In the two previous posts, we’ve looked at tips for “When you’re the speaker” and “When you’re the audience”. Today we explore the 3rd and final component of the rhetorical (persuasive) triangle – the message.
A great speech has a lot in common with a great symphony. The words on the page to a speaker are the notes on the page to a composer. Once these are chosen, the speaker/composer works on how to deliver the message (loud, soft, fast, slow, etc). But without the words or notes, there is no message.
Well-crafted speeches, like beautifully composed symphonies, must have a solid message as the foundation. Here are a few tips for developing your next speech (message).
1. Organize your message. Seems obvious, doesn’t it, to have a beginning, middle, and end? It does not have to be formulaic, but you must start by thinking about what will come first, next, and last. But let’s go beyond the basics.
In a business presentation, please include an agenda slide. Please tell people what to expect and when. It helps your audience know what’s coming, and without one, no one knows if the talk will ever end. You can also provide short internal summaries as you move from one section to the next. If people have checked out (and most do, from time to time), they can rejoin and not have missed much.
2. Don’t just tell a good story, tell one you’ve thought through and practiced. Don’t wing your story. It’s what people will remember, it’s what they’ll pay the most attention to, and it’s the best chance you have to build a relationship with your audience – and gain important credibility. Even a short speech calls for a personal anecdote. It gets the audience’s attention. For longer talks, develop a story so the audience can experience the ups and downs of your emotional journey with you. At On Point, our Story Log tool will help you in this area.
Have a lot of data? This can be turned into a story, too. Breathe some life into the information and charts you’re sharing, and your audience will thank you. When you turn data into a story – and this is always an option – it benefits you in a specific way: It forces you to master the information and understand its implications. You then help the audience relate to the data in a new and better way. Bottom line, you sound smart, and you’re a hero for making numbers sound interesting.
3. Maximize your use of language. Use words that are interesting, accurate, and familiar to your audience. Avoid repeating words. Don’t use language that is overly technical unless your audience can understand it. Giving an inspirational message? Encourage action in the conclusion by repeating a phrase, such as “Now is the time”, or “Today is the day…” Have a challenging or confusing idea to communicate? Call it something. Give it a name. Find a short acronym. Think it through ahead of time. Less is more.
You can also use language to wake up your audience. Help them out! Use phrases like, “Now the key to this slide is…” or “When I first looked at this I thought X, but after I dug deeper, I realized Y.” These phrases help your audience sort through the content of your talk, and sit with what’s important. Better still, you’re forced to pull the insights out of your talk. Using this tip forces speakers to engage in the critical thinking that is often lacking from presentations.
Put these strategies into action and you’ll avoid a major public speaking pitfall: Being bored by your own message. Let’s face it, a lot of business presentations are boring. But they don’t have to be. You may be shaking your head at me, saying, “But Cindy, you’ve never heard so-and-so speak!” That may be true, but if you’re the speaker, it’s up to you. It doesn’t take much to turn the tide. You just need to include a little creativity and truly “craft” your message as if it were a piece of art. (I’d argue that it is.) With a good story, solid organization, and carefully selected language, you’re off to a great start.
Today’s tip: Block an extra 30 minutes to work on these pieces for your next talk. Short on time? Block 15 minutes and choose one piece above to improve.
Cindy Skalicky is a passionate public speaking coach and the owner of On Point Communications, LLC. She coaches speakers on storytelling techniques, speech writing, delivery, and overall content development. Master the Message. Learn more at www.onpoint-communications.com or contact Cindy at: firstname.lastname@example.org