A public speaking coach explains exactly how to let ChatGPT help you past the hurdles of writer’s block, research, and eloquence.
BY EILEEN SMITH
8 MINUTE READ
To make the most of your next all-hands meeting, give a compelling speech that will motivate and inspire. For a little help, you can use my speech writing structure below and call on ChatGPT, an AI conversational language generator. You still have to do the hard work of thinking up the content and pulling in examples from your own experience and that of others. Then let ChatGPT help you past the hurdles of writer’s block, research, and eloquence.
ENGAGE PEOPLE WITH A STORY OR EXAMPLE To do something about the blank page in front of me, I wrote a fictional prompt into ChatGPT:
“Write 100 words about the time in a job I had several years ago in a startup tech company, where they laid off 10% of the workforce. I felt an awful case of survivor’s guilt because I was still there and people around me were nervous because they hadn’t experienced this before. After some time went by, we found that everyone figured out how to do their work without the people who had been laid off. And the people who had been laid off, eventually found new jobs, and we all settled into a new equilibrium that worked quite well for us.”
“Several years ago, I was working at a start-up technology company where a layoff affected 10% of the workforce. The experience was emotionally challenging, as I felt survivor guilt while my colleagues were nervous and uncertain about the future. However, as time passed, we adapted to the changes and learned to work efficiently without the laid-off individuals. The company stabilized, and those who lost their jobs found new employment opportunities. We eventually reached a new equilibrium that proved to be successful for the remaining team. The layoff was a difficult but valuable lesson in resilience and adaptability, and I learned that change can bring growth and progress.”
That’s pretty good! More eloquent than my original input.
STATE THE BOTTOM LINE No need to keep your audience guessing. Tell them your main point up front. I wrote into ChatGPT:
“Write 100 eloquent words about: I know everyone here’s feeling unsettled. We miss our old colleagues. We’re worried about them. We also have to find a way to move forward without them. You were chosen to stay here and build this company. We have goals to meet and need you to step up, do more with less, and use this opportunity to shine.”
ChatGPT wrote back:
“The current situation is undeniably difficult, and it is understandable that everyone is feeling uneasy. We are all missing our former colleagues, and our hearts go out to them. However, we must find a way to move forward without them. You have been chosen to stay and help build this company, and it is now your responsibility to rise to the challenge. You must demonstrate your capabilities by doing more with less, and use this opportunity to demonstrate your brilliance. Together, we can reach our goals and create.”
Not bad. Not much better than my original content, but certainly usable.
DELIVER YOUR MESSAGE WITH THREE POINTS OR FACTS Now it’s time to give the speech some substance. I tried the easy approach and asked ChatGPT to “write three bullet points with information or facts to support why employees should be inspired to keep working after a layoff.”
ChatGPT gave me:
Employees who remain with the company after a layoff can benefit from increased job security and stability.
Employees who stay with the company after a layoff can gain valuable experience and skills that can help them advance their career.
Employees who remain with the company after a layoff can help the company rebuild and become stronger than before.
Okay, sure, but that’s boring and stilted.
I provided more detail for a second try.
“Write a heartfelt 50 words about: On the personal front, one of the best things we can do is use our networks to help our former colleagues find new jobs. Reach out to your work friends who aren’t here and ask how you can help.”
ChatGPT gave me:
“It’s so important to look out for each other, especially during difficult times. Using our networks to help our former colleagues find new jobs is a great way to show our support and care. Let’s reach out to our work friends and see how we can help them in their job search. Together, we can make a difference.”
Actually, I like my words a little better. They sound more real. For my next point, since I need some facts and figures, I wrote, “Write 50 words about a statistic about laid-off employees finding new jobs in the last year.” ChatGPT gave me a bland response with no data, so I edited my input to say “up to 75 words.” ChatGPT gave me:
“In the last year, laid off employees have had a surprisingly high rate of finding new jobs. According to a recent survey, nearly 80% of those who were laid off in the last year have found new employment. This is a testament to the resilience of the workforce and the ability of individuals to adapt to changing circumstances. It is also a sign of the strength of the job market, which has been able to absorb the influx of new job seekers.”
That helps! It’s specific, I didn’t have to look up the statistics myself (although it didn’t give me a source to cite, so that makes me uncomfortable), and it should give the team some reassurance.
Learning as I go, for my next supporting fact I wrote: “Write up to 75 words about an example of a large company that improved its bottom line after layoffs and cite the source of your data.”
ChatGPT (conveniently supported by Microsoft) gave me, “Layoffs can be a difficult decision for companies, but they can also be beneficial. A recent example is Microsoft, which laid off 7,800 employees in 2015. This resulted in a $1.6 billion savings in operating expenses, which helped to improve the company’s bottom line. Microsoft’s stock price rose by over 20% in the following year. (Source: Microsoft Annual Report, 2015)”
Nice! The example is old, but one can’t expect any data yet on the financial growth following current layoffs.
RESTATE THE BOTTOM LINE AND CONCLUDE WITH A MEMORABLE ENDING To restate the bottom line, I wrote, “We miss our old colleagues and it’s time to put our noses to the grindstone and do our best work, the future is ahead of us.” ChatGPT popped out a perfectly serviceable:
“It’s true that we miss our old colleagues, but it’s also true that the future is ahead of us. We can’t dwell on the past, but instead must focus on the present and do our best work. Let’s put our noses to the grindstone and make the most of the opportunities that lie ahead.” Looking for a big finish, I wrote, “Write up to 100 soaring words using a quote from a world leader who inspired people to double down in a difficult time.”
“1. Uplifting 2. Courageous 3. Determined 4. Resolute 5. Valiant 6. Unwavering 7. Optimistic 8. Valiant 9. Unflinching 10. Unstoppable 11. Unyielding 12. Inspiring 13. Dauntless 14. Fearless 15. Unconquerable 16. Unbreakable 17. Unfailing 18. Unfaltering…”
Huh. Not at all what I had in mind. I tried again, writing, “Write a concluding paragraph including a quote from a top level business leader who inspired their company to greatness.”
ChatGPT gave me the tried and true:
“’Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.’ – Winston Churchill. This quote perfectly encapsulates the spirit of success and resilience that is necessary for any business to reach its full potential. As a leader, it is important to remember that success is not guaranteed, and that failure is not the end of the journey. With courage and determination, any business can reach greatness.”
Quoting Churchill felt stuffy, so I changed my request to specify a “living” business leader. ChatGPT showed it has a little more work to do when it provided this:
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc.
Chat GPT continued with:
“This quote from Steve Jobs encapsulates the spirit of business leadership and the importance of perseverance in achieving success. It is a reminder that no matter how difficult the journey may be, with courage and determination, anything is possible. As business leaders, we must never give up on our dreams and strive to reach our goals.”
Giving it one more try, and turning the ChatGPT “temperature,” which increases the variety of results, up to the maximum level of “1”, I put in my same prompt and ChatGPT gave me:
“It is clear that success can only be achieved through hard work, dedication and the perseverance to never give up. As Steve Jobs famously said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”
That’s the same, no-longer-living business leader, but it’s an inspiring quote, indeed.
As the person drafting this speech, I have more work to do. I need to polish it up, add in more examples, and edit it to sound like the voice of the person who will deliver the speech.
For the person giving the speech, take time to internalize it and make it sound natural. Practice. Don’t just read the words in front of you. When you announced the layoffs, you probably had to stick to the exact text the lawyers provided. Now that you’re addressing your team in the aftermath, speak from the heart. Eileen Smith is a public speaking coach and former U.S. diplomat who helps business executives and policy experts prepare for speeches, media interviews, board meetings, and more.