Dialogue – Your Sleepers – Weepers & Keepers

Sleepers and weepers are seldom keepers

Dialogue can be a powerful public speaking tool. It can engage audiences and convey your message effectively. But how do you know if your dialogue is a keeper, weeper, or sleeper? Sleepers and weepers are seldom keepers. However, keepers can create a more engaging and dynamic experience for your audiences. Since you are the speaker delivering the address and the dialogue, practicing your timing and pacing is imperative. Focus on your purpose for adding the dialogue until you receive the desired effect you are seeking.   

Audiences receive dialogue well when it sounds natural, engaging, and not forced into a presentation. In addition, the exchange you insert should have some impact on your audience. Speakers should also remember that it is effective when your dialogue is short, necessary, and realistic. Ask for feedback to know if your dialogue has the desired effect on your presentation and audience. Focus on the following three questions with at least three different evaluators. The responses you receive will go a long way in helping you decide if your dialogue should stay in or out of your final presentation.  

The first and most important is whether your dialogue was necessary to support the presentation’s message, purpose, and point. Did it sound natural and conversational? Finally, was it engaging, and how did it impact your audience? If you receive more negative comments than positive responses regarding any of those questions. You may have a weeper or sleeper that may need reworking.

Knowing something about the audience you are preparing for is crucial. Being aware of what will resonate well with that audience is an excellent starting point. It is wise to take a moment to research your audience’s demographics. Be aware of the language, style, and phrases they commonly use. Your research will help you include language your audience would easily understand. However, most coaches will advise avoiding using dialogue that merely states a myriad of facts, personal feelings, and language that is considered repetitive. They are sleepers and usually have precisely that effect on audiences. They put audiences to sleep.   

Every presentation involves the giving and taking of information. When we speak, our audience listens and reacts. Therefore, every speech is really a dialogue, not a monologue. The speaker is having a conversation with the audience. However,  dialogue adds a third voice to the conversation. And that third addition to the party is usually a character. The speakers should remember that the exchange with that third voice, verbal and nonverbal, was added to impact the conversation. The discussion just moved from a two-way to a three-way exchange. And it is crucial to give that third party a unique voice as your dialogue develops.     

Including dialogue in your storytelling can help bring your stories to life. Telling your audience what occurred with a verbal exchange using a character’s voice is far more effective than telling the audience what “he or she” said. When you use dialogue to recall what took place conversationally, you are taking your audience back to the time and place of the event as it unfolded. Drop into the emotional experience of the conversation with dialogue. One way to make your dialogue conversational is to add the six emotions to which all humans respond to your delivery. And those six emotions are happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. 

Speakers can also use dialogue to reinforce their story’s point or message. We all have heard it said, the secret to public speaking is, you tell a story to make a point or make a point to tell a story. Speakers can achieve a similar result with dialogue. Use dialogue to highlight the point or message in place of a story. Short and direct dialogue also has a powerful and engaging impact on audiences. A great example is one that takes me back to a famous movie scene.   “Harry met Salley”  – “I’ll have what She is having.”

Adding dialogue to presentations is fun. But it takes time, patience, and practice. Remember,  dialogue should emphasize or clarify your point or message. Let your audience know who is speaking when new characters are introduced. Be descriptive. Add emotions, suspense, and reality to your delivery. Make sure your dialogue supports your story, point, and message. Keep exchanges conversational. Engages your audience. And lastly, add a dialogue section to your story file for your keepers, sleepers, and weepers. I love them all and keep reworking my weepers and sleepers until the day they become another of my keepers.  

Author: HenryOMiller

Henry joined Toastmasters in 1997. He is presently a member of 4 Toastmasters clubs; two in Santa Cruz and two in San Jose. He is a DTM-4. Henry is an executive speech coach, humorist, and speechwriter. He is also a musician and a lyricist​ whose speechwriting approach is similar to his approach to songwriting.

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