Snowflake method for speeches

The snowflake method is a system for writing novels invented by Randy Ingermanson, a theoretical physicist and author of six novels.  The idea is named after the Koch snowflake, a fractal pattern that is generated by beginning with a simple triangle then repeatedly adding smaller triangles to the center of each edge.  A really simple shape becomes more and more complex by repeatedly adding finer and finer detail.

Koch Snowflake

Ingermanson’s approach to writing novels parallels the process for creating the Koch snowflake. Begin with a premise: a single sentance that summarises your entire story. Divide this into its component parts and expand each, into their own sentences. Keep on dividing and expanding the parts until you have a highly detailed plan of your story. This approach makes sure you know the beginning, ending and all the importnat parts in between before you begin writing. It makes sure every plot point is directly related to the original vision for the story. When you start writing there will be no ambiguity about where the story is going.

While writing my second Toastmasters speech I realised that I was suffering from the problems the snow flake method aims to eliminate. My central premis was undecided. I had ideas about what I wanted to talk about but they were not really related. I spent a long time writing sections that I later realised were irrelavent and had to delete. Some sections needed to be properly researched, but I started writing them out before reading up on them. The end result was a page full of unconnected paragraphs, completely unusable as a speech.

For my next attempt I decided to adapt the Snowflake method to a completely new idea. The result was a complete first draft after about two hours!

This is the method I would suggest using for producing a fast first draft:

Your first task should be to write a sentance that summarises the entire premis of the speech i.e. point you are trying to make or the story that you are trying to tell. For example “Pursuade the audience to go on holiday in Australia”. Constructing this sentance may be the most difficult part of the speech writing process. There is no room for uncertain, shakey ideas here.

The next step will involve expanding your premis into its component parts. Here you should decide on the different parts of your speech and the order in which they occur. A commonly used speech structure consists of an introduction, a conclusion and two or three points/anecdotes in between. The middle sections are the body of the speech. For each you should write a single sentance description of what you intend to say. Once you have descriptions of the points you want to make and the order you want to say them you can expand each sentance into a paragraph or two.

After expanding each sentance into a full paragraph you have a first draft of your speech. At this early stage you can see how your main points work together and get a feel for the timing and tone of your speech.

Oviously there is still a long way to go. Refining and agaonising over sentance structure will still take a long time. However having a complete first draft to work from will mean you can focus your time where it counts.

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