How to Write a 4 Minute Speech Correctly

Learn to speak effectively.

The ability to clearly communicate ideas to others will serve to advance you both professionally and socially. Knowing that you can communicate well generates self-confidence in your ability to lead groups and conduct meetings. Grasping the fundamentals of effective communication will improve your conflict management skills and afford you the ability to have more productive conversations with your friends, your significant other, and your children. Communicating clearly is an easy skill to master once you understand the basic process for public speaking.

To whom will you be speaking?

Think about your audience before you actually write down anything. This is a crucial aspect of public speaking, whether you plan to speak for four minutes or for forty minutes. Ask yourself what images from their lives you can use while speaking that will interest them. Monitor any jokes that you plan to tell to make sure they will not be offensive. Ask yourself what kind of speech will earn their attention and respect. Attention from any group is extremely hard to earn. If you do not make the effort to think through how your audience will perceive your speech, you may fail to write a speech that will communicate with them.

What do you know?

Research your topic well. You might have to go to the library, or you may be able to research the subject online. After you speak, you might also be asked questions. If you appear to be unprepared to answer those questions, or if you demonstrate only a shallow knowledge of the topic, you will lose credibility.

Keep it simple or provide a handout.

Summarize your research in three sentences or less, and write the sentences down. These are your main points. Most people cannot remember more than three points. If you must make more than three points, provide a handout that your audience can follow as you speak. Your main ideas should be in bold print.

Outline and then write.

Outline your talk. Traditional speeches have three parts: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Use your introduction to entice people to listen, and to establish rapport with your audience. Consider thanking them for giving you the opportunity to talk. Your introduction should take less than a minute of your talk. For the next two or three minutes, develop the ideas you summarized earlier. This will be the body of your talk. In the last thirty seconds or so, wrap up your talk by briefly reiterating what you have said, and why it matters.

It takes most people between four to five minutes to read two pages of double-spaced twelve point font, so if your entire talk is a little shy of two full pages, you should be on track. Many people write one paragraph for their introduction, and one paragraph for their conclusion. Allow one full paragraph per idea in the body of your speech.

Script, notecards, or nothing?

Decide how extemporaneous you will be. Just because you have written a speech does not mean you have to read it. You can read your speech, you can write notes on index cards and unobtrusively use them. or you can memorize your introduction, body and conclusion. All three methods have their merits, so weigh your options.

Practice your speech.

Practice your speech in front of a friendly, but honest, audience. Ask for constructive criticism and suggestions. When first beginning to speak in public, many people have annoying mannerisms of which they are not conscious. Such distracting habits include throat clearing, saying "ummm..." in between sentences, speaking too quickly, or involuntary body movements. It may also be helpful for you to practice in front of a mirror. If there is something you need to avoid saying or doing, write a reminder to yourself at the top of the pages of your speech.

  • It's a good idea to look in the mirror before you give your speech. You probably don't have lettuce stuck in your teeth, but any misgivings about how you look will make you less self-confident.
  • Try to avoid taking a glass of water up to the podium with you for a four-minute speech. If you have to pause during your speech to take a drink some people will begin to daydream.
  • Make sure that you are dressed appropriately.

Tammy Dahlvang began writing professionally in 1997. She has contributed "Across the Pastor's Desk" articles to the "Albert Lea Tribune" in Albert Lea, Minn. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Northwestern University in 1993, and in 1997 earned a Master of Divinity from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.