WHAT GOES WHERE?
When planning a 20-90 minute presentation, we must choose a Beginning, Middle, and End; convey the One Main Message and Key Points; and insert stories, advice, facts, connection, and audience participation. How? With structure.
WHY STRUCTURE? WHY NOT JUST STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS?
1) It’s good for the audience:
- Structure gives the audience confidence that you know what you’re doing.
- Structure assures the audience that you are taking them on a particular journey, to a particular destination.
- Structure makes it easier for the audience to follow you.
2) It’s good for you:
- Structure allows you to relax and improvise a bit, within the security of the framework you’ve carefully chosen for this speech.
- Structure helps you memorize material.
A DOZEN TYPES OF STRUCTURE TO CHOOSE FROM FOR THE BODY OF YOUR SPEECH
Note: It’s worth taking time to consider various structures before organizing your material. Ask yourself: What are the benefits of this structure, given my content? What are the drawbacks? Plan carefully. The skeleton is an essential part of the body!
Note: Keep it simple! A book can have a complicated structure. A speech should not. In speaking, simple structures satisfy. At the same time, strive not to be ordinary. The alphabetical construct, in particular, is over-used. And strive not to be simplistic or elementary. Don’t promise “three keys to eternal peace” unless you’re the Dalai Lama. The athletic examples below are from my own speeches, except where otherwise noted.
1) Questions: What is your game plan? Who are your opponents? Teammates?
2) Principles: Risk, Virtuosity, Originality (Peter Vidmar)
3) Lessons Learned: How to Compete, How to Commit, How to Collaborate
4) Themes: Discipline, Persistence, Teamwork
5) Recommendations: Define Victory for Yourself, Ask Teammates for Help, Forgive Yourself Immediately for All Mistakes
6) Past/Present/Future: How things were, how things are, how things could be.
7) Problem/Solution: What’s wrong, what’s needed to solve problem
8) Organic: Warm-up, Training, Action, Overtime, Celebration.
9) Alphabetical: Spell a word: P is for Play. Or in order: A is for… Or “Three C’s…”
10) Chronological: Childhood, teen years, adult, maturity.
11) Journey: From one place to another.
12) Your own… Feel free to create a structure that works for you. Just use something!
TRADITIONAL SPEECH OUTLINE
BEFORE WRITING THE SPEECH:
a) Learn everything you can about the audience.
b) Learn everything you can about your subject.
c) Learn everything you can about yourself.
1) TELL ‘EM WHAT YOU’RE GOING TO TELL ‘EM
a) Opening: Connect with the audience. Do or say something (story, quote, question, action) that indicates who you are, why you’re there.
b) Agenda: Link your opening to a BRIEF overview of:
- Where you’re going (what’s the topic, the X main points)
- Why the audience should believe or trust you (mention 1 or 2 credentials, in context, even though they just heard the introduction)
- How they will benefit. “Why is the speaker telling ME?” This should include your One Main Message. (OMM) What’s your main point?
c) Promise: Make a provocative statement or question. “When I am finished, you will know… What I plan to show you is… Are you willing to… ?” Note: This or the OMM can become a repeated “anchor phrase.”
2) TELL ’EM (The Body)
Offer 2 to 5 main points. Resist the urge to offer 10 or 12 or 17! Each main point should contain some or all of these elements:
- Point: Clear statement of your message.
- Data: Facts, statistics, findings that support your point
- Story: Personal or other illustration
- Example: Shorter than a story, no development over time.
- Quote: From famous person or other authority. (Remember: You are an authority; you need not fill your speech with other people’s ideas.)
- Special effect: Visual aid, game, quiz, poem, song, audience interaction
- Point repeated and applied to this audience
Note: Vary these elements in any way that makes sense.
Note: Within each point, put your best, most important material first. That way, if you have to reduce your content due to time constraints, you can eliminate from the bottom.
3) TELL ‘EM WHAT YOU TOLD ’EM (The Closing)
Elements to include in the closing, not necessarily in this order:
a) Summary of main points, with application to audience.
b) Final summary story or special effect.
c) Thank the meeting planner/s – also perhaps sound engineers, wait staff.
d) OMM: "The one thought/most important thing/ I’d like you to take away is…The question I’ll leave you with is… The challenge I’ll offer is…"
e) Q & A: If you do Q & A, repeat your OMM after your final answer.
HOW TO EDIT A SPEECH: REMOVE ONE JEWEL
© 2002, Mariah Burton Nelson
I learned something about editing speeches from Coco Channel, of all people. She used to say: After getting dressed, remove one piece of jewelry.
I use this technique with speeches: After planning a speech, I’ll remove one precious element I had wanted to include: a fact or a quote or even a signature story.
Figuring out what to remove helps me decide what’s essential. It also creates room – for dramatic pauses, for repetition, for digressions, and for spontaneous interactions with the audience. It helps me not feel rushed. Professional speaking coach Ron Arden talks about “the stuff in between.” This is the stuff that gets left out altogether. It’s like white space. We’re all eager to share so many pearls of wisdom, but I find that it’s best to leave some of my favorite jewels at home.
FIVE ELEMENTS EVERY SPEECH NEEDS
1) Skeleton: Structure
2) Heads: Ideas, concepts, theory, information
3) Hearts: Stories about human frailties, hopes, emotions. Not to be confused with sob stories. Connect with audience by being “real”; Demonstrate honesty and integrity.
4) Hands: Practical advice about how to use information, insights.
5) Humor: As one NSA speaker put it, “You don’t need to be funny – unless you want to get paid.”