Speaking From Squares

Great speeches are not read; they are delivered.

 

IMG_6299Speaking from Squares can be fun. I often use squares to turn topics into speeches using squares. I begin with a blank sheet of paper. Fold it lengthways first, then once over to end up with four squares. If the plan is to deliver a longer speech, fold the square sheet one more time to end up with eight rectangles; however, for the purpose of this exercise, let’s call them square.

Now, unfold the entire sheet of paper. For a short address, you now have four squares. For longer speeches, you have eight squares to work with. You also have a crease like a spine running down the center of the page. On that crease, write your foundational statement to keep you grounded. At the top of each of the squares, add the speech title. Later you will add a subtitle to each title of the speech in each square. You are now ready to begin filling in your squares.

Add the subtitle, “introduction,” to square one. For your introduction, you may choose to include a salutation to recognize your presenter and audience or, you may prefer to go straight into the presentation. I like adding a greeting. It adds a professional touch to your opening. Always remember you are at that lectern or podium because of the audience. Without an audience, you might as well deliver your speech to the trees in the forest. Set the stage for your presentation in that first square. Make your initial contact with your audience count. State your message clearly. Your message should also resonate with your foundational statement, speech title, and subtitle. Your purpose for facing that audience should be clear visually and verbally.

Next, go to square four. Add a label to that square with the subtitle, “summary.” Recall two or three of the talking points you made in square one. Later you will also add any power statements you delivered from your stories in squares two and three. Always remember, your message is the purpose of you giving that speech. Every talking point you include in your squares should point back to your foundational statement, title, and subtitle. Your labeling will pay huge dividends when you are ready to deliver your presentation. You will find it is much easier to focus on the title, subtitle, and foundational statement as they relate to the square you are delivering, before moving on to the next and the next.

In squares two and three, add your subtitles just as you did for squares one and four. Again, your talking points should relate to your title, subtitle, and foundational statement. Try keeping your subtitles to one word wherever possible. In squares two and three, you will make a point to tell a story or tell a story to make your point. When you are presenting a speech that is under ten minutes, four squares work well. Once you have mastered the four squares model, it is quite easy to move on to eight squares and above for longer presentations or even a TED talk.

When you are using an eight square model, you can use one or even two squares for introduction, two for the summary, and four or six subtitle squares for the body of your presentation.  You can make your model however you like. Once you have finalized your model, you are now ready to have fun connecting your talking points to your title, subtitles, and foundational statement. Draw lines to connect the subtitles to the foundational statement. I call it connecting the dots. Soon you will notice you have a storyboard, mindmap, or worksheet for your speech.  You are now ready to write.

The sole purpose of this exercise is to prepare your speech for delivery. I am often reminded of these words from one of my mentors,” great speeches are not read; they are delivered.” Write for the ear and not for the eyes. The writing and editing of your speech using your storyboard, mindmap, or worksheet should keep you focused on your message. With your first draft, you can now begin practicing, editing, and re-editing as you continue testing. Soon you too will be having fun delivering that topic, that speech and many of your speeches in the future, speaking from squares.

Dare To Be Different

When you follow the herd, you will never be heard.

20190726_172024Do you dare to be different, or do you follow the herd? May speakers often ask how do you stand out from the crowd. Over the years of competing, I came to realize that you will gain a great deal of experience by taking risks or doing the unexpected when you are on the platform. You must dare to be different when you are on the platform. When you follow the herd, you will never be heard.

I adopted those words of wisdom I got from one of my mentors as my mission statement when I first entered the competitive public speaking arena many years ago. I also began to observe that evaluators, judges, and audiences took note and rewarded those speakers who dared to take the road less traveled and stood out from the crowd. They always reward the few who are not afraid to be different.  I know of cases where speakers have gone against the advice of feedback and have been greatly rewarded.

Good coaching and feedback are essential. However, I came to realize that your success as a speaker starts with good writing. Editing, re-editing, and a willingness to follow your inner feelings takes courage.  In my early years of competing, I, too, believed that by hiring a great coach, you would find that magical formula to turn your club and district speeches into masterpieces. Over time, I came to understand hiring a coach was the next step after you have written something worth editing. In the words of a past world champion David Brooks, you cannot edit what you have not written; he affirms that “great speeches are not written, they are rewritten.” And it is in the editing and re-editing, you will find that final version that will make you a champion speaker.

Editing and reediting is a process that can and will be challenging for all speakers. Speakers should resist making changes based on the feedback received after each delivery of a speech. Speakers should develop a process by which they validate the slew of comments and suggestions they will receive after even what they thought was an excellent delivery. I often use the rule of threes. If you hear the same thing, three times from three different individuals, it is time to take steps to resolve that issue with help from a coach or someone you trust.

If you are committed to being different, some of the feedback you receive from your peers will require second opinions, third and sometimes even a fourth opinion. When you dare to be different, you are the one who should make the final decision about what you are taking to the platform. If you are willing to take a risk to try what you believe has never been done or said before on the platform, go for it. If it works, you will be greatly rewarded, and if it didn’t, you would have learned a valuable lesson. Dare to be different, and you will always be heard, when you choose not to follow the herd.

 

Your Signature Speech

Do you remember cursive.

20200208_165442_resized (1)Do you have a signature speech? One, you can jump out of bed at any time, any place, anywhere to deliver with substance, style, and confidence. Every speaker should have one. While this may sound difficult for most speakers to do, especially those who try to create their masterpiece in a single sitting, I do believe developing  Your Signature Speech is achievable when you make a commitment to gracing the platform over a fair amount of time. It takes stage time, failures and you paying your dues before you begin racking up successes.

If you were to ask any speaker you admire, how did you manage to get to where you are today? If they were to truthfully share their secret, you will realize their Signature Speech was not something they did or sat down and created; it is something they achieved by developing their speaking muscles over time.  And what are those muscles?  The messages you develop, the ability to connect with audiences, and the willingness to go that extra mile.  With the blood, sweat, and tears you put into achieving Your Signature Speech there is always the hope one-day it will pay off huge dividends. And the earlier you open that account, the better. 

Long before I even had my first bank account, I began developing my cursive writing signature skills – Do you remember cursive. Is it still around?  I knew the day would come when I would have to face a banker to sign my first check. Who wants to look stupid doing that, I thought? I worked on that signature until I felt it was unique, authentic, and worthy of representing me. I felt proud of what I had produced. I felt and still believe it is the symbol of my identity to the world. Yes, I’ was moving on up. 

As I got older and began using that signature, I  continued experimenting with different versions of my signature, until I settled on one which I could identify immediately. I kept working even further until I decided on a version I felt one day would be worth a million dollars. Not there yet, but still working on it. However, when that day came to face that banker, I looked him in eye and proudly delivered, and you know what he said? One day that signature will be worth a million dollars – Not there yet – but I’m still working on it.

By applying the same principle I used to refine my cursive signature to speech writing, I  began developing my Signature Speech. Today, I am still a work in progress. As my journey continues, I am getting more and more comfortable with my ability to speak anytime, anyplace, anywhere with substance, style, and confidence. The more I take my Signature Speech to the platform, the more stage time and little tweaks I make along the way, consciously or sometimes subconsciously, the more I see that speech developing into my masterpiece. In that Signature Speech, my audiences also immediately recognize my style, my rhythm, my cadences, and even my isms – the symbols of my identity to the world – Just like that cursive signature, I use almost every day of my adult life. And, who knows one day, that signature speech may also be worth a million dollars – I have a dream – Who said that?

One of the many challenges speakers all face while developing their Signature Speech is? “Making it modular”. Speakers should be able to add or remove modules from that speech at will or at a moment’s notice.  You may prepare a ten or fifteen-minute presentation for your audience. But upon your arrival at the venue, you discover that is a change in the schedule and you are now asked to speak for five or perhaps twenty-five minutes. What do you do? You add or remove modules from your speech. It happens not to some but to us all. I have seen some speakers try using pauses to turn their five-minute speeches into seven or into a ten to fifteen and fail miserably. However, when you know your subject matter well enough to make significant changes to your presentation instantly and make it appear seamlessly, you are ready to face any audience, anytime, anyplace, anywhere with Your Signature Speech.

What is a Toastmasters Tall Tale

Let your three B’s sting your audience!

FB_IMG_1550169405777A Tall Tales is a speech that is of a highly exaggerated, improbable nature leaving some members of your audience thinking liar, liar pants on fire. At the same time, others might also be thinking, wait a minute, that may be true or, is it? Hum! A Tall Tale, like any good story, should have a theme or plot, filled with humor, more humor, and where appropriate, props to bring your story to life. If you are wondering why we tell Tall Tales in Toastmasters? Tall Tales encourages speakers to let our imagination run wild. They challenge us to expand our creativity and ability to become better storytellers. And good storytelling is the secret to becoming a better public speaker.

Today, whenever we want to learn about something old or new, we turn to Alexa or Google; however, on this occasion, the best definition I found for a Tall Tales is from good old Webster. Webster describes a tall tale as a “Narrative of events that have happened or are imagined to have happened.” It is usually a short story, real or fictitious. It could be a piece of information, gossip, rumor, falsehood, or just a big lie. Today we call many of those stories fake news.

My first competitive tall tale speech contest was in 1999. After completing four Competent Toastmaster Manual Speeches, I competed with a speech entitled Hell’s Paradise. That speech took me all the way to my first District Contest. Hell’s Paradise was about the companies that were dominating the software market in the eighties and nineties. I did not name names, however, I am sure you, too, will get my drift even if you were not around at the time. I felt one of those companies behaved similarly to Adam when he was in the Garden of Eden – rotten to the core. And then there was that other company’s view of the world was, in my opinion, it was just micro and soft. On that premise, I built “Hells Paradise.” However – Was I ever so wrong? We all got Googled by this little company that expanded by ten to the one-hundredth power. Go figure!

One of the lessons I learned very early in that process was since your speech must impress your audience as well as the judges, it would help if you studied the judging criteria. Reviewing the score sheets while you are developing your speech also paid dividends, Start with something that is familiar to your audience. Why try to be Columbus, be authentic. Make your lies B-Bigger and B-Better and B-Bolder. Let your three B’s sting your audience! And pay close attention to the following:

SPEECH DEVELOPMENT: The way you put your ideas together so the audience can understand them. A good Tall Tale speech immediately engages the audience’s attention and builds to a conclusion. Begin with a theme with which your audience is already familiar. That will earn your thirty points.
SPEECH TECHNIQUES: That refers to the use of various tall tales skills, such as exaggeration, hyperbole, irony, pun, humor, and surprising twists. These techniques are the essence of making a tall tale successful. If you skillfully incorporate those techniques into your Tall Tale, that is good for another twenty-five points.
APPROPRIATENESS OF LANGUAGE: This is where many “Tall Tale” competitors get into trouble. Your choice of words should relate to the speech purpose. Your language should fit the occasion and be in good taste -Ten points.
PHYSICAL: Presentation of a speech carries part of the responsibility for effective communication. Body language should support points through gestures, expressions, and body positions. Fifteen points
VOICE: The sound that sends the message – Your voice should be flexible, moving from one pitch level to another. A good speaking voice is on that can be heard and easily understood- Another fifteen Points
LANGUAGE: The Proper use of grammar and correct pronunciation will show that the speaker is the master of the words used – five points, to take you over the top.

Look at your life and the lives of others around you. And I am sure you will find many stories you can spin into a Tall Tale. Challenge your audience to ponder with that look that says – REALLY! NO! PERHAPS –THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE; Take your audience to the edge of the precipices and dare them to believe we are both going to jump, but you go first. That is when you must give the moral of your story or leave your audience to figure out the “rest of the story,” – the life lesson we all should take away from every Toastmaster’s Tall Tale Speech.

Checking-In With Your Audience

A lingering question can be the ultimate Check-In.

20191014_145242Do you ever check-in with your audience during your presentation? Checking-In is critical because when you may not realize when some members of your audience are Checking-Out from you, your presentation or even the room without you even realizing. Some speakers Check-In with power statements, phrases, or quotes. Check-Ins have the power to awaken your audience. However, they should not be confused with salutation. They are not the same. Your first check-in should be placed within the first minute or two of your presentation, depending on the length of your speech. So what is a Check-In, and what does it achieve?

Think of it as a silent HELLO or a virtual handshake with your audience. Your Check-In can shift the focus from you, the presenter to them, the audience for just a moment. At that moment, you are inviting everyone present to get involved. Some audience members may feel the urge to answer your question silently. Others may recognize your quote as one to which they can relate. Audience members may also feel so inspired by the question you posed; they may think and rethink quietly, tell me more. Whether you choose a question, quote, phrase, or statement, we should always remember it’s the “pause and your pause look” following your Check-In that sends the message. The silence draws the focus back to you and your presentation.

Speakers often use statements, phrases, and questions as Check-Ins to their presentations; however, some speakers favor using quotes. Quotations are an easy and effective way to attract attention. Quotations should be short and relate directly to your speech topic. We all speak to be heard, understood, and repeated. Admittedly, it is quite pleasing to hear someone repeat what they heard you say in one of their presentations. Benjamin Disraeli, an eighteen-century British statesman and novelist, said it best with this quote of his: “Those who never quote are in return, never quoted.” The do’s and don’t of quotes are many. Here are a few.

The first rule of using quotes is don’t refer to any author with whom you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable quoting. The second, your quote should be instantly recognizable, relatable, and brief. And the third don’t -John Smith once said – Be creative when introducing your anecdotes and citations. Your Check-Ins at the end of a presentation can also make your closing memorable. Questions are most effective when left as your last words to linger. That silence after your applause can become the most critical moment in your speech. When you end with a lingering question, it can be the ultimate Check-In. If that question can inspire others to think, feel, or do something different in their lives, or the lives of others, you have hit your mark — Check-In early, Check-In during the body of your presentations, and Check-In at the end. Keep Checking-In, and audiences will never stop Checking -In with you.

Brainstorming – Making Your Good Great

The phrase that pays stays

20190726_172121Brainstorming is a worthwhile exercise that never ends when you are creating a speech. It can make a good speech great. Feedback is always incoming; however, it is how you manage your feedback that determines the outcome of your presentation. Once you have decided on a topic, the next step is to begin searching and researching for relevant data. Like an open faucet, I let it all flow -the – who – what – where – why – I write it all down. I recommend that you keep writing until you have much more material than you will have time to include in your speech. Then comes the million-dollar question, what are my keepers? What should I do next, and in which order? I write my FS, my Foundational Statement – to anchor my message.

Start asking yourself questions like what don’t I know or what I know about this topic that I could address with passion? Another critical concern should be, what is going to be the takeaway line for my audience – the message, the Magic Moment that will linger long after l leave the platform? Many of the foundational phrases I use today are ones I inherited from my parents. Some of their favorites, which I still remember, “hang with the buzzards; you’ll never fly like an eagle.” Son, there is nothing new under the sun! And one of Papa’s favorite, “a jack of all trades is a master of none.” Craig Valentine, the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking, is a master of developing great phrases. I am sure your parents also gave you many gems you can still remember. Use them.

I stress the focus on your foundational phrase when you are brainstorming because of the many times I have seen it produce great titles and Magic Moments. A foundation phase should be no more than ten, single-syllable words that anchor your story, clarifies your point, and can even make your case. There is no more significant example I could offer than this phrase from that famous case from a few short years ago: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit!” The more you use your foundational statements in your everyday conversations, the more you will begin to own them. Make them a part of your communication style. Keep what supports your message and your goal. Also, focus on what you want your audience to think, feel, or do at the end of your presentation. Tailor your presentation to their needs and interest of your audience. If your purpose is to sell products, my FS phrase of choice is: “the phrase that pays stays.”

Once you are happy with your talking points and your foundational statement, the next step is to begin testing to see what are your keepers. I also recommend focusing on these two bits of wisdom I learned from David Brooks, the 1995 World Champion of Public Speaking: “Great speeches are not written; they are rewritten! Great speeches are not read; they are delivered.” With that in mind, start writing your speech for the ear, and not for the eyes. When you are writing a novel, you write for the eyes. Write for the ear, the listener. Remember, your speech has to move from your head to paper for editing. Then from paper, back to your head. You cannot edit what you have not written. Next, you must get that speech out of your head and into your heart for delivery on the speaking platform. The next time a version of that speech is presented, you will get even more feedback, and the process begins all over again. Great speeches are never final – What makes them great- Good feedback and Brainstorming.

Why Do You Prepare

It is not about you, it’s about your audience

20190726_172024Why do you prepare? Is it just to become better speakers, or do you prepare for your audience?  While it is said, you should select topics you are passionate about, choosing a topic that resonates with the audience you are facing should be your primary focus. You see, it is not about you; it’s about your audience. Take a moment to consider the needs and interests of the audience you will be facing as you begin your preparation. The topic you choose can have a significant effect on how well you are received by that audience. Your presentation should not only be all about you, your goals, and your achievements. Undoubtedly, personal stores are valid; however, they should not dominate the presentation.

Speeches with a message that has some universal appeal, more often than not, will have a lasting effect on audiences. The challenge for the speaker is to establish a connection with that audience through personal stories, humor, and relatable events spun into unique presentations. A speech is not an act. Speakers who use persuasion and the power of the spoken word effectively to keep their audience engaged should not need to perform or act. Speakers stand to deliver. They move with a purpose. They keep their audience engaged from the beginning of their presentation to their very last word.    

One of the most critical questions a speaker should ask themselves as they prepare for their audience is, what’s my purpose. Your purpose should be quite evident very early in your presentation. Get to the point of your presentation quickly with a strategy that would have the most significant effect on your audience. Open with a bang and not with a whimper. Don’t leave room for your audience to begin making assumptions about where you are heading. Be inviting. Make your audience curious. However, be clear as you take your audience willingly on the journey – your presentation.

Give your audience the confidence that you are a trusted leader. Your speech may be about a time and place from your past. You may want to relive a momentous event in your life on the platform. Use word pictures to recreate that moment in time as you bring those events back to life. Introduce your conflict early. Resolve conflicts, don’t leave them hanging. Name and describe your characters. Decide and be clear about who your hero is. An excellent choice is often someone other than yourself. Whatever you do, be clear. Be clear about what you would like your audience to think, feel, or do at the end of your presentation.

Your Foundational Statement is an excellent starting point for developing your speech. World Champion Speaker, Craig Valentine, calls it your “The foundation of your presentation.” I like to think of it as the foundation on which your speech is built. It can be a carefully worded sentence, question, or catchy phrase. It should echo the core message and purpose of your presentation. The sentence or phrase you choose should also be powerful, short, and memorable. Foundational statements with a rhythm always resonate a lot better with audiences.

Create your own Foundational Statements. Begin by testing some of your affirmations you use in your everyday conversations with friends and family members. Read their reactions as you continue to develop those that best represent you. Your foundational phrase will often take you much longer to develop than your speech.  The sentence, phrase, or question you develop should be no more than six to eight words or even shorter. Some great ones that readily come to mind are -: Do you validate? – Lance Miller – or Craig Valentine – Don’t get ready, stay ready. – Practice developing your own and work them into your presentations.

Every memorable speech has a Magic Moment.  Your magic moment can be a pause, a look, or a powerful statement. It is a defining moment in your speech that jumps out at your audience whenever anyone mentions just the title of that speech. What is also even more important is the placement of that moment. The statement you choose could be a current event that had a significant impact on the world stage. However, it should bear some relevance to your message. It should not be a distraction, abrupt, or contrary to the flow of your presentation. A magic moment that complements your foundational statement and message will always have a lingering effect on your audiences. This is yet another reason why that moment must be well placed. 

Your preparation often determines your success or failures when you are on the platform. It is when we are on the platform we all learn and grow. If you are well prepared, you will have many successes; however, it’s the failures that make us stronger and better presenters.  Let your failures be a reminder that you need to be better prepared for the next time and the future. Even on those days, when you think you were terrible, rest assured you may have brought a ray of sunshine into the life of someone in that audience if you prepared for that presentation. You see, after all, is said done, it is not about you, it is all about your audience. That’s why we prepare.