Grab your audience's attention. One way is to make a startling statement. Fora recent speech to the National Speakers Association, I walked out andimmediately started building a word picture: "Columbus, Ohio, December, zerodegrees, 2,000 people trudging through the snow to hear four speakers..."
Don't waste your audience's time with trivialities. I heard a speakeraddressing an audience of sales and marketing executives in San Francisco, startingwith how nice it was to be there, how great the weather was, and how he lovesSan Francisco restaurants. Who cares? I didn't race across town to hear him talk aboutweather and restaurants. I was there to hear about sales and marketing ideas,and he was supposed to be an expert.
Monitor your "Who cares?" factor
Tape your talks, then listen to them, asking "Who cares?" after everystatement or segment of material. If no one really does, don't say it. This isa great way to see if you are saying anything of value.
Be funny, maybe
Humor can add a lot to your speech, but it must fit you and your topic. Ifhumor is appropriate to your topic, use it, but go for laughs that grownaturally out of your content. Avoid old, tired jokes that may not beappropriate or that everyone has heard before.
A friend from AT&T called me one evening. "My boss is giving a speechtomorrow. He needs a joke."
"Is your boss funny?" I asked.
"Well, not really," he replied.
"Then don't try to make him funny," I said. "Get him to be inspiring." Ilooked through my reference books and found quotes that fit the speaker'spoints much better than any joke could.
If you decide to risk humor, ask yourself and others, "But am I reallyfunny?" Be brutally honest.
Organize with a three-part outline
A good way for both beginning and advanced speakers to organize theirmaterial is to use the three-part Alcoholics Anonymous format:
1. This is where I was. 2. This is where I am now. 3. This is how I got from there to here.
It is a great structure because it is so easy for both speaker and audienceto remember. A woman in Yuma, Ariz., called me. "I have to give my firstspeech in three weeks," she said. "Would you send me one of your tapes so Ican learn how to do it?"
"It doesn't work quite like that," I told her, "but tell me, what group areyou addressing?"
"The Yuma Board of Realtors," she said.
"Why have they invited you to speak?" I asked.
"Because I have been very successful in the real estate industry." So Isuggested she use the three-part Alcoholics Anonymous outline. (The first twopoints can be reversed.)
1. This is where I am: "Last year I sold $18 million in real estate in a slowmarket." 2. This is where I was: "Eight years ago, when I got my license, I had neversold anything but Girl Scout cookies." 3. This is how I got here: "First I..."
Develop your content
Content I suggested:
1. Advice from her sales manager that worked 2. What she learned from other agents 3. What she did well naturally 4. What she did not know that amazed her once she had learned 5. Sales she fell into 6. Sales she almost lost 7. Sales that were unusual 8. What she would do differently based her eight years of experience 9. Anything really entertaining
I also suggested that she keep a pad on her desk, and as ideas came to her, shejot them down. Then, when it came time to sit down and put it all together,it was fine if she lacked some creativity because most of her ideas were writtendown.
She used the structure and reported later that the talk was a big hit.
Even if you add more sections to your speech, keep your outline simple.You'll remember what you intend to say, and your audience will remember whatthey heard.
Patricia Fripp is a San Francisco-based executive speech coach and professional speaker on change, teamwork, customer service,promoting business, and communication skills. She isthe author of Make It, So You Don't Have to Fake It and Get What You Want! Fripp also served as a president of the National Speakers Association. She can be contacted via e-mail, at 800-634-3035, or through her Web site Fripp.com.