As a speech writer or speaker, you likely do your best work writing about something that interests you. Wolves as a topic may or may not ignite a passion in you, but perhaps something within the role that wolves play does; for example, the balance wolves give to the environment by thinning their prey, which could otherwise lead to environmental problems, or the evolution of the wolf to the domesticated animals — dogs — that we know and love today. Choose the angle that interests you, so that your enthusiasm becomes apparent to your audience. The more passionate you are, the more credible you appear.
Know your audience and the purpose of your speech. This will also help you choose the angle for your speech. If your talk is directed at school-aged children, for example, your speech should likely be informative, unless you have been told otherwise. You can detail the role of wolves in the ecosystem or food chain and discuss how to have a healthy fear and respect for the wolf. If, on the other hand, you are persuading business and civic leaders to help fund a wolf preserve, you may need to appeal to a fiscal or even a safety concern, such as preserving a natural habitat to prevent wolves from venturing to urban areas, or their role in thinning annoying deer populations.
Find an inspirational quote or personal story. This again should be age- and audience-appropriate. A few lines from a riveting wolf story may capture the attention of school-aged children better than a quote from a famous author. The key is to find something that will gain your audience’s attention at the beginning of the speech, draw them in and take them on the journey with you.
Prepare your outline. Whether you are an expert on wolves or you have had to do some research, preparing an outline will organize your main points of emphasis and supporting information. Start with your introduction — including your quote or personal story — and then detail at least two, and no more than four, main points. Under each main point, write key words and phrases that offer support. Feel free to highlight any critical information or even single words that help trigger a train of thought as you are speaking, so that you can glance quickly at your outline, if needed, and keep your attention on your audience. Structure your conclusion to recap the most salient points, reinforcing your position so that your audience takes home these important points.
Read your speech aloud to yourself. This is both a practice mechanism and a method to determine if your outline allows you to speak naturally and conversationally. If you have sat through a stilted speaker, you know how uncomfortable it can seem for both the speaker and the audience. If your speech seems unwieldy to you, look at your word choices: Are you using words that you would use in a normal conversation? Even if you are speaking to well-educated adults, try gearing your speech — not content perhaps, but language — as though you are having an informal conversation. Also, avoid using the word “I” too much; remember, this speech is about wolves — their predicament, their future, their importance or whatever your angle may be.
Practice. Start in front of a mirror; then, recruit friends and family to listen to your speech. Finally, as much as you are able, replicate the environment in which you will be speaking. Ideally, you will have access to the actual venue. This is particularly important if you use any presentation tools or props, so you can practice manipulating them while you are speaking. Elicit feedback on the clarity and understanding of your main points, as well as the effectiveness of your voice projection, articulation and body language. Did they glean something new about wolves after listening to you? Are they motivated to action, if that is the purpose of your speech? Ask your practice audience how convincing you are. Give yourself time to incorporate their suggestions; then, practice again.
If you do not have the credentials to be considered an expert on wolves, cite experts or sources, particularly for statistics, in your speech. Highlight them in your outline for easy reference.
Two tactics that can backfire in a speech are fear and humor. Use caution with both. When in doubt, leave it out.