In addition to being a lawyer, politician and philosopher, Cicero (Marcus Tullius Cicero) was also a preeminent Roman orator. Drawing on the teaching of Greek rhetoric and the craft of oration in Roman times, he composed De Oratore to highlight the principles he believed were at play whenever someone planned to speak on an important topic.
While political speeches and legal proceedings were at the forefront of public speaking during this time, the concepts presented here are valuable in the drafting of any nonfiction narrative. Written in 55 BC, and comprised of three books, De Oratore is a dialogue that is set in 91 BC.
Cicero shares a dialogue, reported to him by Cotta, among a group of excellent political men and orators, who came together to discuss the crisis and general decline of politics. They met in the garden of Lucius Licinius Crassus’ villa in Tusculum.
replied Crassus when Sulpicious wants to here more,
Writing is said to be the best and most excellent modeller and teacher of oratory; and not without reason; for if what is meditated and considered easily surpasses sudden and extemporary speech, a constant and diligent habit of writing will surely be of more effect than meditation and consideration itself
The point being that speaking extemporaneously lacks the depth that can be achieved when a narrative is given proper diligence and consideration through the process of writing. I’ve seen this happen with everyone I’ve coached, as the interplay of writing and editing uncovers new layers to the story, adding meaning and strength to the message that you’re delivering.
Such are the qualities which bring applause and admiration to good orators; nor will any man ever attain them, unless after long and great practice in writing, however resolutely he may have exercised himself in extemporary speeches; and he who comes to speak after practice in writing brings this advantage with him, that though he speak at the call of the moment, yet what he says will bear a resemblance to something written; and if ever, when he comes to speak, he brings anything with him in writing, the rest of his speech, when he departs from what is written, will flow on in a similar strain.
As an extension to the initial benefits of putting your words to paper (or keyboard) is that the story blocks you create in the process are better remembered and they can be used for those times when called upon to speak without time for preparation. You will better embody your message(s) and improve your ability to diverge from a written speech in an authoritative way.
On occasion I encounter clients who prefer to outline their talk to identify the major points and order of delivery, but resist the call to write out every word of their talk. In such cases I let them know that they are under no obligation to recite a written speech word for word. Lots of folks have difficulty memorizing a speech.
But once the writing process is complete the text can be turned back into an outline for the rehearsal phase, providing speakers with the freedom to select specific words on the fly. The difference is that the writing process significantly changes their narrative, which means the outline produced after writing is often quite different (better) than the outline initially drafted.
[De Oratore excerpts from Delphi Complete Works of Cicero, Translated by J. S. Watson]