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Reading time: 15 minutes

The most effective way to write an impactful political speech.

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By: Mukundan Sivaraj

Published: apr 29, 2022.

how to write a political speech

A while ago, I remember watching President Obama’s address at Selma, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the African American community’s historic march for voting rights.

A President, more than any other, defined by his oratory skills, Obama has given plenty of powerful, era-defining speeches over the years, from the one that propelled him to the public eye in 2004 at the DNC, to his final address as president in 2017.

But this speech at Selma was something special. It reflected the complicated history of race in the country and expressed a profound hope for the future. It was one that only the first black president of the United States could have given. And by all accounts, it was the perfect speech, by virtue of bearing all the hallmarks: Style; Substance; Impact.

Even years later, watching it through a screen, one can not help but feel the solidarity that those in attendance of that 50th-anniversary event must have felt.

Now, there are a number of reasons you may be in want of a speech. After a resounding election victory. Or after a disastrous defeat. To bring an audience to their feet in celebration. Or calming them in the aftermath of a tragedy. Whatever the cause, here are the aspects you can use to construct one.

Deconstructing a great speech

Let us take a closer look at the qualities of a great speech through the lens of Obama’s speech at Selma:

Style When we look to the renowned orators in history, we see masters of both the written and the spoken word. Lincoln’s ten-sentence Gettysburg address holds the same weight today, despite there being no audio recording. As may the speech at Selma in the future, in the way it was masterfully constructed.

Substance Needless to say, beauty withers under a scrutinizing gaze. The same could be said for a speech. Every great feat of oration has always backed its elegant prose with a sturdy backbone that is its theme. In Selma, the theme set forth was that of racial justice.

Impact What impetus does your speech provide its listeners? What should the receiver ruminate on as they lay awake in their beds that night? That is how you will measure the impact of your speech. If the audience can take something concrete, something worthy, you will have fulfilled this condition away from the venue.

In Selma, it made the youth in the audience think – What excuse do we have not to vote when our parents and grandparents fought so hard for our right to do so ?

Now we take a deeper look at how to bring these three components to the forefront of our speech by examining each individual element. Not all of these elements may be present in all speeches, nor are they necessary, but they are helpful to have at hand.

Elements of Style

The selection of words.

One word can paint an entire picture. The work of word selection is the work of relating to your audience and evoking powerful imagery in their minds. 

The solemnity of the occasion necessitated the use of a more formal speech by Obama but did not limit him to it. With phrases like “the fierce urgency of now” and “the roadblocks to opportunity” combined with the occasional informal language, he adeptly managed to weave more abstract concepts with the ground reality.

The tone of delivery

Speakers do not always write their own speeches. If that is the case, a speechwriter should be aware of the speaker’s mannerisms and how they talk and play to their strengths. Look at their past speeches for moments of greatest impact.


Pay attention to their tone, tenor, regional accent, and minor idiosyncrasies as they speak. If the speech is made for a specific audience, it is good to take note of local colloquialisms as well.

The structuring of sentences

The best speeches are texts that are beautiful to both hear and read. A surprisingly effective measure towards this end is to read the speech aloud in the process of writing. If it sounds natural, you are on the right path.

Obama alternates between short and long sentences, creating an almost unconscious rhythm to keep the attention of his audience throughout.

Creating an emotional beat

This, more than any other element of style, is self-evident. The work is half done if the speaker can take an audience on an emotional journey, orchestrating their highs and lows. 

One way is to follow moments of levity with poignancy. Obama does this well at points in his speech, such as when he describes the provisions a marcher would need for a night behind bars, “an apple, a toothbrush, a book on government,” and follows with the enormity of the task they have set out to do.

Allusions and symbolism

Depending on how they are used, devices like symbols and allusions serve to lend a speech a level of grandeur, a level of importance beyond itself, by linking the present to past events. 

In this speech, the most prominent symbol is the march itself. It is positioned as an inspiration for later, similar movements, such as the one in Berlin, leading to the fall of its wall, and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

The march at Selma saw violence, intended to dissuade protestors from carrying on. Obama makes a point to connect the suffering of marchers to the trials faced by slaves in American history through the use of terms like the “North Star,” which slaves followed in their bid for freedom in the northern states of the country.


Elements of Substance

Elements that pack a punch and instantly connect you with your audience are essential in a political speech. They are:

Let’s read on to learn them in detail.

Reflecting the present

Any political speech should hold up a mirror to the issues and happenings of the present. By showing that you understand these issues, you will put yourself in good stead to talk about solutions to them. 

Allow your audience to trust you. That will occur when they realize that you and they are one and the same and that what they see is what you see.

A conversational start

It is often the case that you should ease into the topic of the day. 

Start off with something one would say in a conversation. Avoid a grandiose tone or statement at the outset. If it sounds cheesy, you risk losing the audience’s interest. Find something natural to say that holds meaning to the voters so that the listeners do not think it is a rehearsed piece of text. Like Obama starts by showing his admiration for the previous speaker.

The core message

The takeaway from your speech may just be one short soundbite for a listener. Let that soundbite be the core message of the speech .

Time it so that the message hits the audience at the peak of their interest. Once hooked, the audience will open themselves up to what you have to say.

The stories and anecdotes

Speaking of events in your life or in the lives of others: loved ones, constituents, or people you look up to, can lay the tone of your speech and set the stage to relay a greater message.

A well-placed anecdote should help people relate to the speaker. Tell the audience what influences you to do the things you do. Talk about tough times that show you understand a voter’s circumstances or a grieving loved one’s pain.

Elements of Impact

Ethos, pathos, and logos.


As put forth in Aristotle’s Rhetoric , 2300 years ago, the persuasiveness of your speech may be directly traced back to these three elements:

Ethos – The credibility of the speaker as perceived by the audience. Pathos – The emotional connections you make with the audience. Logos – The sound logical argument brought forth in your speech.

By having your audience buy into your speaker, their conviction, and their argument, you can leave a lasting impact. We can see ethos, pathos, and logos at work in the elements of style and substance as well.

By merit of being the first black president, Obama had established a level of ethos before even stepping on the stage. A further point of ethos within his speech is in the opening paragraph, where he calls John Lewis, a congressman who was a leader at the Selma march, “a personal hero,” establishing that Obama was a supporter of the struggle for civil rights.


Pathos can be found in the imagery evoked by the President throughout the speech. The telling of men and women who marched for their rights, steadfast in spite of “the gush of blood and splintered bone,” helped the audience identify with the courage of the marchers.

In his speech, he invokes logic to denounce the cynicism that he feels is rampant among youth today. He states that the march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery could only happen because of the belief of marchers in the fundamental ability of the country to change for the better, such as in this line: “If you think nothing has changed in the past 50 years, ask someone who lived through the Selma or Chicago or Los Angeles of the 1950’s”

The build-up and repetition

Every speech should steer toward the central idea that serves as its backbone. Build up toward that idea through every anecdote or statistic you share. The audience’s mind may wander. The use of repetitions will enforce your idea in their minds.

Here, repetition is used time and again to underline and explain various ideas in Obama’s speech, such as in this line where he underscores that qualities that he believes his country has, “The idea of a just America, a fair America, an inclusive America, a generous America.”

The note to end on

Depending on how you played your cards, this could be the point of the speech where you leave the most impact. Here, you can choose to twist the knife or administer the antidote.

As the speech nears its conclusion, impress upon the listeners the salient points of your speech. Make them think. And then conclude on a plaintive note, or a joyous one:

“We honor those who walked so we could run. We must run so our children soar. And we will not grow weary. For we believe in the power of an awesome God, and we believe in this country’s sacred promise.”

Once done, It is time for the speaker to retire and the audience to stand at attention for perhaps a moment longer, spellbound.

And that is how every great speech, inevitably, ends.

Featured Image Source:   Mikhail Nilov  

Mukundan (that's me!) is a writer at CallHub, an outreach platform that connects nonprofits with their supporters through voice and text messages. Mukundan’s focus on nonprofit technology and communication helps him show nonprofits big and small, how technology can help elevate their cause.

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How To Write A Political Speech

how to write a political speech

What’s a Rich Text element?

The rich text element allows you to create and format headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, images, and video all in one place instead of having to add and format them individually. Just double-click and easily create content.

Static and dynamic content editing

A rich text element can be used with static or dynamic content. for static content, just drop it into any page and begin editing. for dynamic content, add a rich text field to any collection and then connect a rich text element to that field in the settings panel. voila, how to customize formatting for each rich text, headings, paragraphs, blockquotes, figures, images, and figure captions can all be styled after a class is added to the rich text element using the "when inside of" nested selector system., how to write a political speech.

There are many steps needed in defining what topics your political speech should cover. Political campaign software is used to capture and contextualize issues within your community ,in an understandable way and in turn translated into political rhetoric. These include:

1. Outlining the core proposition. Use scripted phrases or arguments and test them for memorability.

2. Use a storytelling element i.e. "person X in my constituency does not have access to healthcare and it is having the following impact on them". This information would be generated during your community outreach efforts.

3. Support the core proposition with two supporting arguments and include evidence backed up by a meaningful statistic. I.e. "according to this expert, ....evidence is there to suggest increased spending now will reduce costs in the future."

4. Acknowledge the main rebuttal and stat why/how you disagree. I.e. "I know my opponent will say we don't have the budget for this, but here is how we can finance it...."

5. Tidy up with a repeat of core proposition and reason why the audience should support this. I.e. appeal to their sense of community, they could be next, or the tax savings that will come from it.

Rehearsal is hugely important and will really aid your nerves in advance of a speech or debate. Rehearse your speech five times before you take it out into the light. Then deliver it to your team and get critiqued on it. Finally, do a full dress rehearsal with your team playing the role of the moderator and your competition. This will give you an opportunity to see the weaknesses of your points or your delivery. If you have the stomach for it, have yourself filmed giving the speech and watch it back to see where you might improve!

Remember to see the speech from the point of view of someone who doesn’t know anything about the topics. Use simple speech and plenty of analogies, this will make your political speech and political messaging accessible to your entire electorate.

How To Argue Effectively

The rebuttal may seem like it is the most difficult part of a debate but, if you are prepared, it is exactly the opposite. Instead, the rebuttal presents an opportunity to once more, drive home your message. Before you ever begin the debate, anticipate what the opposition is likely to throw at you and prepare an answer. If, on the off chance you are caught off guard, avoid any knee-jerk reaction. Remember, this is not a slagging match and your political integrity is at stake. Use your key arguments to rebut and reaffirm your standpoint.

Use Common Language

1. Speak the way anyone can understand you.

2. Do not use offensive terms during your speech.

3. Use stories and first-person accounts to make your arguments more relatable.

4. The majority of your content should be understandable by anyone but it is ok to put in the academic research, quotations or statistics that might not be understood at first listen.

The Ten Minutes Beforehand

The ten minutes you take before you go on are crucial:

1. Clear your head.

2. Re-read your notes.

3. Focus on your opening statements.

4. Do not engage with your competitors.

5. Have your team around you but don’t get into anything with them.

Not everyone is going to have the soaring prose of Obama or the positive self-image of Donald Trump but there is no reason that you can’t be a very successful public speaker with the right preparation and research through community engagement . In this piece, we will look at some of the skills needed to take to the podium for a political speech or a political debate.

Opposition Research

Firstly, research your opposition. In the case of a political debate, you will want to understand the position of your competitors and have some sense of what they are likely to say and how they will say it. Are they defensive? Have they weaknesses in their argument? Do they have a past that can be exploited?

In terms of a solo political speech, it is still important to research the situation that you will be in and what the audience is likely to be thinking. Is it a friendly crowd? Are they expecting you to address certain topics? Can you take a line of argument that is unexpected? Is there a storytelling style that will work particularly well in this context?

Spend at least two hours on background or opposition research before writing a word of your speech.

Preparing Topics

The overall framework of your speech will be split up into topic areas that support your campaign messaging and should align with your campaign strategy . You may want to discuss a number of issues that are relevant to the audience. If you think you might discuss three topics (always a good number to work towards) then prepare five topics. That way, if you get pulled into something that isn’t part of your speech (by an audience question or by your competition) then you will likely have something prepared for it. Remember, if a topic comes up that you haven’t done any prep work on, and you are not confident on the figures, you can always move the conversation back to topics you have prepared.

Preparation of a topic means background reading, memorizing of key metrics or quotations, assembly of the text of your speech, and rigorous fact-checking on all these elements.

How to Construct An Argument

To construct a persuasive argument, you should follow these three rules. Clear, concise, credible.

1. Be clear: Clarity is key. Your message will be lost if you cannot explain it in a simple way. Avoid using convoluted language and too much political jargon, this is not a vocabulary test! Being easily understood is a sure fire way to get the audience on side. Don’t forget to structure your sentences using active verbs and positive language.

2. Be concise: Being concise is equally as important as clarity. We have all been to weddings where we have been bored to tears by the speeches. Your message will be lost if your audience is not engaged with what you say and your delivery should be succinct.

3. Be credible: The objective of any debate is to persuade your intended audience to believe in your message and for those in opposition to find it difficult to disagree with what you have to say. Use evidence and statistics to back up your arguments but make sure you do not overuse them, a common touch or storytelling approach may be more credible.

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6 tips for writing a powerful political campaign speech

Meredith Thatcher | September 13, 2016

What makes a great campaign speech? As it turns out, the same attributes as a document written in plain language. The most effective speeches are those that use clear language in a series of short statements, and make the speaker’s points with conviction. Here are six tips to creating an effective campaign speech.

Image, Hand writing 'Words have power'.

Image by dizain / shutterstock

1. Get potential voters on side

On a ‘whistle-stop’ tour of villages, towns, cities, counties, territories and states, getting as many potential voters on board in as short a time as possible is critical.

Build rapport from the start. Know about the area you’re visiting and the issues that matter to the residents who live there. Comment on those issues to bridge the gap from outsider to local. Tell a story that they can relate to instead of just spouting statistics. Your audience needs context. If you connect with them, they’ll be prepared to hear what you have to say. To get their vote, you need them on your side.

In the 2016 US Presidential election campaign, Hillary Clinton tried to get the supporters of fellow candidate Bernie Sanders on side after he dropped out of the race. Clinton stated:

And to all of your [Sanders’] supporters here and around the country, I want you to know I’ve heard you. Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy and passion. That is the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for America. We wrote it together, now let’s go out and make it happen together!

2. Get your message out fast

We live in a world of distraction. People retain very little, so get your message out fast. You want a sound bite that will capture the attention of potential voters. Keep your statement short and connected to a core theme. Then weave that theme through four to five key messages to take your audience on a memorable journey.

3. Give equal measure to empathy, warmth, and authority

Know how many people are likely to attend the event where you’re giving your speech. Remember to welcome your audience and thank them for turning up. Then deliver your comments so that each person feels like you’re having a fireside chat with them.

Tone really matters — check out our online course to polish yours

A conversation is much better than a lecture, but don’t be too spontaneous. Get your timing right. Only tell a joke if you know everyone listening will get it, as no one likes being left out. And some events will be inappropriate for jokes.

The hard part is empathising with the concerns of potential voters while commanding authority. Remember to smile, and not just for the cameras. But also remember that some people view a show of emotion as a strength; others view it as a weakness. Exude confidence to assure them that you can lead and make decisions that deliver tangible benefits for them.

People may say they want to vote for someone they can talk to when what they really want is someone who can solve problems and make tough calls in any situation. So, above all, show your audience that you can do the job.

At the 2016 Republican National Convention, Donald Trump put his key message first and then tried to achieve a balance between warmth and authority. Trump stated:

U.S.A! U.S.A! U.S.A! Together, we will lead our party back to the White House, and we will lead our country back to safety, prosperity, and peace. We will be a country of generosity and warmth. But we will also be a country of law and order.

4. Stay in control and be confident

Your speech may start on the page, but you deliver it orally. Write as you will speak. Don’t waffle or include unfocused comments. Don’t get caught out using a voice that’s not your own. The audience will know immediately. Don’t be hesitant. The audience will know if you’re holding back and wonder why.

Only ask a question if you already know the answer. Use the problem–solution format throughout your speech. State the problem and provide an achievable solution. Make your messages unambigous and clear. See how your audience reacts, and respond accordingly.

In the end, leave your audience in no doubt about what you’re saying, why you’re saying it, and what they should do with your information. After all, you want their next step to be to vote for you.

5. Use repetition to best effect

Repeated messages stick. At the end, draw out your key themes and briefly repeat what you’ve said. Layer each message to build momentum to your final point. Make that point important enough that the audience will want to discuss it. This is another appropriate place for a sound bite. You need your name to stay at the top of the voters’ list of choices.

US President Barack Obama uses repetitive phrases. Sometimes he ends a sentence in a way that makes people wonder what’s coming next. He makes a statement, pauses, and adds, ‘but that’s not what makes us…’ This makes people listen and helps to reinforce the point to come.

Obama has also used ‘I’ve seen it…’ to open statements. This shows he understands the concerns of the people — that he is one of them.

6. Take inspiration from the great orators

One of the best political speeches to incorporate the previous five elements was Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s first inaugural address to a country in the midst of the Great Depression. His 3 March 1933 speech points to the hard decisions that lie ahead. But it also reassures that a positive attitude and optimism about the future will see the country through the tough times.

The speech also notes that the people’s support and commitment to work together is an integral part of this journey. Roosevelt’s speech reads in part:

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor do we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.

The speech is not only memorable — it has stood the test of time. It’s as relevant today as when first uttered more than 70 years ago.

Image, President Roosevelt.

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How to Write a Campaign Speech

Last Updated: February 12, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Lynn Kirkham . Lynn Kirkham is a Professional Public Speaker and Founder of Yes You Can Speak, a San Francisco Bay Area-based public speaking educational business empowering thousands of professionals to take command of whatever stage they've been given - from job interviews, boardroom talks to TEDx and large conference platforms. Lynn was chosen as the official TEDx Berkeley speaker coach for the last four years and has worked with executives at Google, Facebook, Intuit, Genentech, Intel, VMware, and others. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 17 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 788,041 times.

A good campaign speech can persuade, excite, and motivate, compensating for weaknesses in other parts of the campaign. Although good speakers make it look natural, there are actually specific techniques you can use to make your own speeches more effective, techniques which apply to all manner of campaign speeches. Whether your speech is for a student election or governmental election, you can use these techniques to transform your speech into one everyone will be talking about.

Sample Speeches

how to write a political speech

Delivering Your Own Student Council Speech

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Structuring a Campaign Speech

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Writing a Political Stump Speech

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About This Article

Lynn Kirkham

If you’re writing a campaign speech, first outline a beginning that catches people’s attention and raises questions, a middle that provides answers, and an end that connects the answers back to the questions. Then, when you write, open by using a story, a joke, or a challenge to make your main point immediately. Use a mixture of facts, feelings, and actions to support your theme through the middle of the speech. Finally, write a conclusion that makes it clear what’s at stake, using strong, forceful language to convey your position. For more tips on writing a campaign speech, including writing a political stump speech, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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How do you write a great political speech?

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MANCHESTER, England — As Britain’s political parties finish their annual conferences, Jack Blanchard invites a selection of top speechwriters from both sides of the Atlantic to consider what makes a great political speech.

Tony Blair’s former chief speechwriter, Philip Collins, talks us through the techniques he used when penning Keir Starmer’s leader’s speech at this year’s Labour Party conference. David Cameron’s former chief speechwriter, Ameet Gill, recalls several of the ex- PM’s greatest hits, including the 2007 “no notes” party conference speech which helped avert a snap general election. Ed Miliband’s former speechwriter, stand-up comedian Ayesha Hazarika, explains the importance of humor in political discourse. And U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s former speechwriter, Bob Lehrman, offers a trans-Atlantic view of how the greatest political speeches are structured.

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Shock, anger, betrayal: inside the qatargate-hit socialist group, estonia’s incumbent leader kaja kallas on course for election win, greek prime minister apologizes over country’s deadliest train crash.

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