We have all been told that the easiest way to make a point is to tell a story! Whether it is a point in business or to your kids, telling a story allows your intended audience to listen without being at first judgmental.
Now the most obvious question is, “Where do I get my stories?” The answer is easy, “Just look around you!” The problem we all face is the amount of stimuli that we face on a daily basis. An event happens to you in the morning which would make the basis of a great story but 60 minutes later you have already forgotten about it because someone just told you your afternoon meeting is cancelled. Now you are frustrated and are scrambling to change to a new time and place.
We are constantly exposed to ideas for great stories. However unless you write it down, you may lose the idea. That is why having a small notebook or a pocket recorder on you is the easiest way to remember these ideas. For example, as you are driving you see or think of an idea for a great story. You reach for your recorder and start to record yourself. Later you simply write down your idea into a few sentences or key phrases. Every month you review your notebook.
We all have great stories in us or that we see. We just have to remember them!!
If you are performing an experiment (delivering a speech) and need to know a critical outcome along the way (audience reaction/awareness) you have to measure it (video or audio record your speech) to see the results.
Just as a scientist would do in his/her lab, you must do in your lab, and, in this case, your lab is your speaking environment, your lab is your speech delivery, or maybe your lab is the experimental process you follow so you will know where you are along the way in your speech and where you need to add, delete, or change (adjust your speech volume or intonation) to get to the desired results you want (audience reaction, understanding, or Call to Action).
If things don’t work the first time, go back and review the audio/video recording and see where you can tune your message by making it shorter or more succinct and to the point, by observing body movements or vocal inflections, and by critiquing your overall message segueway(s) paying close attention to your ‘transitional’ words from point to point.
Today, data storage is cheap. Make the investment in a good recording device of some sort and start recording your speaking experiments so you can measure your speaking success along the way!
The power of questions!
As a speaker we sometimes forget that asking a question and pausing and waiting for an answer is more powerful than us speaking. Here are four reasons we need to build questions into our speaking repertoire:
Obtain and Clarify Information — Obtaining accurate information and a clear understand of circumstances will always save you time and help you avoid errors.
Provoke Thought – When you ask a question, pause after it, it give people time to think and be more engaged with you message.
Provide Control In A Situation – When speaking you may find yourself in adversarial position with certain audience members. Taking a moment and coming back with a well thought out question can give you control in that situation.
Promotes the Power of Persuasion — If you can determine where audience position is (through questions), you can better ask questions to provide a different perspective. In fact, your audience may persuade themselves.
To often we as speaker are telling, rather than providing what the audience really needs, figuring out what they need to do. Through the use of questions you are providing the avenue to move your audience in a more positive direction.
You have a 90 minute keynote speech that brings down the house, every time. But the meeting planner trying to book you only has a 60 minute slot left, and it’s the last of three presentations. Can you do it? The answer better be, “Yes, I can!” On the day of the your (now) 60 minute keynote, the two presenters preceding you go over, leaving you with 40 minutes. Can you still deliver a knockout? The answer is, “Yes I can!”, because you “chunked” your speech.
Chunking is the breaking apart of something into smaller parts, called “Chunks”. For a presentation, it is typically a 5 to 10 minute module that stands on its own. It contains its own beginning, middle and end, its own stories and parables, and conclusions. Your speech becomes a collection of chunks, the number and order can be modified to suit the audience, the conference theme, and time constraints.
As you create content, develop it to be as modular and independent as possible; when complete, place the module in a “Chunk Library” or “Chunkbrary”. As Chunks are retired, keep them in the library for possible future use. Ultimately you may end up with several hours’ worth of material to draw upon. With your Chunkbrary, you can build a variety of presentations and speech types to match the needs of your customers and clients.
In this example, your 90 minute keynote may be a collection of 10-12 chunks; the resulting 40 minute presentation you actually deliver will be more like 5-8 chunks. Both will probably have the same beginning and end with the middle portion being affected. The audience may miss the story about how you stopped a riot at a Led Zeppelin concert in Germany, but they will have experienced your no-holds-barred ending. And those managing the event will appreciate how you effortlessly modified your presentation to meet the time crunch your fellow speakers placed upon you.
As with eating smaller bites, Chunking your material leads to a healthier (speaking) life.
One facet of speaking many new speakers forget to think about is their introduction. For many it is usually done at the last second on a scrap piece of paper or the worst case scenario is when the speaker tells the Master of Ceremonies just to think of something and say a few words. What the MC says about you and your speech helps the audience form an opinion of you and your content even before you get on stage. It is critical that you write your own introduction. Take the time to craft an introduction that truly lets the audience know you and what you are going to speak be about. Make it memorable and just the right length. What I mean about the right length is that this is not the time to write a book. I prefer to write something that is short, sweet and catchy. I will make 2 copies, one copy for the MC and a backup copy and I will make the font size large enough to be read 2-3 feet away.
Introductions are not speeches but they can help pave the way for a great speech!
One question many new speakers ask is, “What part of my speech or presentation should I start preparing first?” Should I start with my opening? Or should I start with the body of my presentation first? In my opinion, I believe you should start with the ending of your speech. Most people when they get up in the morning for work have a set time. They know that if they need to be at work by 8AM and if it takes 45-55 minutes to drive through traffic, then they must leave the house at 7AM. If they need to leave the house at 7AM and it takes 45-50 minutes to get ready for work including breakfast and hitting the snooze bar on their alarm, then 6AM is the time to get out of bed. People on their first day of vacation, don’t wake up that morning and wonder where they are going on their vacation. They already know. So when they wake up that morning, they know how to pack, what time to leave the house and where they are going.
The same idea is for your next speech or presentation. You need to ask yourself questions. What do you want your audience to feel after the speech? What do you want your audience to do after your presentation? What course of action will your audience want to take after your speech? You must ask yourself these and other questions. Once you know where you want your audience to go, it is much easier to know how to start the journey.
You are standing in front of your company’s executives to give a speech. You have been preparing for this moment for weeks. You want to make this speech, the best one you have ever made. Suddenly, in the middle of your PowerPoint presentation, the projector goes dead! Or you are about to make a key point in your speech and a waiter drops a tray making a thunderous noise with all heads now looking at the back of the room. Or you are speaking and the lights go dead. Now, what do you do or say? Stuff can happen when you are speaking. The key point to remember is that what you say is more important than the actual mishap. You can either look confident or look as if you are lost. This is why it is important to take some time before giving your speech and think of possible mishaps that can occur. Write down these potential mishaps and begin thinking of possible sentences to say. Doing this while you are relaxed, makes it much easier to think of something to say. When something happens, you can now give a response and go on speaking. You look confident and in control of the situation! Of course there is always the next time something happens!