Why you SHOULD write out your speech


In the previous post I gave you some reasons why you should not write out your speech. But life is never just black and white.

There are excellent reasons why you should write out your speech. Eventually of course it’s up to you to decide based on your preferences and the situation. Let’s have a look at the pros of writing:

Say it right

Sometimes it is important to say the right things in the right way. If your topic is sensitive or political you might want to stick to the script. Improvising might lead to a wrong message, especially if your speech is recorded or if there is press in the room. (Been there, done that)

Writing down your text allows you to have a good second look at it, to have others look at it, and to craft the message in such a way that it will not be misunderstood. If the stakes are high: write.

Say it again

If you need to give the same speech again, it helps to have a written version of it, especially if there is a long time between the two performances. Alternatively you might want to record your speech and watch it back as preparation for the next time, but writing is often simpler. I sometimes had several month between two presentations, and if it wasn’t for the script I would have had to a lot of work. If you need to repeat, a script is neat.

Say it in time

If you have a strict time limit you may want to choose to write out your text so you know that if you stick to the script you stick to the time. Speech contests are an obvious candidate for a well timed script, but there are (fortunately) many tightly scheduled congresses out there where a 20 minutes presentation is a 20 minutes presentation, and you’re not supposed to go over. Experienced speakers don’t even have to clock their speech, they look at the script, count the words maybe, and know how long it will be. You can’t do that if you don’t have a script.

If you need to be exact, count the words.

Say it well

There is a core reason you will want to write down your speech.

Writing allows you to bring your speech to the next level. Writing down your speech brings some added benefits over just rehearsing your speech from memory.

First, you can get better coaching. I have coached people who did and people who did not write out their speech. From the point of view of the coach, a written text is much better. I have more (consistency) to give feedback on. We can spar over style figures. We can focus on delivery.

Second, writing provides you with an overview of the whole speech. This makes it easier to strengthen arguments, to balance examples, to spot omissions, to sort sentences, to optimise transitions.

For example, I have a tendency to go back and forth between past tense and present tense. Writing my speech out allows me to spot the inconsistencies and make a deliberate decision what tense to use when.

A script allows you and others to play with the building blocks of your speech, with your message and your tone in a structured and thoughtful way.

A building was first a drawing.
A painting was first a study.
A good speech was first a text.

However, it’s just a tool

Writing is a tool for the creation of speeches. A tool to memorize the right words. A tool to get the best out of your time with your audience. But it’s not your only tool, and that is where some people go wrong.

The writing is support, YOU are the vehicle that delivers the speech. Spending 90% of your time going over draft after draft doesn’t leave enough time to enhance your delivery.

But leaving out this powerful tool robs you of the possibility to make your speech even better.

Why you should NOT write out your speech

Breaking your pencil

I’ve seen it many times. While preparing a speech the speaker grabs pen and paper (or more often a laptop computer) and frantically starts writing. And then keeps revising and revising in a process that can take days, weeks, months. As the big day of the speech approaches he or she realizes that the speech needs to be rehearsed as well. Memorized even. Oops. No time left.

The results are often less than stellar. The audiences notes that there is something wrong:

” She relied too heavily on her notes”;
” He just wasn’t authentic”;
” Her sentences were too long and convoluted”;
” I just couldn’t follow it”;
” I didn’t feel he was speaking to me, just thinking about his text”;
” It was way too long”.

And worse.

You’re not an actor. You’re a speaker. You don’t have to interpret a fixed script, you need to interpret your thoughts, convictions, ideas. To different audiences, that need different versions.


If you want to connect with your audience, you will need to at least make it seem like you are speaking from the heart, not from the paper. And written language is not the best vehicle for that. Spontaneously spoken text uses short sentences, sentences that don’t finish, interjections. Spontaneous speakers look at the audience, react on things that happen, are able to reflect on current events. Spontaneous speeches include matching body language and vocal variety. Using memorized texts this is going to be hard. Not impossible, but it takes a lot of practice time. Time that most speakers that write out their texts don’t take.


Because of the congruence of body language, vocal variety and content, spoken speeches tend to be a lot more convincing than speeches read out or memorized. Why not simply skip the writing fase? The only things that you really need to get clear is your topic, your goal, and your main points. Once you know these, how about starting the rehearsing process immediately? Saves a lot of time. And often results in a better, more flexible speech.


If you don’t write down and memorize your speech it will be different every time you give it. That brilliant sentence you thought of might be missing because you simply didn’t think of it. But so what? Instead you will look fresh and be there for the audience instead of regurgitating you material.

Longer presentations

Writing out longer keynotes? Half hour, full hour presentations? That’s prohibitive. Save yourself the time. Instead of trying to perfect each and every sentence and then try to learn it all by heart, you better spend your time on the subject of your presentation. Come up with new angles. Incorporate current events. Be the authority.

Nerve cell

How to rehearse without text

How do you go about memorizing your speech without writing it down?
Simply by doing it. Give that speech in front of your bedroom wall (imagining the wall is your audience). Rehearse parts of that speech during a walk in the forest. Shout it out lou

d when stuck in traffic. What happens is that even though it will be slightly different every time you rehearse it, the flow of the speech will get better and better. And there is no need to fear that you may forget parts when giving it for real. Since you’re constantly doing that during your rehearsals, and noticed that you’re making up for it, you know you’re ready to go.


To conclude: writing out your speech is highly overrated. It takes an enormous amount of time, often consuming the time you should have spent rehearsing and practicing. Not only that, it will often make the speech feel less authentic and less convincing to your audience. Why not skip the writing all together?


Next time: why you should write out your speech.

images: moritz320, ColiN00B – Pixabay.