Writers often say, ‘editing begins with the second draft’. What they mean by this is you write the entire rough draft before you change anything. With the speech editing technique in this article you’ll be guided through a process from your first draft to your last, and make changes at different levels of the speech. It is an iterative process, so with each draft you make you will get closer and closer to the finished product, but it doesn’t mean you won’t go backwards before going forwards.
A tried and true approach to editing is to give time for rest. If time permits, sleep on it before you touch your first draft. Think of your subconscious mind as having a little Sherlock Holmes running around your brain gathering the facts and finding clues. Let your Sherlock do the hard work and you’ll be surprised at how different your speech will look compared to your expectations.
So, let’s take it for granted that if you’re reading this, your first draft is written. If you’re still working on your first draft, try using our previous articles on writing the introduction, body and conclusion[✝].
So what next? We’ll follow a technique where we look at the speech from different points of view. I explain it as the helicopter view, the top of the building view, the other side of the room view, and the arms length view. With each viewing you get closer and closer to your speech and each view shows a different level of detail.
Just like a helicopter hovering and looking at the landscape, this is the level which we are looking at your speech now. Look around your speech, get a feel for where you are and where you’re going.
Verify your facts, you never know who’s going to ask where they came from. If you use statistics, include a short reference to where you got the data.
Have you included personal stories or anecdotes? Look them over to make sure you don’t digress from your original point.
And most importantly, check that your content is suitable for the audience. There’s no point in giving a marketing presentation to the engineering department if it’s not going to advance their understanding of your topic.
Now go through your speech and make your second draft.
From this point of view we get a little closer to the speech. We’re close enough to be able to see individual characters, but we’re not close enough to hear what they are saying. Now we look at the structure of your speech. It’s time to make sure that everything you talk about has been introduced before you get to it.
Check that there is a flow of logic, cause comes before effect, the horse before the cart, etc.
And most importantly at this stage, check the transition from one paragraph to the next. Abrupt changes confuse an audience, so make sure that you have proper links from one idea to the next.
You’re now ready for a third draft
You’re close to finishing, but there’s more work to do. You’re close enough to your speech that individual details come into view and you’re close enough to hear individual stories be told.
Now’s the time to check the details of the language that you use. You really need to know your audience for this draft because this is where you check the words that you used.
Check the words for jargon particularly. If your audience comes from outside your speech’s topic they may not understand you.
Also, check for generalities. Sometimes an extra sentence or two for explanation or description is required for your audience.
Most importantly, does the language support your topic?
Go and make your penultimate draft.
This is as close to your speech as you get before you actually present it. You have the speech in your hands, you may have even made note cards. You’re on topic, your speech is flowing, you’ve chosen your words. All that remains is to polish your work.
Check through for grammar, and write like you speak. Read it out loud, and listen to the sounds you make. Do the words help or hinder your vocal expression? Now’s the time to change if need be.
Check for places you need to pause, and check that you have chosen the correct word where another might be more suitable.
After following this process, you should have a nice speech ready to present. It is a time consuming process, but one that is well worth it. Your audience will notice that you’ve put in the hard work and they will thank you for it. Good luck, and leave a comment below if this has helped you.