Writing a Speech Using the Grocery List Method

How many of you make a grocery list before you go shopping? How many of you have crossed something off the list and added something else? Congratulations. You’re a speechwriter.

Woman's hands holding a shopping list of six items, two of which have been crossed out, over a shopping cart in the produce sectionIt’s that easy—and that hard.

Let’s compare the process of preparing a grocery list and writing a speech. You compose a first draft, then revise it because maybe you already have ketchup and garlic—or repeat your point one too many times. But you notice you’re out of onions and put that on the list, or add an emotional story in your speech that will bring tears to your audience’s eyes.

You put stars next to the must-haves in both list and speech. You double-check the meat, dairy, produce, frozen foods, paper products—and your spelling, your subject-verb agreement, and your word choice. You’re constantly revising your grocery list until you have to turn the key in your car and drive to the store—or your speech until heading to a Toastmasters meeting to give it a dry run.

You’ve given yourself enough time to shop, come home, unload, and make dinner—just as you’ve timed your speech to be delivered in the allotted time. If you’re a frequent shopper, you know your stage directions and strategically move from aisle to aisle. You practice vocal variety when you raise your voice just enough to allow the slicer at the deli counter to hear you, but not loud enough to annoy the other shoppers.

You come home and you discover you forgot to put something on or take something off the list. It’s never done and you’re never completely satisfied. But you still make a darn good stew with the ingredients you have. And, your audience is satisfied too.

Congratulations. You’re a tasty speechwriter using the grocery list method.


Tom Pfeifer is the managing partner and chief strategist for Consistent Voice Communications and author of Write It, Speak It: Writing a Speech They’ll APPLAUD! Reach him at Tom@YourConsistentVoice.com.

Write It, Speak It Workshop presented by Tom Pfeifer of Consistent Voice Communications, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., March 11, 2017, Vienna, VA. Free. Register Now

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