I wonder, when I hear JFK, Obama, Lincoln, Gandhi, Modi. The sentences, phrases in their speeches are so impressive. The content of their speeches are wonderful. I desire to be a successful orator but I cannot even imagine to speak that much effective content.

I want your help in learning - how can I write my speeches with such powerful contents.

  • Impressive speeches are written in the same way that any impressive artwork is created: through skill (that you can acquire) and imagination and creativity (that are mostly inborn). Which skills you need for writing, how you can train them, and how you can then go about writing a speech is a question that is so basic and general that it is simply too broad for the format of this site.
    – user5645
    Jan 4, 2017 at 14:24
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    It's probably time we had a tag for this, have created the tag speechwriting. Jan 4, 2017 at 15:51
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    This part of the question, "I desire to be a successful orator but I cannot even imagine to speak that much effective content", is not asking how to give a speech effectively. The question, rightly or not, is asking solely about "effective content". Jan 9, 2017 at 3:44

4 Answers 4


I disagree with what's comment. There are certain techniques used in these speeches that help convey meaning. I'm going to use Martin Luther King's I had a dream speech in my answer.

What kinds of techniques are used which make a speech powerful?

If you look at a few of these speeches you can see a few common literary techniques or devices that are used. For example, in Martin Luther King's speech there was constant repetition of the idea of a dream. Furthermore, King uses fact, referring to places in his speech. For example, he mentions freedom ringing from the molehills in Mississippi. King also uses techniques of hyperbole; he includes lots of 'all' and 'every' in his speech.

There are plenty more literary devices used in speeches that add effect. For example:

  • Alliteration. Repetition of a certain sound at the start of a word

  • Triadic Structure (Rule of Three). Human's love things in three, and triadic structure embodies this. It's where you have some fantastic, powerful and glorious adjectives or anything else in a group of three.

  • Flattery and insult. This is great because it is a way to include the audience, something important in these types of speeches.

There are certain traits which affect this.

Having good techniques in your work isn't the only thing that is going to make it strong. You can have as many statistics, tradic structures and alliterations as you want, but none of that will matter unless you have the gut to give it your all. Notice something about all of the people you mentioned:

  • They are all charismatic.

  • They are all trying to 'lead' something forth in some way.

  • They are all looking at their audience, speaking loudly and clearly as well as making their points clear.

They made the content in their speeches absolutely wondrous by really going for what they believed in. They would look at their audiences, rather than at a piece of paper, addressing them directly. They would speak loudly, clearly and broadly so all could hear. They would utilise their natural leadership and charisma to inspire through language. They primarily really made themselves understood.


Being able to orate like these people is more than being abler to write well, although that is a huge contributing factor. If you are able to write a speech with good structure and meaning, that's alright. However, the person who can perform that speech in a charismatic and bold way are leagues ahead of the people who can't.

  • Speak boldly and clearly.

  • Have leadership, a clear goal and passion.

  • Write well and structure well.

Finally, I'll add this. Their speeches all have a common, shared idea: not trying, doing.


I would start by making a distinction between a good speechwriter and a good speaker. Ted Sorensen explains it very well in this essay on Smithsonian.com. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/ted-sorensen-on-abraham-lincoln-a-man-of-his-words-12048177/

Lincoln was a better speechwriter than speaker. Normally, the success of a speech depends in considerable part on the speaker's voice and presence. The best speeches of John F. Kennedy benefited from his platform presence, his poise, personality, good looks and strong voice. ... Democratic Party leaders not attending the 1896 National Convention at which Bryan delivered his "Cross of Gold" speech, and thus not carried away by the power of his presence, later could not understand his nomination on the basis of what they merely read.

Obama is a case in point. He has a captivating presence at the podium, but for the life of me I can't think of one noble or memorable thing he said.

What I think we see as common features of the great speechwriters -- Lincoln, Kennedy, Churchill -- are:

  • Big bold concrete ideas -- send a man to the moon.

  • Simple concrete language -- "The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract." "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

  • A sense of time and place. Churchill's "blood, toil, tears, and sweat speech," or "fight them on the beaches and in the hedgerows" are powerful in a nation facing imminent invasion. They would sound silly if the chief concern of the day were controlling inflation, for instance.

I think the last is perhaps the most important. We could debate whether great speeches create great moments or if great moments create great speeches, but I think they really come from a great speechwriter recognizing the greatness of the moment as it emerges and responding to it.

  • That point on simple language was great. +1 Jan 4, 2017 at 18:23

To answer that, you've got to learn to read like a writer. (Or, in this case, like an orator.) You can study these speeches that impress you to find the answer to that question and to improve your own speeches. Don't just listen to them and be impressed, but analyse them. Take them apart. What are the orators saying? How are they saying it? How can you do that in your own speeches? Here is a very simple example to illustrate what I mean.

In my church, we don't have a pastor who preaches every week. Instead, members of the church are asked to talk on various topics each week. This gives us a lot of practice giving speeches, but most of the speeches (or "talks", we call them) aren't very good. This is to be expected, because we're just ordinary people, and we haven't all studied how to be a good speaker.

However, twice a year, we have the opportunity to listen to the leaders of our church speak to us. These people travel the world, speaking to all the members of the church, and spend a lot of time learning how to be good speakers. Some of them are particularly powerful speakers that draw more than a usual amount of attention. I paid attention to how these people give their speeches to find out what I can do to make my talks more powerful when I'm asked to give one in church.

  • They always look directly at the audience. They're not looking down at a piece of paper to remind them what to say. Obama has his teleprompter, but I don't have that, so in order to mimic this I need to memorize my talks beforehand.
  • They always speak firmly and clearly, with a strong, loud voice. Some of the older speakers have trouble as their health deteriorates, but the best speakers are ones where you never have to wonder what they just said. Many of the ordinary church members mumble, or tend to slur their words together, especially if they're nervous. This takes away from the power of their message.
  • They don't rush. They take their time. They pause frequently, and allow the audience time to absorb their words. It's easy to rush through what you have to say so you can get it over with quickly, but this prevents your audience from really understanding what you have to say.
  • They get straight to the point. Most of the talks at an ordinary church service begin with "Hello, my name is XYZ, and I was asked to give this talk..." Half of them ramble on past that point, saying things like "I don't want to give a talk but I will anyway", and even when they do get around to actually talking they'll begin with something trite or overdone, like "the dictionary definition of TOPIC is...". None of the conference speakers do that. They assume you know their name (because it's written on the program) and that you want to hear what they have to say. They just jump right into their topic, usually opening with a story or other engaging remark.

As far as content, since I'm using religious material, I'm not sure how much of it will be applicable to you. But you'll notice that the very best speakers don't just cover the basics. They assume you have a basic understanding of the subject material and go beyond that, to expound on something new or even just to reiterate what you already knew in a new and different way. And you'd be surprised how much of a difference taking the steps I outlined above would make. Even if the speech you're delivering isn't earth-shattering-ly awesome, delivering it in a confident, persuasive manner will make a world of difference.

Like I said, this is basic stuff. I can't help you with the more complex stuff. To do that, you'll have to do what I said in the first paragraph: read like an orator.

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    As an addendum, you don't need to memorize your whole speech. You write it as an outline with a lot of bullet points and then rehearse it. You can look down at your note cards to keep yourself organized, but working off just bullets allows you to speak more fluently rather than recite. Jan 4, 2017 at 16:50
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    Agreed. I happen to work better if I memorize my entire speech beforehand, but the note card method works very well for a lot of people.
    – Jerenda
    Jan 4, 2017 at 16:54

Everyone who has posted here has emphasized some good points. Here are my additional two cents.

Your basic question reads as having two parts:

  • Delivery
  • Content

As a teacher, I can tell you that the two things that make for a strong speech are confidence and expression. Expression comes through practice. Take someone else's words and practice saying them for a camera then watch them. Make notes:

  • What do you like about the way you speak when content is not an issue?
  • What needs improvement?

Work on the same speech until you deliver it effectively. Look for opportunities to speak in front of an audience, even a small one. Community theater, poetry slams, improv classes are all places to work on your public speaking.The second issue is confidence. Some confidence will come from practice. However, most people still give the best speeches about material they know well because when you have a strong understanding of a subject and its content, you are not tied to your written notes. The woodeness of a read speech is difficult to overcome. Outlines can keep you on point and give you the flexibility of improvisation. If a specific phrasing is important you can always add it to your outline. A speech is different than either a play or a paper because its intention is generally to inspire. When you give a speech, people are looking to you as an authority. When you are either not inspired in your expression or you lack confidence, you do not appear authoritative.

Most of us give public talks not as speeches but as presentations of research in class, or at conferences for work. The remarks above apply to these scenarios as well. When speaking in these scenarios, however, I have a few additional suggestions.

  • Make the font of your typed notes large, 14pt or greater so its easy to read.
  • Insert slide changes into your paper like this: (Slide 1) Bold and in parentheses.
  • Limit text on your slides, key phrases only. Audiences don't want to read your speech.
  • Use lots of images.
  • Use a black background for your slides instead of themes. Black looks like a movie theater, easy on the eyes, neutral, doesn't distract in any way.

This is my third point, presentation. If you are prepared and everything works--you don't lose your place, you don't distract the audience (by sniffing into the microphone for example), your audience hasn't already read your ideas before you say them--people will notice the preparedness and you will feel ready. It's like a fine dinner. When it looks pretty on the plate we are ready for it to taste good.

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