What is your Laugh Count

How do you get to your 20 Laughs 5 Chuckles, and 1 Belly Full ?

Mark Twain

Whenever someone asks me if there is a formula for giving a winning humorous speech, my answer is always sure, why not! In a five-to-seven-minute contest speech, mine is twenty laughs – five chuckles and one belly full of laughter. What’s yours? The question that follows is often, and how do you get to your 20, 5, and 1. My response, you keep track of your Laugh Count.

Humor is an unstated requirement in every type of speech. Your laughter should begin within your first 20 seconds in humorous speeches and continue throughout your presentation. When your audience is laughing, you are connecting; your audience is listening and learning. Don’t try to be a comedian. Comedians tell jokes. Speakers connect with stories about people, places, and things. We explore topics some may find silly but funny to others. Have you ever thought about why it’s ok to watch your watch but not clock your clock? There you go!  I often wonder why that statement generates laughter. Look around, and you will find enough fodder that is silly, funny, and humorous to share with your audiences. All you need is a good setup and a relevant punch line.  

Always remember your purpose for being on the platform is to deliver a humorous speech. All speeches should have an opening, body, and conclusion. Your speech should also have a purpose. The purpose of giving a humorous speech is to make your audience relax, think a little, and laugh. If your subject matter is funny, it is easier to achieve your goal-laughter. Now we all know someone who can read from the Holy Bible and make it funny. It is all because of their timing, pauses, and, most importantly, their delivery. Humorous speakers develop those skills over time; however, the topic you choose can set you on a path to delivering a funny speech.  

Your topic selection should be appropriate for your audience, the event, and your venue. Selecting the right topic for your audience takes research. For example, you may want to know the event’s history and some of the previous successful performers? What were their topics? What’s trending that may interest your audience?  These are all questions you should consider if you hope to do well in a humorous speech contest. Do your homework. Audiences will differ. All reactions are not always the same. However, keep in mind humor comes from the unexpected. If your bit of humor did not increase your laugh count, don’t panic; turn it around; you could even make it self-deprecating. Now the jokes on you or the one person in the audience who got it.

Next, as you would do for any speech you are preparing, ask yourself, what is my message? Again, keep it light but ask yourself what you want your audience to take away from this experience? As a speaker, you are speaking to be heard, understood, remembered, and repeated. When someone can remember details of a presentation you delivered five years ago, rest assured you were heard, understood, remembered, and repeated. And that is the best trophy of them all.

To increase your laugh count, observe and analyze what makes your audience laugh. Think back and explore all the circumstances that lead up to the laughter. Then, try to determine what caused the laughter and how to repeat it over and over. The words you choose should be easy to pronounce to convey your desired meaning. They should not create any confusion or misunderstanding. Laughter is an emotion built up to a specific tension. Then suddenly, it is released to create a surprise. Lead your audience in one direction. And when they expect, you continue in the same direction; you turn to the other. Keep it simple. Less always creates more laughter.  

One sure way to increase your laugh count, giggles, and chuckles is with what I call tagging. According to s, a tag can be a brief quotation used for rhetorical emphasis or sententious effect. Look for opportunities to add a funny word, short sentence, or body language to provoke continued laughter, giggles, or chuckles. One of the masters of tagging was Mark Twain. He was first a humorist on the lecture platforms before he became known for writing humor. When he wrote, he imagined he was talking to an audience so that everything had his personal touch. In conversations with friends and family, we tag all the time subconsciously. As you prepare your speech, imagine yourself speaking to your audience. Add your personal touch to make every laugh, every chuckle, and your belly full of laughter count.  Start developing your formula to increase your laugh count.  And you might very well be the next humorous speech champion with a bit of help from my formula and yours.  

Tensions And Release

Every speech should have a magic moment

The application of Tensions and Release is critical in public speaking and music.  In speaking, the process begins with a buildup of stress or pressure. The audience senses the buildup and processes the information to translate it into emotions. Finally, the audience anticipates a point of Release. The pressure continues to build until the speaker releases the Tensions, giving the audience a moment to rest. In that period of rest, both speaker and audience reward themselves emotionally. 

The drama created and expectations of a resolution hold the audience’s attention. The anticipation of what’s coming next keeps the storyline moving forward. The amount and quality of Tensions created are significant. It should be appropriate for the moment and that audience. Tensions can be chaos, confusion, unrest, instability, anticipation, or even curiosity. What’s most important is the effect it awakens in the minds and hearts of the audience.

 The feeling the audience experiences after the resolution is critical.  Timing also plays a vital role in the process. Many speakers use some of the same techniques used in music to create a Release. We all know them as loud, soft, rhythm, tone, and silence.  In public speaking, we call them different names. Still, they produce the same feelings and results we experience when listening to music.

Be mindful that everyone will not have the same physical experience; however, there are six basic emotions to which all humans respond. The 1991 World Champion of Public Speaking, David Brooks, often spoke about those six emotions – happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, and disgust. Speakers should match their body language with their feelings during delivery. The quality and amount of stress depend upon what the moment demands. While it is crucial to produce adequate pressure, speakers must also know the right time to release.

If the resolution is too early or too late, that will ruin the experience. Instead, release at precisely the right time, and you will produce a magical moment.  Magical moments are segments of a speech remembered long after a speaker has made their delivery. The buildup leading to your Release can create a magic moment. The Release can be gradual or abrupt. It requires expectations from both the speaker and the audience. Both must move in concert as they advance towards a climax. As a rule, every speech should have a magic moment.

Tensions are critical moments for both speaker and audience. The audience is an active but silent contributor as the drama unfolds. However, some audiences don’t like to take a wild roller coaster ride. Therefore, the number of times you insert Tensions and Releases in a speech matter. How many times can you handle the big dipper? Speakers must never forget the purpose of Tensions and Releases. They keep the storyline moving forward. Keep an eye on the facial expressions of your audience. Strategically apply your Tensions to match the emotions in the room. Remember, the speaker creates the entire process, then calls upon the audience to be curious or excited or anticipate what might come next.

The effective use of Tensions and Release in speaking can be a game-changer. It is a process that produces immediate results. When you notice audiences are eager to take some action during the moment of silence after your presentation, you will understand the power of the process. It is a power that does not last a minute; it is a minute that will last a lifetime. Make a conscious effort to master the application of Tensions and Releases in your presentations. Practice using all six emotions in your everyday conversations. And you will come to realize the power of adding Tensions and Releases to your style of communication.

Who is Filling in The Blanks

Give your audience the chance to use their imagination.

When you are delivering a speech, who fills in your blanks? Who answers the unanswered questions in your presentation? Ever given much thought to those questions. Unanswered questions can become a distraction; however, TMI – too much information can also have the same effect. Letting your audience fill in some of the blanks can get your audience connected to your speech.  Give your audience the chance to use their imagination. And if you do, you may avoid the crime so many speakers are guilty of committing – offering too much unnecessary information. Find your balance between what’s said, left unsaid, answered later, and when you should let silence send your message.

When in doubt, leave it out

I am sure you have heard it said; when in doubt, leave it out. But what to leave out is always a bone of contention, especially when receiving expert advice that is well-intended but often questionable. Testing your material with audiences is essential; however, the buck stops with you, the speaker. For example, suppose after testing or delivering a presentation, your audience has many questions related to clarity. Take note. Perhaps some of the blanks your audience filled in did not deliver the message you intended. What’s said is most essential. What is left unsaid at times is even more critical to the success of your presentation. Consider your cost in time as you decide if what you included is a keeper.

            The seeds are sometimes a question or statement

Apart from the economy of words and time, you will discover that letting your audience fill in blanks can also create a bit of mystery to your speech. One technique is to sow seeds in the early parts of your presentation to bear fruit later. The blank you created will often have the effect of making your audience listen more attentively. Your seeds are sometimes a question or statement to be answered later in the presentation. In those cases, you are the one filling in your blank. The resolution may not always be what your audience expected, that’s OK. This practice works even when you receive the expected or an unexpected reaction from your audience. If the blank filled resulted in humor, that’s often a win-win for both you and your audience.  

             Who, what, when, where, why, and how

So how do you decide what is said and what you can leave to the imagination of your audience? It is a matter of risk and reward. Be mindful that whatever you choose may not always work. Good results often elevate speakers from good to great, but what if the risk was a failure. Look on the bright side; you are still a good speaker. When testing, start by asking these questions – who, what, when, where. why and how. Those six questions are your safety net. If any is answered with the least possible number of words and ambiguity, why take a risk? Clarity should always be your primary consideration. On the other hand, if you have a gut feeling, there will be some reward – test, test, and test again before going with your gut feeling.

    Pause for a cause and not just because

One of your essential blanks that can positively or negatively affect your speeches is the pause. Of course, pauses are necessary blanks in your presentations. However, when pauses are deemed unnecessary, they can be a distraction to both you, the speaker, and your audience. Speakers should- “pause for a cause and not just because.” When preparing your presentation, remember what is left unsaid can be just as important as what is said. Therefore, make sure you ask yourself this important question before taking your presentation to the platform – Who is filling in The Blanks.

Polishing Your Speech

Removing some of the glitter allow the speaker to shine.

20200216_112006Polishing your speech is a critical process all speakers should perform before you take their speech to the platform. You have answered all the essential questions – You have written and rewritten your speech – You have practiced, edited, and reedited your presentation. Now your decisive moment has arrived. You must now polish your speech for presentation. What is going to be your strategy? Are you going to stay polished all the way, or are you going to leave a little rust for the finished product to appear original, genuine, and authentic? That is a question you must now answer.

One approach is to look for power statements in your speech. Power statements similar to your foundational statement speech can have a lingering effect on your audience. They should be one of your prime targets. Practice the phrases and stressing the keywords in those statements.  Tell your story to make a point. Those words will bring your statements to life. Make sure that statement is relevant to your message. Ask yourself how I can spotlight that statement as I practice my delivery. I have known speakers to use the familiar green, yellow, and red highlighters to highlight and serve as reminders as they practice their polishing. Try it – it works.

The part of your speech that has universal appeal should also be your focus. Polish but also keep in mind that old saying, all that glitters is not gold. As you approach critical portions of your presentation, ask yourself which of the three H’s apply. The three H’s are Head, Heart, and Heavy lifting. What am I appealing to – the Head, Heart, or do I now want my audience to do my Heavy Lifting. When you can engage your audience by polishing your point just enough to touch their three H’s – you would have achieved your goal. You have made a connection.

Removing some of the glitter allow the speaker to shine. As you complete your polishing, it is wise to make sure you did not sacrifice that which is most important to your audience – clarity. When your polishing can help your clarity your point, it is most effective. At times, all it takes is replacing a verb or an adjective in a sentence. Some toastmasters use speech brighteners, which I have mentioned in previous postings. Brighteners can make your point stick. For example – He was the kind of person who has had a lifelong romance. At an early age, he fell in love with himself. Also, they can also reinforce a point – He is the boss who was seeking a secretary in her thirties with forty years’ experience.

Polishing can be fun. I learned years ago that when you are polishing and don’t wear gloves – your hand can get dirty – so be careful. Once the exercise is over, remove your gloves and, with clean hands, give that presentation. It is now a presentation you wrote – rewrote, edited, re-edited, polished, and is now ready, like a well-prepared dish, to be served to your audience on the platform.

The Preacher and the Farmer

Our bounty is the spoken word

20200326_105949There is an old story often told about a Farmer and a Preacher both standing side by side, admiring the bounty the Farmer’s farm had produced. The preacher said to the Farmer, “Wow – what a beautiful farm you and the Lord have here.” The Farmer smiled and replied – “yes, for sure, my skills helped, but you should have seen it when the Lord had it all to himself.”

There are many lessons one can glean from that story. However, my take was the Farmer, in his wisdom, was referring to the preachers who often comment on the results. Many have no idea of the humble beginning, which leads to that end. I do believe the Farmer was also making the point that the skills you develop are your blessings, but its hard work that produces your bounty.

Many years ago, I was asked by my first coach, if you had the choice to be mentored by an MBA or a Farmer, who would you choose. Completely forgetting that old story, I selected the MBA. My coach favored the Farmer. But over the years, my coach made me realize how much Farmers and Public Speakers have in common. Time made me realize why my coach chose the Farmer and not the MBA. He also felt that some of the latter are fake and full of it, fertilizer if you wish to be kind.

If you were to take some time to examine the work ethic Public Speakers and Farmers must possess, you too will recognize the similarities and their differences. Both the Farmer and Public Speaker are well aware of the importance of being prepared. They both are mindful of how critical it is to practice best practices. Also, they both are aware that the bounty they produce is not for themselves, but their audiences and customers.

Farmers and speakers know, to succeed, you must supply the market with what it needs. They both know you must bring your best products to the market. They know the importance of rotation. Long before they plant that first seed, they know their soil has to be well prepared. They also know better than anyone; that it is not if, but when things go wrong, you must have a solid backup plan in place. Public speakers require a different set of skills; however, their objectives are all the same – Excellence! Excellence that demands that you always do your best and not that you always be the best.

A common mistake some speakers make is, believing they must always give a new speech each time they face an audience. That is like asking the Farmer to bring a new product each time they go to market.  Time has shown me that the repeated performances of a task will more often than not result in improvement over past efforts. I highly recommend the good, better, best approach, which I regularly use. Good better best, never let your good speeches rest, until they become your better, and your better speeches your best.

The gift of speech is one of the remarkable skills we possess. It is a gift we must not take for granted. Our bounty is the spoken word. Language in all its beauty is our gift to all humankind. As a Public Speakers, I believe when you dedicate your life to be of service to others, just as the Farmer does daily, you too will one day be able to say to the preachers admiring your bounty, yes it took some skills – but you should have heard me when I did my very first icebreaker.

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.

 

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.

Teacher Preacher or Public Speaker- Who are You?

Public Speakers build trust with audiences by speaking naturally to communicate in different styles!!

20190726_171948When you are on the speaking platform, are you a Teacher, Preacher, or Public Speaker? – Who are you – is a question many speakers and audiences sometimes struggle to answer. Teaching and preaching do have much in common with public speaking. But when you represent yourself as a Public Speaker, you should always remember the following: Teachers teach, preachers preach, while good Public Speakers communicate their message by developing topics with unique points of view. Public Speakers tell stories to make a point or make a point to tell a story. Public Speakers build trust with audiences by speaking naturally to communicate in different styles. Their style may include teaching and preaching. However, the predominant communication style they choose often reflects who or what they truly are when they are on or off the speaking platform.

Public Speaking takes many hours of practice, which never ends with perfection. Speakers must master many different disciplines before they can change their default behaviors as a speaker, especially when they are on the platform. Vocabulary, gestures, and even pauses, to name just a few, take many hours of stage-time and practice to become an accomplished speaker. The same goes for teaching and preaching or any other field of practice. Perhaps that is why professionals begin a “Practice” once they become qualified in their chosen field.

If you wish to add teaching or preaching to your style of speaking, tell stories to make your points or make your point by telling stories just as was done in biblical days by the great teachers and preachers since the beginning of time. They used parables and sermons to illustrate their moral and spiritual lessons. Carefully add that style of speaking to your repertoire, and your audience will receive your message without ever realizing you are teaching or preaching.

Speaking opportunities and platforms will vary. Your platform should determine the content you will deliver to your audience. As you continue to grow as a speaker, your primary style of speaking may remain constant. Content will vary, but who you truly are will always creep into your presentations as you continue your journey. The life lessons you have leaned — the change you made along the way. The wisdom and skills you are developing will reflect in your style of speaking, whether you are on or off the platform. Your platform can be a meeting at work, a conversation with friends and family, or even a speech or contest. Once you have a point of view that engages your audience and you are authentic on that platform, there will always be an audience for your message.

As you continue to grow, avoid lessons, audiences don’t care to learn. Avoid repeating sermons your audience may have heard many times before. I was once given this bit of wisdom: “if you follow the herd, you will never be heard.” Your challenge as a speaker is to present your point of view differently. Speak in ways that make the ordinary extraordinary. Speak about topics with universal appeal, topics that can make audiences want to think, feel, or make changes to their lives and the lives of others. Speak about your successes, your failures, and the painful lessons you learned along the way, never forgetting to mention those who helped you see the light, in your hours of darkness. Public Speaking is a long and winding road to your self-discovery. It is the road that leads you to your answer to the ultimate question – Who are you? – a Teacher, Preacher, or Public Speaker.

Do You Memorize or Internalize

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra.

20191209_172005Do you memorize or internalize your speeches? Memorizing requires that you remember every word of your speech in a particular order. When you internalize, you remember the points, thoughts, and organization of your speech to arrive at your ultimate goal, your purpose, and your destination. You never start a journey without knowing your destination. As Yogi Berra is known to have said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up somewhere else.” You should know where you are going before you start. When you prepare a speech, the first thing you should think about is what you will say last – why! Because your last words will always linger.

Your organization, plan, and purpose should be in focus as you start your speech. Your conclusion is your takeaway, the decisive factor, your final appeal to close the deal. When your preparation, plan, and purpose are clear to you, you are in a much better position to communicate your message to an audience. The more you know about your topic, the better you are prepared for the unexpected. No one can predict what will happen when you are on the platform; however, if you are intimately familiar with your topic, you can speak from the heart, which always makes a better connection with your audience. Know where you are heading and stay with the plan and remember, arriving at your destination with your audience is the goal.

After you have internalized your conclusion, your next step is to decide how you will start your speech. You should also decide how you will achieve your ultimate goal, winning and holding the attention of your audience. While it is impossible to predict the mood of the room you will inherit, it is wise to have an opening you can deliver with a bang or with just an audible whisper. Where you take your audience from that opening is what matters most. After you take ownership of the room and platform, lead your audience on your journey as a guide will. Make sure everyone is following along with you every step of the way. Read your audience as you take them along with you. Eye contact with your audience will tell how you are doing.

With the opening and closing of your speech clearly defined internally, logic should now be your guide. Your next step is to construct a bridge from your opening to the closing while making sure it is logical. The length and size of your bridge depend on the amount of speaking time allotted. Each section of your bridge should flow logically into the next. Assign a name for each transition. The name you assign will be your guide to delivering the presentation in the correct order, like milestones of the journey. Remembering the names of each section is now the roadmap you will follow to your destination.

Like any journey, expect the unexpected; however, when you are clear about where you are heading – if you have to make a detour, no one should be made aware. Repeat the last point before you went off course with emphasis. Do again, and again if you need more time to gather your thoughts, then get back on your path and continue with confidence. Smile and keep your secrets to yourself. Some speakers even use prepared statements for those unguarded moments. Get back on track and continue to make each of your points, thoughts, and vignettes fit seamlessly.

You should know when you have arrived at your destination. If you have made a connection with your audience, you should sense when you have made your point or sealed the deal. Keep your purpose and destination in mind, and you will know when it is time to go to your closing. After delivering your closing, be silent, stop, your mission is accomplished. Without preparation, a plan, and a purpose, the best plan is to forget giving the speech altogether.  With a strong, well-prepared opening, closing, and the memorable names assigned to each section of your bridge, you will reach your destination successfully, if you don’t try to memorize. Internalize!