Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
October 20, 2010

Making Speeches Stick with Social Media

Ian Griffin says that social media is changing the medium of the speech from one-way to two-way communication.

With all the buzz surrounding social media, it seems that speechwriting may be becoming a “lost art” in the PR trade today. Our profession seems to have gone from authoring 14-minute speeches to typing 140-character tweets for our clients.

Or has it?

Yeah, we all know the basics about writing speeches: Research your audience, make it stick with repetition, it’s all about the delivery, etc. But how do PR pros, writing talks for their CEOs or clients, craft engaging, memorable and moving speeches in the era of Web 2.0? After all, an audience can only take so many PowerPoint bullets before those bullets shoot holes through people’s attention spans.

Griffin (whose English accent already automatically engages you) said that speechwriting, like its traditional-media siblings, is good old-fashioned one-way communication. But with a few techie tips, a PR pro can make a speech two-way by adding in a little digital flair.
“Social media magnifies the impact of a speech before, during and after an event,” Griffin revealed.

First: Before a speech, research the audience by going beyond Google or Wikipedia and check out LinkedIn Groups and Polls instead.

“Today we can start a conversation with potential audience members and subject experts via social media,” he said.

So, say you’re writing a speech for an audience of dentists. Go to a dentist LinkedIn group and just poll them about what’s top of mind in their field. Bing! (no pun intended) — you’ve now heard about their self-interests, straight from the audience themselves.

Second: During the speech, make it interactive with a few gizmos like flipcam recording or live audience polling. The website offers free live audience polls for audiences with up to 50 responses. And a video recording of the speech can be uploaded later.

But why bother to actively engage your audience during a speech, especially when it can be distracting? Because of a concept called the “backchannel,” the conversation happening during a speech caused by the audience tweeting your words or verifying your facts on their smartphones and iPads. If you want some control over the messaging, encourage your audience to participate digitally, Griffin told us.

Third: After the speech, evaluate how well you (or the speaker) did via the social media streams. What was the chatter during the speech? Check event hashtags on Twitter using sites like to see what people said during your pulpit time.

“All promo is great promo,” Griffins said.

He told us you can monitor YouTube clips or podcasts to see how audience members are keeping the speech going days after its been given. For example, you may not have attended Griffin’s speechwriting PD session, but you’re getting his speech now in the form of a blog post nonetheless.

I bet Griffin’s tips will make our speeches stick and key points captivate in a day of seven-second attention spans, especially for those of us giving speeches who don’t have a million-dollar voice or an Australian accent. *ahem, like me*



P.S. I recommend downloading Griffin’s PowerPoint slide presentation for “Speechwriting in the Age of Social Media on slide share.

Philip Volmar, 2010 summer intern, publications, PRSA’s Tactics and The Strategist. He is a senior majoring in public relations at Brigham Young University, with minors in editing and business management. He maintains ties with PRSA as a guest blogger for comPRehension. Follow him on Twitter @pvolmar or connect on LinkedIn. Philip also holds the distinction of being PRSA headquarters’ second mayor — on FoursquareFor more coverage on the PRSA 2010 International Conference: Powering PRogress, visit PRSA Intelligence, follow #prsa_ic and the Conference blog.

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