Speechwriting 101 with Allegra Spender

You may not have known the name Allegra Spender before the last election – you do now – but you have probably heard of her parents. The daughter of fashion designer, Carla Zampatti, and former parliamentarian, John Spender QC, Allegra won the safe Liberal seat of Wentworth as a teal independent. She holds it on a margin of 5.5%.

Are we sensing a theme here about safe seats falling to incredible independent women?

Allegra’s speech is a journey through her family and her electorate. It tells all the important stories that a first speech should tell: who are you, why are you here and who do you represent.

Where Allegra gets this speech right is in her use of plain English. In the entirety of her 3000+ word speech, there’s a complete lack of jargon, bureauspeak and wankwords. It’s truly a breath of fresh air.

My trusted editing app – Hemingway – rates this speech at a readability level of Grade 7. That means it’s understandable to so many more people than other speeches delivered in the parliament. A plain-speaking politician…hooray!

Here’s a snippet to show that readability in action:

In business, if you spend more money and you don’t get results, your budget gets cut. We are spending more money in education and in health, and we are going backwards. We must engage with the states in the harder task of reform. We must always remember that this isn’t our money. We are taking it out of the pockets of families that need it. And they need it now more than ever.

To use plain English in your own speeches:

  • Use the simple version of words rather than the jargon or technical terms. This helps get your message understood by more people. Really think about how you can simplify your words and your structure.
  • Use shorter sentences. Anything longer than 16 words should be the exception. Plus shorter sentences are going to help in your delivery, particularly if you’re nervous. Time to breathe and regroup. 
  • Caution: don’t just use sentences that are exactly the same length over and over. There needs to be a melody to your speech…not just a robotic recital of the words. 

Give it a try for yourself and let me know how you go.

If you need more help, download my free guide to writing ovation-worthy speeches here.

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