Home » How to Become a Speechwriter: 7 Degree-Less Steps
Mar,2024

How to Become a Speechwriter: 7 Degree-Less Steps

Some of the most impactful moments of history and even movies, can be linked back to a speech given. The ones that give the listener goosebumps, that they still contemplate and discuss and reference years and years later. It may make some of you stop and decide to learn how to become a speechwriter.

But how does that happen if you also don’t want to be the one giving the speech?

Maybe you don’t want to stand in front of a crowd. Maybe you want to be the person behind the scenes, aiding in sharing another’s message in a way that stands out.

It’s not as easy as the movie Long Shot has us believe, where simply running into an old babysitter who just happens to be running for president allows the job to fall into your lap. Even so, there’s a lot we can learn from Seth Rogen’s role as journalist-turned-white-house-speechwriter.

But we’ll look at a lot more than just those methods, and you’ll walk away having a clear understanding of how to become a speechwriter, no degree required.

Types of speechwriters: political vs business vs other 

One of the best things you can do upfront is determine what type of speechwriter you want to be. In almost any industry, there are opportunities for speeches. But given that you want to make an entire job out of just writing speeches, you’ll have a few primary types to decide on.

Usually, people will think of motivational speeches along with political talks when deciding they want to write speeches. Neither of these are bad, but they’re very broad.

Here are the types of speeches you can potentially learn to write:

  • Teaching / Informative
  • Persuasive
  • Acceptance
  • Debates
  • Eulogies 
  • Motivational
  • Political: tons of sub-speech types in here too
  • Commencement
  • Leadership
  • Business / Sales
  • Special occasions: weddings, one-off events
  • Demonstrative

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means. Many speechwriters tend to specialize in certain areas in order to grow in their field, but it’s good to have a baseline for many types.

Note: You don’t have to decide right now. Part of the process of learning how to become a speechwriter will include discovering your unique strengths and areas of expertise. You may be a terrible political speechwriter, but have the skills to move proverbial mountains in the motivational speech world. This will come out with time.

Is speechwriting in demand?

Yes. The world we live in right now is one of soundbites and snippets of powerful TED talks, but also one of long form video content. Which means it’s perfect for speeches, and therefore speechwriters.

Learning how to become a speechwriter nowadays may look a lot different than it did even 10 years ago because of this. You might not see job listings specifically seeking “speech writer” but more like “script writer.” Keep an eye on the job descriptions for these types of roles and be able to identify when an organization actually means “speech writer.”

With this in mind, classic speechwriters may not be the best fit for these roles, as they require more modern techniques that take into account the way media is consumed at large today. That’s where your advantage of learning now comes in, and why a college degree might not give you the tools you need by itself.

Do you need a degree to be a speechwriter?

The short answer is no. The long answer is that a degree can be beneficial for a lot of aspects of becoming a speechwriter, but it’s not a make or break accolade—especially in modern times.

And as weird as writing the words “modern times” feels, the fact of social media, the internet, and general access to digital education by highly qualified individuals means you can learn to write amazing speeches in far less time and for far less money.

That said, college provides some necessary education for learning how to become a speechwriter, along with potential networking opportunities, depending on the type of speechwriter you want to become.

The specific benefits from journalism and communications-focused degrees, along with English and writing courses can go a long way. But again, it’s not completely necessary and you can gain that information in alternative ways that we’ll cover below.

How to become a speechwriter: acquiring skills in 8 steps

You do have to take some action yourself. You can’t just approach someone and ask to write a speech for them. Well, you certainly can and it might pan out, but only if you’re already acquired the skills necessary.

If you’re still looking for the right way to go about it, here are some steps to help you learn how to become a speechwriter.

1. Study famous speeches

There’s a reason some speeches have been around for so long. They resonate with people in ways that are really important to study if you want to become one.

Now, you don’t have to write speeches like those in order to learn how to become a speech writer, but they will help you understand the power speeches can have, and what specifically about them seems to stick with people.

You can use those aspects to craft the speeches you write in a way that triggers an emotional response.

These are some of the most famous speeches to study:

  • I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. – 1963
  • Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln – 1863
  • We Shall Fight on the Beaches by Winston Churchill – 1940
  • The Inaugural Address by John F. Kennedy (written by Ted Sorensen) – 1961
  • Rivonia Trial Speech by Nelson Mandela – 1964
  • Tear Down This Wall by Ronald Reagan (written in part by Peter Robinson) – 1987
  • Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat by Winston Churchill – 1940
  • I Am an African by Thabo Mbeki – 1996
  • Ich Bin Ein Berliner by John F. Kennedy (written by Ted Sorensen) – 1963

Unless otherwise noted, these speeches are known to have been authored by the speech giver. Listen to each of these, and then read them in writing.

Notice the differences in how it looks written to how it sounds when spoken. Are there specifics that you can take away?

What stood out about them? Did they have any similarity in structure and build? What about the topics themselves? Dive into the openings, middle, and endings and get a sense for what these look like.

2. Study bad speeches

You can learn quite a lot from the “what not to do” style as well. There are plenty of things you want to avoid when learning how to become a speechwriter.

Most importantly, and what’s difficult to teach, is context. The person giving the speech, their position, and what the topic is can do a lot to either make or break the speech. Take Herbert Hoover’s Prosperity is Just Around the Corner speech from 1932.

This was during the Great Depression, and many people thought that he was very disconnected from the struggles of the reality of the challenges during this time. Notably, the content with the tone he took made it seem like it was the people’s problem that they did not have work, and not the deeper systemic issues that brought about those unemployment rates.

While you, as the speechwriter, can’t dictate tone of voice, you can do a lot to set the tone of the speech by how you craft it.

3. Work with a speechwriter as a student

If you can get in touch with people who are already doing this job, it’s a much faster way to learn how to become a speechwriter. Especially if they will take you on as a mentee. Job shadowing is also a great idea if you want to learn the ins and outs if you’re still undecided about this as a career.

Mostly, though, you can even work with one as someone who gives a speech.

This would likely mean taking on a goal of speaking and hiring a speaking coach who will also help you write the speech. There’s a different level of insight you’ll gain by having to perform the speech yourself.

You’ll understand audience nuances, presentation of information, and will craft your speech to avoid some of the missteps that make for badly received talks. 

4. Give speeches yourself

Not only can you work with a speech writer, you can write your own speeches and focus on becoming a speaker. It’s a great way to test how your talks sound when performed live.

Many people will take their speeches to a group like Toastmasters or other communities to gain insight into how others perceive the talk itself, in addition to public speaking feedback.

By staying focused on the material in the speech itself, it’ll allow you to focus less on giving the actual talk. Plus, knowing how nerves affect a speaker is one of the many nuances you’ll have to pay attention to when crafting different talks for different people.

For example, if you know the speaker has nerves, you’ll be less likely to include speech elements that need more confident finesse to pull off. You’ll have to be able to write a speech for people based on their skillset and ability to deliver it.

If you or your client suffer from a bit of fear, don’t worry. Both you and your client can learn the skills to overcome stage fright.

5. Work with speakers

There’s a difference between writing a speech for yourself and writing a speech for someone else, as mentioned above.

This part of learning how to become a speechwriter has a lot to do with being able to adopt another’s tone and voice while still writing a speech that fulfills their goals. You can’t write this for yourself to give.

This is where that movie Long Shot is actually helpful. There are scenes in which Seth Rogen’s character interviews Charlize Theron’s as she makes attempts to initiate an environmental bill as a secretary of state, and later as she runs for president. The purpose of this is so Seth Rogen’s character can write better speeches for her, more personal, something that aids in her character’s ability to increase her likability ratings in the polls.

While this movie is fictional, the strategy behind it is sound.

If you try to write speeches for other people but don’t tweak them to fit the presenter, you’ll have trouble.

A great way to find speakers to work with is to get into a community in which they are plentiful, like a Toastmasters or even a private group or network. Provide some feedback and connect. Then offer your services to practice writing for someone else.

See how they do, and what type of feedback they receive.

6. Test your speeches publicly 

You won’t know how your speeches are performing if you don’t test them. And not just with other speakers, but with an audience who has no background in knowing how a speech should be done.

This step is really important. The feedback from those who would otherwise be the target audience is vital to getting better at learning how to become a speechwriter. Getting outside the world you’re in every day—one of writing and hearing and giving speeches—allows you to be a part of the everyday person. 

The angles you take and elements you add or remove depend on how they’ll be received from this person.

7. Further your education

This doesn’t necessarily mean going to college. It just means there are an excessive amount of information and resources available for much cheaper than a college degree that’ll help you learn how to become a speechwriter.

Books are one of them, and courses are another.

When it comes to books, these are some we’d recommend for learning how to become a speechwriter:

  • Stories that Stick by Kindra Hall
  • The Art of Public Speaking by Dale Carnegie
  • Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
  • Thank You For Arguing by Jay Heinrichs

Don’t let these titles fool you. While they don’t all cover speeches specifically, they all offer nuggets of wisdom and research that’ll help you craft specific pieces of a great speech.

Many actually focus on the very ideas and stories that great speeches are crafted around. Because without both of those elements, a speech won’t have the impact necessary.

And remember, there are many courses, coaches, and other books crafted around how to write a good speech. Many are around the focus of “giving” great speeches, but the content of those speeches is a primary focus. Keep an eye out and read whenever you can!

In summary

Learning how to become a speechwriter includes various skill sets. If you want to be great, start now, start anywhere. Eventually, you will have to dedicate time and money to learning this craft, as with any other career worth pursuing.

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Author

Bella Rose Pope
I'm a multi-creative in pursuit of doing exactly whatever I want in life. Former speaker of book things, fiction author in progress, life figure-outer in progress, societal rule breaker extraordinaire. Smells like: homemade bread, book paper, potted plants, & potential.

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