The bread and butter of most speechwriters is the “informative” speech – remarks not to change minds but to deliver facts, data, and direction to an audience that needs them.
Yet to think of these as “informative” speeches, even to label them that way, is a mistake that undermines your ability to write an effective speech, and for the audience to get much out of it.
I feel so strongly about this that I tell my students that there is no such thing as an informative speech. “Every speech,” I say, “is a speech to persuade.”
Not because it starts out that way, but because you must make it into one.
The great challenge of speechwriting is getting people to keep listening. Paying attention is hard. Keeping focused is hard. Processing what you hear for any extended period of time is hard. No matter how important something is, the mind pesters us for a new challenge, or at least something that makes us react.
Our ongoing desire is to feel something, not just to accept something. If the material doesn’t evoke emotion, the speaker must provoke emotion in the listener: a speaker must tell the audience how to feel.
When you frame the topic up front, don’t describe a category. Take a side. Tell them how you feel about it – and, by extension, how you want them to feel about it, too.
Which speech gets your attention, “Let me tell you about socialism,” or “Socialism is a failed philosophy”? You’re intrigued by the second formulation, and that’s true whether you are for or against socialism, or even if you have no opinion at all.
If you have a favorable opinion of socialism, you want to pick apart the argument this speaker will make against it.
If you’re opposed to socialism, you want to enjoy the validation this speaker is about to deliver.
And if you don’t have an opinion, you want to figure out whether this person has a valid case.
But a recitation of the facts of socialism – heck, the plain ol’ facts of anything? Yikes. How boring.
But, you say, my boss doesn’t talk about things that have even a whiff of controversy to them.
It’ll still work. Consider a CEO telling his employees about business plans for the next quarter. The typical talk would simply present the high points and end on an attaboy. The title or first line would probably be something like “Here are the plans we have for the coming three months.”
No, no, no.