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Posted on 09.30.2014

5 Speech-Writing (and Giving) Lessons to be Learned from Emma Watson’s United Nations Speech

Since her 10-year role as the courageous bookworm and Harry Potter star, Emma Watson has often existed as Hermione Granger in the eyes of her fans. Despite her prestigious education and other Hollywood roles, she faced heckling during her time at Brown University and continues to face Hogwarts-inspired teasing as she makes a name for herself outside the wizarding world.

On September 20, 2014, Watson – the U.N. Women’s Global Goodwill Ambassador – addressed the United Nations with a powerful speech about feminism and gender equality, specifically introducing the HeforShe campaign. Notwithstanding U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s jest about Watson “waving a magic wand,” Watson delivered an inspiring speech that earned a well-deserved standing ovation.

What can we learn from her speech? Well, in addition to preaching gender equality notions, Watson uses several speechwriting techniques that strengthen her message. Here are five speechwriting (and giving) lessons we can learn from Emma Watson’s speech:

  1. Address Audience Concerns.
    As I mentioned earlier, Watson faces restricting prejudice due to her Hollywood background. Instead of avoiding the topic, she addresses the audience’s concern: “You might be thinking, who is this Harry Potter girl and what is she doing speaking at the U.N.? And it’s a really good question.” By facing the elephant in the room head-on, Watson gains audience trust and earns the opportunity to prove wrong those who did not take her seriously.

  2. Utilize Speechwriting Techniques.
    When in doubt, go back to the basics. Language is a powerful, persuasive tool that can greatly affects a speaker’s influence. Writing techniques like repetition, rhetorical questions and symbolism are over-taught for a reason. Watson ends her speech with a powerful thought-provoking phrase that empowers her message: “If not me, who? If not now, when?”

  3. Spice it up.
    While Watson presented on a popular and heavily covered topic, she added new ideas. Instead of simply addressing gender inequality for women, she focused on men as well. She then takes an extra step to address the challenges men face and why this topic should matter more to them, thus uniting the sexes behind a typically controversial topic.

  4. Don’t eschew controversy.
    While her speech proved very popular, Watson faced her share of backlash – from attacks about her message and her qualifications to threats to release violating photos of the actress (which was later proven to be a hoax). Despite the potential repercussion she faced, however, Watson did not shy away from the controversial topic and spoke passionately about a campaign in which she strongly believes. Such passion adds a more genuine quality to the speech and helps strengthen her message.

  5. Add Personal Experience.
    Throughout the speech, Emma adds in colorful moments from her childhood that relate to the feminist topic. She discusses being called “bossy” at a young age and how she was “sexualized” by the media by age 14. Personal experience evokes audience emotions and paints the speaker as relatable, forming a bond between speaker and audience. The audience, therefore, is more invested in the speaker and more likely to remember and support the overall message.

What did you think of Emma Watson’s speech? Do you have other important speech tips? Share with us below!



Jacqueline Miller is an Administrative Assistant at Lovell Communications. You can view more of Jacqueline’s blogs here. Connect with Jacqueline at Jacqueline@lovell.com, or @JacqMills28

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