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  • Holly Blum, The Word Whisperer

Crowdsourcing Material For Your Next Speech

One of the great things about crowdsourcing is how quickly you can ask for information and ideas and receive them. Some of the best recommendations for everything from restaurants to paint color come through my social media networks. While I can’t always control the quality or quantity of the information, it’s nonetheless a quick and easy way to get broader opinions about whatever I may need.

But what about crowdsourcing material for your next special occasion speech?

So many times, my clients tell me that they just don’t know where to start. They feel overwhelmed by all of their memories. Or they’re unsure about which direction to take or theme to pursue. As a result, many wind up procrastinating or deciding to “wing it,” both of which are unpredictable and lead to more anxiety.

One of the reasons I think people get stressed about giving a celebratory speech is that the pressure is all on them. They’re responsible for the whole process—brainstorming, writing, editing, rehearsing and executing. They want to do their best to cast the guest of honor in a glowing light, but not be generic. They want to make people laugh naturally, not uncomfortably. And there’s no denying that all eyes will be on them whether they deliver a hit…or a miss.

So maybe the answer is to bring other people into the process. While I don’t necessarily recommend soliciting advice or material from your entire social network, there’s nothing wrong with talking to a small group of trusted friends to help you jumpstart the writing process. Here are some specific ideas:

Choose wisely.

Pick people who know the guest of honor from different phases of life (e.g., family members, co-workers, childhood friends, college and post-college friends). This way you’ll get a wider selection of possible material.

Solicit stories.

Ask your group to share 2-3 stories or anecdotes that best represent the guest of honor’s character or outlook on life. Ask for as much detail as possible so you can add more color to your storytelling. Try to stay away from a laundry list of adjectives; use the stories to paint a picture of who the guest of honor is as a person.

Ask about other speeches.

Chances are that the people you’re involving have attended many other special occasions, so use that to your advantage. Ask them about the best speeches and worst speeches they’ve heard (or even given) and why. Ask them what resonated with them and what didn’t. Keep this feedback in mind when you craft your own speech.

Use them as a sounding board.

Don’t be afraid to share a rough draft of your speech to see what works and what might need to go to the chopping block. When the speech is more evolved, you can rehearse in front of a couple of people to make sure that the funny parts elicit humor and the sentimental parts bring “oohs and aahs.” If any part of your speech causes cringes, re-work it until they’re replaced with smiles.

Writing and delivering a speech can be a lonely experience, no matter how honored you feel to be giving it. Involving others in the process may help lighten your load and get your creative juices flowing. Maybe it’s not exactly crowdsourcing en masse, but who doesn’t get by with a little help from their friends?

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