The craft of writing is easy to learn. It is just difficult to force yourself to do it. Some complain: "I write long sentences." I answer: Then please write short sentences. You don't need a trainer for that. Just put more points.

  • Write short sentences
    According to the dpa news agency, 9 words per sentence are the upper limit of optimal intelligibility.
  • Actively write
    So not: It is demanded ... Better: X demands ...
  • Avoid judgmental adjectives
    Describing is better. The readers alone should value
  • Use verbs instead of nouns
    Instead of: I have the expectation that XY will step down: I expect that XY will step down
  • Verbs forward
    So not: In addition, X demands that high-frequency trading, i.e. the securities business operated by computer programs in the nanosecond range, be banned. Better: X calls for high-frequency trading to be banned, so that ...
  • Avoid words with "ung" at the end
    The Besser municipal council distributes the funds: The municipal council distributes the funds
  • Avoid monstrous words
    So not: technology leadership, minimum purchase obligation, sustainability reporting, self-regulation measure
  • No more than 5 nouns per sentence
    So not: As part of the compliance program, principles and measures based on the identified risks are developed to limit these risks and avoid violations.
  • Mains in main clauses
    So not: I worked up a sweat yesterday because our house burned down. Better: yesterday our house burned down. I got into a sweat at the same time
  • Avoid foreign words, abbreviations and abstract terms
    So not: austerity, ECB, democratic deficit
  • Avoid listing words that have similar meanings
    So not: Only in a conversation, openly and honestly, where necessary also critically, can awareness and understanding grow.
  • Subject Predicate Object
    The rule of the king. With it, even complicated sentences can be easily rewritten. You are taking several tips to heart at the same time: Be brief. Actively write. Verbs instead of nouns. Verb forward. Avoid "ung" words. Example: In Israel and then in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria, the US wants to explore possibilities for a resumption of the Geneva Peace Conference. Better: The US is exploring the opportunity to revive the Geneva Peace Conference. First in Israel and then in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

How do I write for other speeches?

It's not that easy to get involved in a speaker's style. But since very few speakers in Germany have their own style, you should just write something good. The speaker can do that.


But you should know as much as you can about your speakers:

  • How they want to be perceived in public.
  • What they stand for.
  • What drives them.
  • Where they want to be in 5 years.

Most of the time, your speakers don't know that themselves. But hopefully they will appreciate being brought up to it.

What else you should know from your speakers:

  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • How do you intend to deal with these weaknesses?
  • Are you self-critical?
  • Do you like self-irony?
  • How differentiated are they?
  • Do you want to respond to counter arguments?
  • How do you feel about being tough on competitors?
  • How personal do you want to be?
  • How emotional do you want to be?
  • How important are facts and figures to you?
  • How important is humor to you?

Speakers who do not give you an answer should write their own speeches.

How do speechwriters and speakers work together?

Best tight. If your speakers are too incomprehensible to understand, you have to do something different. For example, through bad letters.


Anyone who lets others write their speeches should at least tell their speechwriters what it is about. If your speakers aren't coming to you, your speakers must be approaching. Get on them. If necessary, write them letters suggesting what they can do better. That's how I did it with candidate Peer Steinbrück. Develop a relationship with one another. And get better together.

  • Hear speeches from your speakers in the field.
  • Clarify how you will receive feedback.
  • Clarify that in addition to writing good speeches for your speakers, you are making them better speakers.
  • Clarify that preparing the speech in key words is of no use!
  • No powerpoint! A separate chapter on this

Of course, your speakers need to practice their speech. Not in the car, on the train, on the plane or on horseback. But when you are standing, for example in your office. No contradictions.

How long is a good speech?



Yes. As short as possible. As long as necessary. That can also be half an hour. If you really need this time to get your message across. And if you manage to have the audience actually follow you to the last.
So if possible, write speeches no longer than 20 minutes.

How can I write a speech faster?

With the dictation machine. Yes, give it a try. The letters appear on the paper before they are even pronounced. Ok i'm kidding. I am serious: write with your heart.


Speeches are important. Writing speeches is an art. So take the time it takes to do it. You can't screw a car together in two hours either. And one plane in three. There are physical limits.
But there are a few things that help a lot to write faster:

  • Only write what interests you.
  • Write from the heart
  • Be true
  • Write what moves you
  • Only write what you understand
  • Tell good stories
  • Have good stories in store

How do I do the outline for a speech?

Do you think you have gained something with an outline? Introduction, main part, conclusion? Better to try it with a common thread.


At school we learned to structure like this:
Introduction. Bulk. Conclusion And now?
Or how about the classic five-sentence model for an outline?

  • introduction
  • Facts
  • Arguments
  • Inference
  • Enough

Now is the good speech?

A common thread is really good. I have numerous examples of this that would go beyond the scope here. But think of Barack Obama's "Yes we can", for example.

How do I do PowerPoint?

Best not at all.


The projector is buzzing, the room is darkened, the speakers are facing away from the audience and repeat what is on the screen. A speech is a conversation with the audience. PowerPoint is a conversation with the canvas.

Steve Jobs said PowerPoint is only for people who have nothing to say. I am a little more gracious. Powerpoint makes sense when it does something that speech cannot. So if you have a great photo or cartoon, for example. Throw only what you cannot tell yourself at the screen.
In any case, take note of the following:

  • Only one message per slide
  • Just keywords or catchy numbers
  • Show information when it occurs in the lecture
  • No rigid graphics
  • The lecturer plays the main role, not the slide
  • Never just read the transparencies
  • Keep eye contact. At least 90% of the speaking time is in contact with the audience
  • Give handouts to the audience with all the information that would have cluttered the PowerPoint presentation

How do I collect ideas for my speeches?

Without input, no output. In German: if there is nothing in there, nothing can come out.


Cato says it more elegantly: "Master the matter, then the words will follow." By naming this Roman sage, I have now hopefully proven that I too am sufficiently educated.
So do some research: With the organizer, with colleagues, with the taxi driver, with the family, on the Internet. The best thing to do is to create your own archive. I have a treasure chest. I call them that because I write a lot in there that I can use for a speech later.

How do I write about the same topic over and over again?

I know that torments you all. You've been doing the same job for years. You have to keep bringing the same product to customers over and over again. And again and again there is Christmas and Easter and an anniversary. Well, there's a tip from 1889. It's from Rosa Luxemburg.


“I am dissatisfied with the way in which the party mostly writes articles. It's all so conventional, so wooden, so stereotyped. Most of our writing is not a song, but a colorless and soundless hum, like the sound of a machine wheel. I think the reason is that most of the time when people write, they forget to dig deeper into themselves and feel all the importance and truth of what is being written. I believe that every time, every day, with every article you have to go through the matter again, feel it through, then fresh, heartfelt words for the old, well-known thing would be found ... never to forget when writing, to be enthusiastic about what has been written and to go into myself every time. "

So, go inside. And let it crash every time. Because every day, every week, every month you feel different. And again and again something new happened, one step further. Let your audience be part of it.

How do I start a speech?

The introduction has been abolished, says Wolf Schneider. That's right. Write warmly to yourself first, but then throw that away.


Warming up doesn't count in sporting competitions either. Remember William Faulkner: “Write the first sentence so that the reader is determined to read the second sentence. And then just keep going. ”So start a speech about financial markets like this, for example:
Dear Sir or Madam, On May 6, 2010, the Dow Jones fell by almost a thousand points within a few minutes. The reason for this could have been a so-called "fat finger". A dealer hit the wrong key. Instead of B for trillion, M for million. The computer-controlled trading programs then set a downward spiral in motion. A trader makes a mistake and the world is on the brink of financial catastrophe. That shows what dubious rules of the game we have delivered ourselves to.
The speech can no longer be bad. You can find numerous other examples in my book “Talking, writing works - and by the way, becoming a better person”.

How do I get the audience to clap?

Do not worry. Very easily. A purely craft story. You don't even have to be creative.


In terms of craftsmanship, it works like this: At the end of the paragraph after which you want to clap there is a short sentence. With the most important things at the end. Example: "We are creating around 100 new jobs here and using our resources to ensure that the global market is supplied to the entire group of companies."
Is someone clapping? No. At the end it must be: “And that's why we're creating around 100 new jobs here.” Now everyone is clapping.

How do I make the audience laugh?

Through unrestrained exaggeration: “How did the Grand Canyon come about? A Swabian lost a 10-cent piece. "

How do I write a good ending?

I think it's nice when at the end of a speech no stone falls, like a coffin lid. When something starts after the speech.


At the end of the speech, the audience should feel encouraged to do something: whether to sing, dance or make the world a better place. Ronald Reagan once ended a speech at the Brandenburg Gate with the words: Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall! That's how it happened. And many Berliners helped out.