Writing Your Speech – The Six Magic Questions

Writing Your Speech – The Six Magic Questions

As a good speech writer you will need to think a lot like a good journalist or historian. Every journalist or historian faced with an important assignment always asks six important questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

When you write your speech you should do so with all of these questions in mind. Not every question will be relevant to your speech every time, but for the most part they are extremely important and can answer anything from the title of your speech to its length.

(Axtell 1992)

Let’s look at each one of these questions and see how they can be incorporated into a speech. Each question can have more than one answer, but here are some of the more basic answers.

  • Who? Who is the audience for the speech? This is probably the most important question as it is directly connected to most of the other questions. Also, it can refer to you as well. Yes, a good motivational speech explains who the speaker is.
  • What? What is the purpose of the speech? Is the speech being given as part of a special event or is it a seminar that you developed? Although your speech is motivational in nature, and you are being hired to deliver a speech as such, each event is unique and should be considered.


  • When? When are you delivering the speech? This is more important than you may think. An early morning speech or one after lunch may mean that your audience is tired and you will have to adjust accordingly.


  • Where? Where are you giving the speech? As discussed in a previous section of this manual, you should familiarize yourself with the venue where you are giving the speech. Seating, venue size, and the acoustics of the room are factors that you need to consider.


  • Why? Why are you giving the speech? This is closely linked to what and how, but with many other aspects of speech writing, the devil is in the detail. Do your research on the people and event you are speaking to. Also, why relates to you: why are you speaking? You should have no problem answering this question as your answer should be passionate and full of emotion.


  • How? How are you going to deliver the speech? This question may be overlooked because it doesn’t start with the letter “w”, but it is just as important as the others. The type of technology you use for your speech (PowerPoint for instance) and if you are delivering the speech via script or extemporaneously should be considered here. There are a variety of different ways to deliver a speech, but you need to determine what the best way is according to the situation.