How to write a speech in only 15 minutes

Parkinsons’s Law controls how you write a speech.

I know it controls how I write a speech. When I ignore it’s power, productivity bleeds out of me, soaking the floor under my desk.

“Work expands to fill the time allotted to it.”

Parkinson’s Law

That’s Parkinson’s Law.

So, if you have an hour to do something, it will take you about an hour. And I’m not talking about I’ll-try-to-get-this-done-in-about-an-hour type attitude. I mean “I have an absolute deadline of 60 minutes to complete this”. And if you have 2 weeks to prepare your speech, you’ll take 2 weeks.

Parkinsons law Cam's book
Here’s my copy. Bought at the Daylesford Book Barn for $5 bucks about 20 years ago (I was 9).

Write a speech without wasted time

Your ability to write a speech quickly can have some amazing side benefits. It can reduce public speaking anxiety and give you a strong foundation for a confident first impression.

People waste so much time and effort preparing, it negatively effects they way they view their entire speech.

Public speaking experts have to tried to add some order to this speech preparation chaos, by assigning a ratio for planning time, based on the length of your speech. Such as: ‘You need to prepare for 10 minutes for every minute of your speech’. So, according to this theory, if you’re speaking for 30 minutes, you need to prepare for 300 minutes.

Fortunately this is rubbish.

How to write a speech in 15 minutes!

The good news is; there’s a flip side to Parkinson’s Law.

If you have an absolute deadline of 15 minutes to get the same thing done, you will. It’s called Horstman’s Corollary To Parkinson’s Law, and it says:

“Work contracts to fit into the time we give it.”

A better approach!

Say what? Is it possible? Do you believe it?

Here it is again: The time it will take you to get something done can fit into a (tight) deadline that you set.
Actually, it works better when someone else sets you the deadline. Why? Because you’re a slacker! But it’s not really your fault. Without a framework it’s hard to set (or stick to) a deadline.

I’ve seen the principle work in the training courses and conference sessions we conduct all over the world. Years ago we focused mostly on training courses. We would allocate an hour or more to use the Vivid planning tools to write a speech or presentation.

Then we started conducting Conference Sessions that ran for 1-2 hours only. At first I didn’t think there would be time for workshop-type activities in the shorter sessions. But we tried it. And guess what? People finished writing their speech outlines in 15 minutes! Amazing.

Not only that, some people commented that they felt more certain about their content that when given a shorter time period to prepare. The deadline forces your mind to make decisions.

How long to write a speech? You decide.

  1. Start with a deadline.
  2. Use a tool like the free Vivid Speech Outline PFD to get the start organised, the body structured and the final message clear.
  3. Then whip a few slides together (if you need them) that follow the structure you’ve outlined.
  4. Put your feet up and have a cup of tea – your ready!

If you’d like to develop your presentation skills, consider: