How to write a script for a speech contest or a talent competition

Winning a talent competition or a speaking contest begins with good writing. So does any speech where you hope to change attitudes, entertain or lead people to action. Here is how to write the script.

Are you planning to vie for the coveted Miss Universe title? Perhaps not, but there is a lot to be learned from “talent competitions” and speech contests about being an effective speaker. A well-crafted speech can win speaking contests at Toastmasters. It can win a seat on the school board or town council. Or it can win people to your cause.

I will share two example talent competition speeches with you, along with some analysis. You might notice a few (or several) things that I don’t cover. Feel free to add them in the comments.

Then I will share a sample talent competition speech we wrote for a client, as an example of a good speech competition script.

Lessons from Miss America speech performances

Talent competition speech examples

Here is a quick navigation to the two speech sample videos, the speech analysis, the client speech script and the advice I gave for the sample speech.

VIDEO: Sydney Park’s speech, “Sit Like a Lady”, 100th Anniversary Miss America competition

Analysis of Sydney Park’s speech, “Sit Like a Lady”, 100th Anniversary Miss America competition

Poet Sydney Park made great use of the stage, flowing on and off her chair fluidly. She was in command. She was in control. She did not have to physically go to every corner of the stage to own it all. Follow her gestures, follower her eyes. Wow!

She also excelled with her speaking pace. Sometimes slow. Sometimes fast. Pauses at the right moments to give the audience time to process what she says. Always in control, and the speed changes reflect the purpose of her words.

Of course, this is poetry. For some other types of speech, this might be overdone. In other words, pay attention, follow her style, but moderate as appropriate for your material and your venue.

The topic was safe. In today’s world, a woman speaking up for equal treatment is a “world peace” topic. Everybody can agree on it, nothing controversial or original there. The delivery was original, but not the topic.

VIDEO: Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson, nurse speech, 2016 Miss America competition

Analysis of Kelley Johnson’s nurse speech for the 2016 Miss America competition

Kelley Johnson delivered a strong speech, a safe speech. It wasn’t poetry, so she did not have as much opportunity to change pace and volume and add variety to her voice as much as Sydney Park.

Although the speech clearly was solid and did her well, It could have been delivered better. She made good use of her pauses, but she spoke fast throughout. You can read below how I analysed that for our client. And her voice stayed even, almost monotonous.

Here, too, the topic was safe. Self-esteem and nurturing the infirm are both “world peace” topics. Everybody can agree on them, no controversies or originality there.

That being said, I found the self-congratulatory tone to be awkward. A good summary of the speech would be: “I discovered how awesome I am.” However, the crowd ate it up, so I might be an outlier on that point.

Choose safe topics for competition speeches.

THGM’s unperformed sample script for a talent competition speech

Here is a short competition speech we wrote for a client. This example might help you learn how to write a speech for a competition, too.

This one was never used, because she came up with an even better idea. Note that the contestant is seated in a chair near the edge of the stage.

BELL RINGS

OPENS BOOK

Good morning, children. We have a lovely story to read today.

OFF-STAGE: Miss Student Teacher, Jenny hit me yesterday, but mommy says I can’t hit her back. Is that fair?

CLOSES BOOK, FIXES EYES ON THE CHILD AND LEANS FORWARD

Is that fair? Oh my goodness – of course it’s not fair, dear. No, it’s not fair at all.

Do you know what it is? It’s kind.

PAUSES

Kindness is better than fairness.

Kindness is better than being right.

LOOKS AROUND AT THE CHILDREN

And children – do you know what my mommy told me when I was your age? She told me that kindness is even better than winning.

PAUSES

You can’t always be fair.

You can’t always be right.

And you can’t always win.

But you can always be kind, because your heart is big enough for all the kindness in the world.

STANDS UP, FIXES EYES SOMEWHERE ABOVE THE AUDIENCE

Oh, children! Can you imagine a world full of kindness?

FIXES EYES ON THE CHILD

Maybe you could give Jenny a hug. Or a smile. And next time, instead of hitting you, maybe she will play with you.

BENDING DOWN TO TALK WITH HANDS ON KNEES

The world is yours. Will you help me fill it with all the kindness in your heart?

 

Advice for THGM’s unperformed sample script for a talent competition speech

First, let me acknowledge that the staging – the chair, the off-stage recorded question and the imaginary children at “Student Teacher’s” feet – were the client’s suggestion. Clearly, she gets staging.

But this setup created some logistical limitations. For instance, she could not just stand up and step forward on all the imaginary children at her feet. She had to show intimacy with the kids at her feet, at the same time commanding the stage. Here is what I advised her:

You can’t do what Parks did. You can’t walk around without stepping on imaginary children. But you can’t just sit in the chair, either. You need to stand up to take control, and you can use your eyes to control the whole stage from where you stand. I’ve written those directions into the speech.

 

How to pace her speech was another concern. One does not talk to imaginary kids – obviously very young – as one would normally address the live audience of adults. And I especially did not want our client to be cornered into speaking too fast. For this, I turned to Kelley Johnson’s nurse speech, and said:

As for overall speed, I thought at first that Johnson was nervous, because she was speaking just a bit too fast the whole way through. But when she ran a couple seconds overtime, I realized she just had 20 too many words to say. Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you. I’ve already cut a lot of what I wrote on the first draft, but let me know your real-life timing after practicing a few times. We can always cut.

 

Speed is not the only consideration when speaking. Volume and pitch are, too. Here is some advice I gave on that, which might also be helpful when you speak:

You can speed up at a couple select moments when you get passionate – the audience should feel your heart beat faster as you speak faster, speak louder and if your voice is in a low to middle register, speak with a slightly higher pitch. If you have a high-pitched voice, best not to increase the pitch, as it could come across as squeaky. But you do need the audience to feel your passion.

 

Speech performance even when tech goes wrong

I had some final words of advice that apply to any speech, even a best man speech or a maid of honor speech.

Since you’ll have a mike, no need to speak louder than natural, except when you raise your voice to convey passion. But I’ve seen mikes and speaker systems malfunction, so be prepared with a louder Plan B. Nothing impresses judges more than someone unphased by a tech issue who goes on to perform smoothly anyway.

 

That last note applies to anything in life, whether it is a speech or a dance competition, or even a job interview. When the hall goes dark, light them up with your brilliance.

Are you ready to write your next speech? If you need help, our speech writers can script you up

About David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt is President of The Happy Guy Marketing, a published author, a "Distinguished Toastmaster", a former consumer advocate, a social media addict and experienced with media relations and government reports.

Read more about David Leonhardt



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