Last time, I wrote about speech ghostwriting. This time, I just want to talk about ghosts!
At Christmas, I enjoy reading Chris Priestley’s evocative ghost stories. Never mind the speechwriting guides, I think you can learn more about writing compelling speeches from stories like these. And you’ll have a lot more fun too.
Scary speechwriting tips
The ghost story is the perfect model for compelling speeches.
It intrigues the reader. It gives its secrets out bit by bit. It can even change the way you look at the world.
That’s the template for a great speech, surely?
You don’t even have to be a master of the macabre to give your audience goose bumps. Just plunder a few of their arcane secrets…
Every speech needs a setting
It doesn’t matter what kind of speech you’re writing, you need to give your readers an intriguing premise. That’s what any good ghost story will do.
Chris Priestley writes lots of short stories. So he knows how to set the scene, establish tone and introduce us to characters quickly.
You need to do the same. You’ll have less than half a minute to draw your readers in. So make that time count...
Set the scene. Grab their interest. Scare them, even.
Audiences love the slow drip-feed of information as mysteries are advanced and resolved. So pose the sorts of questions they’re going to want answers to. Make them keep listening. And never be afraid to leave them wanting just a little bit more…
Effective speeches use language that cuts to the bone
How you say it is at least as important as what you’re saying. And that’s something writers of ghost stories work to their advantage.
It’s not all blood-curdling stuff. (Although that’s fun too.)
I’ve just picked up Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror, opened it, at random, on page 118 and read:
Frost shimmered in the shadows.
Those few words convey so much about the setting and mood of the story. And they hint at something extra-sensory. Shimmering frost in black spaces is a great image. A spectral image.
This is wonderfully economical writing – writing that gives the full flavour of the story, but chopped to the bone.
That’s what your audience wants. They want the big picture and the edited highlights all in one.
Not another dull business speech!
I think most business speeches are boring. Or dull. Or tediously self-important. Sometimes, they’re all of those things at once.
But by golly, that’s good news. It means we can all give our audiences something so much better…
All it takes is a bit of originality. I don’t care if you sell the very same gilded gubbins as your next-door neighbour, you can make yours sound better.
Never use buzzwords or business speak when real words are so much more friendly and persuasive.
Ditch those Americanisms for English. And never ever ‘knock it out of the park’ or I will be forced to come round to the road outside your park and return your knocked-out-of-the-park thing to you post-haste.
Throw out the business writer’s lexicon and use some more interesting words. Not for show. Not to be clever. Do it because you owe it to your business, your colleagues and your customers to think carefully about what you’re saying and who you’re saying it to.
Words are powerful. Not just those slippery multi-syllable words that squirm round the mouth like worms. Simple words too. The right words in the right places can move people. And often, the ‘right’ words are the most honest words. The ones you think of first.
Giving your speech a happy / interesting / surprising ending
A good ending will wrap things up neatly. But a really good ending will give you more…
An unexpected revelation. A final twist in the tale. Or a line or two that’ll leave audiences reeling.
Think of the classic cliffhanger ending. The sort of rug-pulling stunt that leaves you desperate to find out what happens next.
That’s great speechwriting isn’t it? You give the audience an ending, but you invite them to go on thinking. To go on speculating.
You don’t have to induce chills down the spine to write affecting copy. But you can learn a trick or two from the buttock-blenchingly creepy writing of Chris Priestly and the masters of the art of scaring us witless.
Take your readers on a journey into the unknown. Leave them with images that’ll linger long after they go to bed and turn the lights out!
Speech writing with added heebie-jeebies
If you'd like any help giving your audiences goosebumps, give me a call on 0115 8284986, or use the contact form and tell me what sort of speech you want.