While speechwriting is not an integral part of most courses in film and theater studies, it still plays an important role, and professors often assign to their students to write and deliver speeches related to the subject. For example, it is a common form of discussing and analyzing films and plays in some classes. Alternatively, students may be asked to express their ideas in the form of speeches so that their peers can evaluate their views and their abilities to effectively express them. In other words, although you probably will not have to write and deliver speeches often, you are still likely to have to do it from time to time.
The nature of the course to a large degree determines the typical characteristics of these speeches. Artistic perception of the subject material and creative approach to analyzing it are just as important as the knowledge of the theory.
It is not easy to find guides dedicated specifically to writing speeches in film and theater studies; this is why we have prepared this manual. Here you will find everything you need to prepare your own speech, all neatly collected in one place.
The key to choosing a suitable topic is to stop trying to figure out a perfect course of action – you will just waste time and will be tempted to refuse perfectly viable topics in favor of an unattainable ideal one. Choose a topic that you can write a speech about and get going. Here are some tips on where to look for one:
Here are some examples you can use for reference:
A speech, especially a speech delivered in front of a class, is usually very short, and you have to make sure each word you utter is backed up with facts. Do not make unfounded assumptions – always look for reliable sources supporting your assertions. The most trustworthy sources of information are articles from peer-reviewed magazines, books by recognized authorities on the subject, websites of reputable organizations and so on. Bestselling books, newspaper articles, websites of uncertain provenance are best avoided – you simply do not have enough space to dedicate to information you are not fully sure of.
An outline is a framework you build the rest of the speech around. Write down all the sections your speech will contain along with what you are going say in each of them and how you intend to connect them to each other. Usually a speech contains three basic parts:
A hook is an opening statement that immediately grabs the audience’s attention. If you start your speech with something line ‘Today I want to talk to you about Chinese film industry’, it is unlikely to excite your audience. Instead, you should begin with:
People pay the most attention in the first 10 seconds of a speech or so. By that time, they already form an opinion about the speaker, and it is incredibly hard to change it – so make sure you produce a positive impression the very first second.
But not too much. Even if you deliver a speech in front of your class, not everybody has sufficient background knowledge to appreciate what you are going to say. Make sure you give them enough data to follow you, but do not spend half of your speech doing it.
You will deliver your speech orally, which means that it is very important to keep it comprehensible and easy to understand. Your listeners will not have an opportunity to trace it back to check something they did not understand the first time around. Therefore, introduce your points one by one, provide supporting evidence, connect to the next point logically and do not go back to it anymore, lest you confuse your audience.
Use words and expressions like ‘however’, ‘therefore’, ‘thus’, ‘then’, ‘the next day’, etc., to connect individual sections and make sure your speech flows naturally. You may not notice these transitions when you read a paper or listen to speech, but try taking them away, and any text immediately feels choppy and disjointed.
It is a good practice to follow in writing in general and truly crucial when you prepare a speech. Big words and complex sentences make your speech sound overly formal, monotone and confusing.
Statistics and quotations can add a sting to your words, but they are only effective when used in moderation. It may seem that the more factual information and authoritative opinions you use, the more convincing and your argument is, but it can have exactly opposite results. If you scatter them across your speech, the audience will fill overwhelmed and will not be able to follow you anyway. Therefore, limit the use of statistics and quotes to one or two per point, and choose what you mention carefully.
Film and theater studies is a discipline that heavily deals with the visual aspects of its subject. To better demonstrate what you mean, you may want to introduce various visual elements: photographs, pictures, illustrations, graphs, charts and so on. It is usually not obligatory, but can greatly increase the appeal of your speech (although some speakers believe it to be distracting both for them and their audience).
How you finish your speech is just as important as how you start it. While the opening defines the audience’s initial opinion of you and the degree of attention they will listen to you with, the conclusion crystallizes the overall impression your speech makes on them. Do not simply restate what you have said before – make the ending memorable, interesting and thought-provoking. The best way to do it depends on the purpose of the speech (e.g., a persuasive speech usually closes with a call to action). Some of the variants include:
Writing a speech is barely half the job. If you want to get a decent grade for it, you have to make sure you deliver it properly.
Try to finish writing your speech at least a few days before the deadline so that you have enough time to practice it. Remember, it is not enough to memorize it the day before you have to deliver it – human brain works in such a way that you are likely to forget it overnight. To get the speech into your long-term memory you have to practice it for at least a few days in a row.
Inexperienced public speakers (especially in courses that do not normally deal with speechwriting, like film and theater studies) often unconsciously intersperse their delivery with fillers: ‘um’, ‘you know’, ‘well’, ‘so’, ‘like’. Pay attention to your speech and force yourself to omit them.
Seeing and hearing yourself deliver a speech can give you valuable insights into what you can do to improve your delivery. You will be able to see many things you do not notice from inside, for example, your unconscious use of fillers or body language that betrays your uncertainty.
Ask a friend or a relative (whom you can trust to give you honest feedback) to listen to you deliver your speech. Better yet, ask a few people – they can offer different insights and help you improve your speech in unexpected ways. Positive feedback is also useful – it helps you boost your confidence.
Your speech has to fit in the allotted time span, and you have to check how long it takes you to deliver it and cut some fragments if necessary. You can get an approximate estimate of how long it will take you to deliver a speech using one of online tools designed for that purpose. What you should not do is deliver it at machinegun pace, which is a common practice both for those who try to cram a long speech into too little time and for those who simply get nervous and want to complete the job faster. If you have this tendency, keep it in mind and take effort to speak at your natural pace when you practice and calculate the length of the text.
When you calculate the length of your speech, do not forget about pauses, silence and changes in volume. You can use them to great effect when delivering the speech, and if the speech is relatively short (as it is likely to be in your case), they can make enough difference in terms of length and make you cut certain elements.
We hope that after reading this guide writing and preparing a speech in film and theater studies is no longer such a mystifying issue for you. Use it when working on your next assignment, and you will surely achieve success!