Sometimes it's such a priviledge to be invited to speak to a group that we lose sight of how to function. Our emotional brain seems to win over our logical brain which leads us to ramble on and on without a sense of direction.
Or at least this has been my experience - and I mean from a speaker's standpoint. Some of my best learning experiences have come from dismal failure. For instance, for the first few years of my speaking career I had too many things to say in a short amount of time. I recall the first time this happened - way back in high school - when I was called to present my Buckeye Girls' State experience for the local VFW who sponsored my involvement.
Excited to speak of my priviledge of being selected, I shared many FUN things that came from the week-long stay. Although a HS sophomore, I spent little time away from home. So a week-long stay was a huge journey in life for me.
I avoided one trap many speakers fall into - talking about things they really know little about, just to appear smarter. Buckeye Girls' State opened the world of politics and governance to me, someone who paid little attention in Government class. And if these women wanted to hear about my lessons there, they were disappointed. That was a blur to me!
All I could focus my speech on was the people I met and the activities I hadn't experienced before (new campfire singalongs, the academy-like showcases of victory in elections, the responsibility of leadership within the dorm floors, navigating the campus in a timely manner, etc.)
I entered the VFW hall without a prepared script, which also meant I hadn't practiced for clarity or timing what I had to say. Essentially, I simply blurted out what I had so much fun doing, rambling with expressive and passionate glee about my week until it seemed I had spoken long enough.
Fortunately, the women were all highly engaged, for I rattled on endlessly. However, there were several things I could have done differently to walk away with the focus on wonderful opportunity they had given me and to persuade them to continue to do so.
Let me contrast that speech with one I gave a few months ago. This new one was to be to a group of candidates for political office who, like me, may have been introverts. My topic was in Giving them hope in their speaking and networking activities, regardless of their confidence level. And my speech could last no more than 2-3 minutes, while they were eating!
I used a simple formula that is timeless, valuable and leads to positive results.
1. First, I determined how I wanted my audience to think of me during the course of the speech and by the conclusion.
2. Secondly, I focused on them, not me, by relating to their circumstances - both the opportunities and the natural challenges.
3. Finally, I gave them some tips for meeting the challenges while offering to be a resource if they chose to follow up to gain further benefit.
Before the day of the speech, I clarified my focus, wrote my message, and I practiced it aloud in a voice that fits the impact I wished to make on them. This told me several things: how much time the speech would take, how easy it was to say it with the existing wording, and then I learned what needed to be deleted.
Usually I have too much information. And although many speakers will talk faster as a result, I know this loses audiences. So it's important to drop needless information. NOT THE STORIES, though. That's useful. It compells emotional interest.
After engaging audience interest with a story about my introverted nature and the challenges I faced as a result, I shared a highlighted version of information which amounted to a simple strategy that I used to break down these natural barriers. This approach with bulleted strategy develops the desire to learn more, which as a business owner who wants to attract clients and as a writer who wants followers/readers, and as a presenter who wants to begin relationships with people, it's important to do to make strong emotional connections and engage curiosity.
I don't cheapen my message by holding back on delivering meaningful information for free. I give it. It's just that I simplify the focus and then dig deep with supportive information. A 2-3 minute message is a perfect way to develop the discipline of writing your message, for it requires a very select area of attention. When we hone a focus, we can look at it from a variety of angles. Listeners appreciate this in-depth overview with even an isolated topic.
Speaking requires really doing your homework. If the message is only a few minutes, the planning, writing, re-drafting, practice, refocus and eventual final message can take hours to create. But it's worth it. It demonstrates our concentration, our ability to use the listener's time well and the appeal for more from us.
At the conclusion, we want people to be eager to use what they've just heard because they have been informed, enlightened and motivated. And by distilling how we wish to come across first, we deliver the message using language and gestures which support it. The last thing we want an audience to say is, Where are you going with this? Instead, we want our audience to SEE our FOCUS. And we certainly want them to Stay until the message has ended!