One of the best pieces of advice any speaking coach can give is to create a message for your speech.
One central message.
Do not speak until you have one central message – one sentence – make it 140 characters if you’re a tweep – but one sentence. Limit it to ten words if you want to really succeed.
If you were to condense your speech into one sentence what would that sentence be?
It forces us to really focus on our audiences.
Who are they? What do they really want? What is it that we really want to say to them? What is it that we really NEED to say to them?
Creating that one sentence forces us to simplify our speech structure. If there is only one message, then every single section, sentence and word needs to support that sentence. What doesn’t work is jettisoned. How much easier does that make your choice of material and avoiding the temptation to ramble?!!
And when there is one single message in our presentation, then obviously there can only be one next step for the audience to take. If we give them too many options, they end up confused and take none. If there is just one next step for them, we are forced to present that in the most powerful, persuasive passionate way we can.
The problem, of course is that we would prefer to speak about a topic . “My passion is about TOPIC A,” we think. “I’ll speak about that – share my passion, get the audience enthused and inspired.” If there is no message, though, we are left with the challenges of how to choose content, how to maintain the enthusiasm and inspiration, and, most importantly, no specific outcome for the audience, (or ourselves).
For many of us, too, there is the old belief that public speaking is all about showing just how knowledgeable we are – bombard the audience with heaps of important information and we have created an image of ourselves as …. worth knowing, worth hiring, worth whatever it is that we are desiring from this experience. And what does the audience get from the experience? Overload, confusion, maybe even boredom.
What do they remember? Possibly they remember one or two points – a story, perhaps or a word picture. And all that information was wasted. Unless we are incredibly good at creating a particular experience with the presentation, then it was wasted.
Having one single message, one single desired outcome, one single focus, would have made the limiting of the information overload so much easier.
And the process of creating this message?
I said at the beginning that this was one of the best pieces of advice that a speaking coach can give.
It is not true, however, that the message must be formulated first.
Much as I would like to teach a single process to building a speech, it just doesn’t work that way – well certainly not for me.
There is research about the topic, usually. There is a process of researching the audience. There is the collection and refinement of possible content. There are the thought processes that winnow and define the outcome required. They all respond to each other, careening and intertwining and sparking off each other. And out of all of those processes, finally comes a message.
Start with the topic by all means. But let the message develop.
It’s a difficult process, but one of the most rewarding!