The 4 Squares Method

Brainstorming is an excellent way to begin your preparation!

Gathering data and ideas for a presentation can be challenging and time-consuming. Yet, we all have had speeches in our heads that we say we will deliver someday. Well, why not make today that someday. Brainstorming is an excellent way to begin your preparation for that presentation.

Brainstorming is the process of writing your unedited opinions, facts, thoughts, and ideas about your chosen topic. Let all your ideas flow once you have decided to bring that topic to the platform. Then, like an open faucet, begin writing your thoughts.  Write down every – who, what, where, why, and when. However, at times is challenging to stay focused on the overall goal and your intended audience as you write. How you gather your information matters – I call the method I use – The 4 Squares.

A phycologist who helped Nelson Mandela transition from his 20 years of darkness to the light and presidency of South Africa introduced me to this method. Many years ago, I adapted it to my speech writing and coaching. Answer these four questions honestly, and you may resolve your problem: 1. What you know 2. What you don’t know. 3. What you know that you know. 4. What you don’t care to know.

Regardless of the type of speech, you plan to deliver, the 4 squares method will help you stay focused as you prepare. Audiences quickly become aware of whether you are ready or not when you are on the platform. A prepared speaker should never be nervous once they develop a preparation method for their presentations. With this method, you can create word pictures in the mind of your speech.

Selecting an appropriate topic for the audience, you will be facing is an essential part of the preparation process. Let us assume you already had this topic before you began your brainstorming. Once you have all the information you wish to present, an excellent question to ask yourself is, what is my PURPOSE?  Which of the following will it be?

INFORM: Am I going to inform my audience about a subject that should be of interest to us all?

PERSUADE or MOTIVATE:  Do I want my audience to take some action or make a change in their life?

ENTERTAIN:  Am I just going to keep my audience happy. Humor is universal. It is also an excellent additive to your other purposes. Comedy is best when it is natural or carefully constructed and not forced.

Your purpose can be a combination of any of the three. But, while you can always add entertainment to your mixture, your purpose should always be crystal clear.

What you do with the information you collected will determine the outcome of your presentation. The next step is to begin testing and editing to see what you should keep or throw away. Your general rule of thumb should be, keep what adds to your overall goal.     

Now let’s look at the 4 squares method of evaluating the information collected. With this method, you can develop and arrange your facts, thoughts, and ideas in the 4 Squares on a sheet of paper.  You can also focus on your speech title and the foundational statement while gathering information on the topic. Your foundational statement is your power purpose statement that summarizes the message of your presentation.

The following is The 4 Squares method:

Fold a Blank Sheet of Paper into 4 Squares – Add the Letters SMP to Square 1 & 3. SMP stands for – Story Makes the Point. It is always a good idea to add stories to your presentation. You can tell a story to make your point or make a point to tell your story.  

Down The Middle – The long side – Add Your Foundational Statement – Your Purpose Statement will keep you grounded. Then, on the 4 Squares across the top – Add Your Speech Title.  Next, fill in your Squares with the information you collected using bullet points or short sentences.

Square 1:  What You Know about the topic.  Facts, Figures, Dates, verified details you researched.

Square 2:  What You Don’t Know.  The future, the what if’s – What’s accepted universally as the unknowns.

Square 3. What You Know That You Know. What you can deliver like a palindrome – backward & forwards.  

Square 4. What your audience Doesn’t Care to Know. The minutia – what you don’t need to mention.

The 4 Squares method will help you immerse yourself in the subject matter. It will help you gain extensive knowledge and heighten your excitement about your topic. When your audience can relate to your excitement and enthusiasm about a topic,  that compels them to be better listeners and makes them more interested in your presentation.

You now have a roadmap for your speechwriting with that single sheet of paper.  Now you are ready to begin creating your outline. Again, write for the ear and not the eyes as you develop your introduction, body, and conclusion. Finally, you are all squared away. You are ready with the 4 squares method to write and deliver your presentation.

Where is My Audience

Love it or hate it, Zoom is the new normal.

Happy Holidays to you and yours. Thanks for your condinued readership. What a year it has been. Tell me! Are you Zooming? As that famous therapist, Dr. Phil would say, how’s that working out for yuh? Love it or hate it, Zoom is the new normal. Our audience is in the camera. And that’s where we are now looking from the start to the finish to make your connection. And where do you store that image of your audience? In your mind! So, take a good long look at everyone before you start speaking, as its the last time you should look at them while you are speaking.  

That first moment of your speech is critical. In your opening, you have the full attention of your audience. Even before you utter your first words, your audience is sizing you up. You may only have that one chance to create that first impression. Unfortunately for some, that one chance is the first moment of your talk. When that audience has never seen or heard you before, expectations are at their highest. If you are known as a good presenter, your audience may immediately revert to your previous presentation positively. Now you must match or improve on that last performance.

One of the significant adjustments speakers must make today when speaking over Zoom is holding on to their audience. But it’s scary to think that you risk losing their attention if you look at them on your screen. As a speaker in transition, my advice is to keep an image of your audience in your mind. Imagine how they are responding to you as you speak. That approach takes lots of practice, confidence and, admittedly, is easier said than done, but you will get better with time.    

Feel confident that your opening is strong enough to hold on to the attention your audience has given you. Imagine taking your audience on a journey to another level of consciousness.  A weak opening will leave everyone, including yourself, uninspired and disappointed. Although you should not be looking at your audience, you must feel a strong connection.

Ironically, this is when you must speak as if you are delivering your speech to a mirror. Many years ago, I heard a coach who loves to wear hats say, never practice in front of a mirror.  She said that you are practicing focusing on yourself and not your audience when you do that. So now we practice looking into the camera lens to make our connection. Wow, what a difference a few years make.

With that said, your topic selection is most important. When your listeners can relate to your topic, they will listen to you and pay closer attention. However, your introduction must hold on to the gift and the initial spotlight on you, the speaker. In your opening, grab your audience’s attention and hold on to it. Pleasantries and excuses for any reason are nonstarters – get to your point, purpose, and your presentation.  Keep in mind that you are on your speaking platform wherever you are.  The basics of delivering a speech, talk, or presentation are in play. And what are those fundamentals?

First, you want to introduce your topic with a title.  I make my title function like a light switch. I ask myself, would this title switch my audience on or off? Is it going to give away my speech? Will it offer a hint of what’s to follow?  Even if your presenter announced your title in your introduction, it’s an excellent idea to include a version of it in your opening. A follow-up comment about your introduction, if appropriate, is always a good ice-breaker.

Next, lay down your foundational statement – check in with your audience with a question to establish rapport. And then, transition smoothly into the body of your presentation. Remember, you are doing this blindly, so use your imagination. Focus on the details and speak with your entire body. Use vocal variety, gestures, and eye contact. Finally, let your audience tell you how you did. That’s why we receive evaluations and feedback.

One delivery mistake which always seems magnified over Zoom is repetition. What’s said already should only be repeated when summarizing or making a call-back to a person, place, or thing. Enthusiasm, too little or too much,  sticks out like a soar thumb. But on the flip side, here is one technique that works well and holds your audience’s attention. Make a promise early. Remind them about that promise a few times during the presentation. And make sure you fulfill that promise before you close.

Another negative is appearing angry or frustrated for your entire presentation. Every emotion should be for a purpose. If your demeanor exhibits one feeling for the whole speech, that will negatively resonate with your audience. Being entirely positive or negative can also be a turnoff. Strike a balance with your content. Contrast is an excellent technique to pique your listener’s interest. Whatever you do, your gold should be to draw your audience to you, the speaker, your message, and the value of your presentation.

Speaking over Zoom can be lots of fun. But, where is my audience? That might still be a troubling question for some speakers. Well, in Zoom, they are right there in the room, inches away from you. Keep that in mind as you prepare your presentation.  Zoom can help us all prepare for better speaking days.  When we go back to face-to-face or hybrid meetings, we should all be more conscious about what it takes to make and hold on to our connection with audiences.

I believe some of us may need many therapy sessions to deal with the images left in our minds from Zooming,  And we all know treatment isn’t cheap; ask Dr. Phil. However, over time I believe we all will be better presenters and better prepared for our audience whenever we return to meeting face-to-face. And we don’t have to ask the question –  Where is my audience?

Do You Evaluate to Motivate

Let the speaker determine if your feedback is a criticism, coaching, cheerleading, or evaluating.

At a recent table topics session, I was asked the following question, if you had the choice, who would you rather receive feedback from, a Critic, Coach, Cheerleader, or Evaluator, and why. My response was, while feedback from all the above chosen or qualified to be so-called, I would choose the evaluator. We evaluate in some manner every day of our lives.

We listen and observe others and offer our opinions even when we are not invited to do so. If there is one thing everyone has, is an opinion even when we are not qualified. But that is precisely what an Evaluator is, someone’s personal opinion, and that is how I believe it should be received.

Evaluators are expected to provide direct feedback and follow-up on what they saw, heard, and felt. In addition, they are expected to offer specific improvements, reinforce the speaker’s strengths, and support building and maintaining the speaker’s healthy self-esteem. When evaluators can fulfill those expectations, you have received a good evaluation. However, what separates the evaluator from the cheerleader, coach and critic is the language used to deliver that evaluation.

In a casual or informal setting, we are direct. Do you remember the feedback you gave when another driver cut you off? We are all human. Then why is it so difficult to be natural among friends and associates? Could it be because you are conscious of being evaluated also? Whenever we approach evaluating for the right reasons, we feel wordy to evaluate anyone at any level, anytime. And what are those reasons? First, you are offering your knowledge and experience to help others improve. You are building self-understanding. You are creating mutually beneficial bonds with others. And you are improving your impromptu speaking skills.

The tone and content of an evaluation can positively or negatively impact everyone – speaker, evaluator, and audience. Therefore, it is essential to meet every speaker where they are. After you have had a few experiences under your belt as an evaluator, you can tell if a speaker was prepared or not. Every day is not Sunday. Even a major league slugger gets three strikes before they are out.

As an evaluator, think before you make that call. Even when you believe that call is deserving, it can be taken differently, especially by audience members. Also, an overly kind or undeserving evaluation may be received negatively by others. Some guests may even walk away with the false impression that it is the accepted standard of your group or club.  In those cases, there are no winners. So, amid the noise and haste, be gentle, and be on good terms with all persons. Some feedback is more effective when given privately.

Good evaluators prepare for their speakers.  As Yogi Berra “is said to have said,” if you don’t know where you’re going, you may end up somewhere else. Similarly, if you are not prepared, not familiar with the objectives of the speaker’s project, which the speaker has provided, you are going to try to “wing it.” And that is where many evaluators get into trouble. One of the primary responsibilities of the evaluator is to prepare the audience for the speaker’s project.

The evaluator sets the expectations of the assignment for the audience. It is also important for the speaker and evaluator to connect before the delivery of the presentation. Ask what are you working on and what would you like me to observe specifically? With that information and your evaluation forms for that project, you should be all set as an evaluator.

Addressing only that which the speaker can change is a good rule of thumb. Make notes during the presentation and pay attention to the speaker’s soft skills, natural eye contact, meaningful gestures, audience awareness, and speaking area usage. To make the best use of your delivery time, work in threes. Three things the speaker did well – organization, clarity, humor. Three things the speaker can improve, like posture, unanswered questions, or confusing statements. And three things to encourage or boost the speaker’s morale. Thank the speaker for their time and work in preparing for the presentation. When speakers and evaluators are ready for the platform, that’s a winning proposition for everyone. Always close on a positive note and give thanks for the moment.

Follow-up after the speech is essential. After providing the speaker with a written evaluation, ask for questions or comments about the evaluation. The responses you receive will help you improve as an evaluator. Do not be defensive. Clarify anything that may have been misinterpreted in your verbal evaluation.  Then, expand in your written evaluation on anything you were unable to cover in the oral assessment.

Let the speaker determine if your feedback is a criticism, coaching, cheerleading, or evaluating. However, if critics and coaches hold the same views as you, their evaluator, and they still don’t know that they have a problem, then they have a problem. And a  cheerleader and not an evaluator will better serve that speaker. Therefore speakers should also seek out their trusted evaluators. As we all know, many are called critics, coaches, cheerleaders, and evaluators. Still, few, and only a few, are ever chosen.

Speaking Poetically

Adding poetry to a speech can be scary and intimidating.

Do you ever speak in a manner related to poetry? If you do, whether intentional or not, you may already be speaking poetically. Poetry is an excellent way to release pent-up emotions. It has the power to inspire audiences to change. When your message is delivered poetically with a repeatable rhythm, it compels audiences to act.

Audiences don’t expect an entire speech to be delivered poetically. However, adding some poetry can significantly enhance any presentation. Try adding a few poetic lines to your next speech and observe your audience’s reaction. Think of those lines as the cream you would typically add to your favorite beverage. It doesn’t change the product but adds flavor to enhance the experience for both the speaker and the audience. And as a bonus, it may even increase the clarity of your message.

All speakers know they don’t have to be poets to add poetry to their speaking. Still, there is a resistance to embracing this art form. When our creative juices begin to flow, we seem to resist the urge to “take note” or even acknowledge our creativity. Adding poetry to a speech can be scary and intimidating. However, when poetry is presented as a natural form of self-expression, audiences often remember the moment vividly. They often recall how they felt.

Whether your use of poetry is an innate skill or one learned, it is a skill worth exploring. It encourages speakers to use more vocal variety, emotions, and body language in their delivery. Give it a try, and you will also discover, adding poetry is one of the fastest ways to establish a solid connection with audiences.

Looking back at my primary school days, I remember our teachers using poetry to help us overcome the fear of public speaking. Sometimes I think it achieved the opposite. While those experiences played a significant role in teaching us how to memorize, they failed to focus on the depth and beauty of the poems. Our ability to remember line by line was of the utmost importance. Forget one word, and you were lost and stayed lost.

Many of us never understood or truly appreciated the value of those poems. We were too scared. Like it or not, we had to recite the works of the legends of poetry, like William Wordsworth and Shakespeare, start to finish, as we stood nervously before our teacher and classmates. Who knew? Perhaps that’s where the fear of using poetry and public speaking all began.

It was only later in my cultural development I realized what I was missing. I began exploring metaphors, similes, and imagery in college. I also learned quite a lot while playing music for theatre companies. Then, in the late seventies, I had the opportunity to work with poet and playwright Derek Walcott on some of his plays. That experience was an eye-opener and quite an education.

There, I observed firsthand the value of using the wealth of literary devices available to those who dare to take them to the stage. In his workshops and rehearsals for two of his plays – The Joker of Seville and O’Babylon – Derek showed his creative mastery. He constantly tested the limits of using poetry in his plays and his poetry readings.

Different cultures and accents inspire a varied range of emotions. When communicating in a formal setting, we often speak a bit differently. However, all speakers want to be authentic when they are on the platform. Using a poetic quote can be an excellent interlude, especially when it is in the native language of your audience. There is a profound change in communication styles when native speakers of the same culture meet and speak.

Their confidence, descriptiveness, and vocal variety are more pronounced. Look for those opportunities that open those doors. They offer speakers the ability to be in the moment and to use their poetic license. Then seamlessly, you can flip that inner switch and return to the expectations of the platform and the formality of the occasion. It works every time.

Finally, relevance is essential when speaking poetically. Poetry always takes us back to an appropriate time and place. It can be a time when we were happy or sad. Perhaps it was a moment when we could not find the right words to express our feelings held deep within. In those moments, turn to the power of poetry.

You will discover expressions of emotions that are fitting to express those feelings. When those meaningful events in our lives are expressed poetically, they are cemented in our memoirs forever. Over time, we may forget the details of those events but seldom do we forget how we felt at that moment. Your words of comfort at the right time and in the right place will always remain fresh in our lives when we tell them in a manner related to poetry.

The Meeting That Never Was

Make your next meeting an experience.

Sometimes we attend a scheduled meeting, which turns out to be something else; an experience. Recently I had one of those unforgettable experiences. At one of my club’s bi-monthly meetings two Thursdays ago, we didn’t have a quorum.

As the SAA- Sargent at Arms, I called the meeting to order. Realizing we were facing a problem all clubs occasionally do, we considered canceling the meeting. Luckily, we didn’t, and it turned out to be a moment all who showed were happy they did. I now call that experience – The Meeting that Never Was.

The scheduled agenda was postponed to the next meeting day. A motion was then entertained to watch a video and have Table Topics based on what everyone saw, heard, and felt. The motion carried.

After watching the video, Jeffery Deslich delivered his Table Topic, which I am happy to share today with his permission. The video selected from my library was by Dr. Sean Stephenson.

His video was played on the final day of a 3-day Seminar I had attended one week earlier. Unfortunately, Dr. Sean Stephenson is now deceased, but he remains unforgettable.

The Seminar was entitled – Monetize Your Message – Hosted by Bob Dietrich and Chris Nielson. It featured Lance Miller, Darren LaCroix, Mark Brown, and many other well-known Toastmasters and professional speakers. The following was Jeffery’s Table Topic. He vividly captured and shared how much he appreciated Dr. Stephenson’s video in an email to all the members of the club.

——– Original message ——–

 Hello fellow Toastmasters,

“During the last meeting, which was minimally attended, Henry proposed that we watch a video by Dr. Sean Stephenson, a therapist, self-help author, and motivational speaker. This speaker was unique in that because he was born with a problem that caused his bones to be very brittle, and he was only 3 feet tall 65 pounds, and in a wheelchair. Nonetheless, this man was an incredible speaker. “In the speech that we watched, he broke down the elements of the speech that he was giving, as he went along, detailing the many lessons that he has learned on how to write and deliver a great speech.”

I searched YouTube hoping to find this video, I could not find it, although I found many other excellent Sean Stephenson videos such as:

YouTube Link:
Creating Powerful Connections | Sean Stephenson    
(Dr. Sean Stephenson Videos are available on YouTube)

After watching the video last Thursday, we had a table topics session, and I delivered my table topics speech about the video from the notes I had taken.

This is a summary of my notes:

Don’t jump into the speech – he rolled his wheelchair out onto the stage but did not immediately start to talk; instead, he took a moment to look at the audience – for the audience to look at him. This had a huge visual and psychological impact.

For someone in a wheelchair, he had an incredible onstage presence, the way that he moved his wheelchair about the stage kept the viewers’ eyes focused upon him.

No autopilot – focus on your audience, make it real and personal every time you give your speech, don’t just recite your speech the way you have rehearsed it many times before

Pauses – many times during his speech, he just stopped and looked at the audience, sometimes to let the audience absorb what he just said, or other times to build up anticipation of what he would say next.

No Division – write your speech in a way not to divide your audience into groups; politically, religiously.

No Idolization – be one with the audience, try to be like your audience, show your audience that you are like them, do not put yourself on a pedestal.

Reconnect with the audience often.

Oh, Bummer. I have a note about a joke he told, but I only wrote on the punchline! “I’m not the father… I’m not the father” please, somebody, remind me of the joke! … ( it was about receiving good and bad news – I am not the father – Good News… I am not the father – Bad New)

Never make up a story – I liked this part the best! In this concept, he referred to the story as coffee, never make up a story, make your story real, but it’s okay to add “cream” that’s what adds flavor to the story, a little bit of embellishment.

He used many comedic hand gestures, for example, “ripping the Band-Aid off.”

Don’t apologize for screwing up – if you screw up and apologize to your audience, then you have screwed up twice! If you make a mistake, just keep going.

Audiences want closure – when you end your story, your audience wants it to have an ending. Even if it is a bad ending, it provides closure. ‘He closed his story by humming the tune to “Hail to the chief” as he told of him being pushed in his wheelchair into the White House, and that took his story back around the beginning of his speech where he talked about wanting to become the President of the United States.”

I invite all of you to go to YouTube and watch one or more videos from this excellent speaker. I believe you will find them very entertaining as well as educational.

I’m looking forward to seeing you at next Thursday’s meeting,”

Jeffery Deslich

That was not the first or will not be the last meeting that never was. However, every time I have one of those experiences, I am reminded of the humble beginnings of Toastmasters and even some clubs. They began with those who showed up and kept coming back. So, make your next meeting that never was, and experience. Have it for all who are called and the few who have chosen to be present. It’s not always about the numbers when you show up.

Impromptu Speaking

Let silence send your message!

Samuel Clements, famously known as Mark Twain, must have scared every aspiring speaker when he said –  “It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.” However, Twain was known to be quick-witted, humorous, and could be in the moment when called unexpectedly to speak.

I believe the secret to impromptu speaking lies in your ability to be in the moment. But first, you must have a plan. Over time, speakers should develop their strategy for speaking impromptu. Begin by focusing on the keywords of the question. Then, use your keyword as anchors at the beginning and end of your answer.

In the English Language, there are five basic types of questions. Factual, Convergent, Divergent, Evaluation and Combination. Most Toastmasters Table Topic questions are either Convergent or Divergent. Therefore, it is wise to identify the topic type as you listen carefully for subtle details hidden in the question.

 Convergent: Questions moving towards a single point challenge the cognitive thinking skills of the respondent. They are expected to offer a response that is within a finite range of acceptable accuracy. The response provided may be based on personal awareness, material read, or known. The speaker is also expected to justify their answer or give evidence to support their response.

Divergent: Questions moving toward different directions challenge the speaker to explore other avenues and create different variations and alternative scenarios. Correctness may be based on logic, projections, creation, or the speaker’s imagination. These types of questions require the speaker to analyze, evaluate or synthesize the various possible outcomes.

How you answer your question is most important. Don’t leave your audience out of the moment. Check-in with your audience. When you fail to check in – your audience will check out. A standard method used to answer Table Topic questions is the PREP formula. The acronym PREP is derived from (P) Point, (R) Reason, (E) Example (P) Point.

In Toastmasters Table Topic Competitions, each speaker is allowed 2 minutes and 30 seconds to respond to their question before disqualification. So, prepare a plan for how you are going to divvy up your allotted time. The following is my suggestion.

  •        Point – Pause – Paraphrase:             30 – Seconds
  •        Reason – Because – Justification:  30 – Seconds   
  •        Example – For Instance or Story:    30 – Seconds
  •        Point to Summarize and Close:        30 – Seconds

Note the speaker will still have 30 seconds left. After you have delivered your summary, hand control back to the Chair. Stop talking! Let silence send your message.

Table Topic contests judging are like any humorous or international speech contest. The suggested point values are Speech Development 30 pts, Effectiveness 25 pts, Physical 15 Pts, Voice 15pts, and Language 15pts. When your answer is different enough to stand out from the rest of the crowd, you will most likely win the judges’ hearts and minds.

We all know nothing in life is absolute. But just as there are two sides to a coin, there are two sides to an argument or a Divergent question – Make sure you address both sides; the pros and cons. A referee with a two-headed coin is biased. Similarly, addressing only one side of a discussion will divide your audience and your judges. So show both sides of the coin to your audience.

Your summary and closing must have a lingering effect on your audience. You don’t have to be an expert on the subject you are addressing. However, by relating the question to a real-life event or a familiar theme, you should get a boost of energy. So, relax, and get to work without hesitation. Be in the moment.

Before you begin to speak, let your body language show your appreciation for the question. With a smile, check in with your audience, then paraphrase or restate the question. If possible, add a twist to your paraphrase to make a stronger connection. Then, address the question as if you are the expert in the room. You must convince your audience that you know what you are talking about.

Table Topics in Toastmasters is intended to help members develop their ability to organize their thoughts quickly and respond to an impromptu question or topic. Two past Presidents I have always admired for handling difficult questions were Ronald Regan and Bill Clinton. They were both quick-witted, Regan especially. He mastered the art of turning questions on its head in a flash with humor.

When speakers can get their audience to laugh, think profoundly, or look at a problem differently, they will be rewarded by their judges and audiences. So perhaps Mark Twain was right; maybe it does take three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech, but I will add, except for when that impromptu speaker is in the moment, with a plan.

Your Packaging Begins with You

We speak to be heard, understood, and to be repeated.

Do you package your speeches for delivery – If you don’t, why not? We wrap our gifts – Right? Well, if your presentation is a gift to your audience, how that gift is presented matters. Your wrappings can make the difference between how your presentation is delivered and received.

When you work on your deliverables, you will notice a significant change in your style of presenting your gift to an audience. The speech is the product. Your wrappings are all the deliverables; sincerity, passion, message, and a host of other essentials. With practice, you will find yourself using them seamlessly as you deliver the presentations and speeches you create. Why –  Simply because – your packaging begins with you.

Packaging is a process. Begin by taking an inventory of your weaknesses and strengths: the skills you have mastered and those you need to improve. Start with the basics. How well do you prepare for each delivery? Do you dress appropriately for each occasion? A gift delivered in fine China would have an entirely different effect on the receiver if that same gift were presented on a garbage cover.

You are a significant part of the package. How you choose to introduce yourself can enhance or destroy the beauty of the moment. Before you utter your first words, you are screened, evaluated, judged. You are an integral part of the packaging, and your audience’s first and last impressions linger.

The instruments we all use to make our delivery are our body and our voice. Many moons ago, I heard David Brooks, the 1990 World Champion of Public Speaking (WCPS), state:  “We speak to be heard, understood, and to be repeated.” It was then I immediately made that bit of wisdom part of my packaging. The deliverables you use will vary, but you must remain sincere throughout your presentation.

If your audience believes for a moment, you are reading, repackaging, or regifting a presentation; you will lose them. And when an audience is lost, it is more than likely; they will stay lost forever. When you make yourself heard, understood, and memorable enough to be repeated, your packaging is working for both you and your audience.

Having your audience do some unpackaging with you works better than you doing it all by yourself. Whether you are delivering a diamond ring in a tiny box or a spanking brand-new Computer, what’s most important to the receiver, is in the package. The element of surprise must not be lost. Make the unveiling and revealing of what’s in the box an experience that will long be remembered.

Show your appreciation for the suspense displayed by the receiver. Eye contact is essential, and so is your body language. Let your audience feel your passion as the giver by including them in the process. Never leave your audience out of the experience as you both savor the moment together.

How you use the platform is also a vital part of the process. Where you start, finish, and every move you make in between are significant. Your every move or action must be delivered with a purpose. Some speakers even create a separate script for their movement when they are on the platform. For example, when delivering from center stage, stage left, or stage right, the speaker scripts and knows the emotion they wish to establish.

On a large platform, every location requires a different pitch, volume, and body placement to be seen, heard, and felt by everyone present. Always remember you are not the gift. What’s in the box matters most to your audience. You are the messenger and not the message. Your job as the messenger is to make sure your message is well delivered.

Your level of energy cannot be understated. Take your pulse before you step on the platform. If you don’t feel one, you are not ready to make your delivery. As Craig Valentine, the 1999 – WCPS, would say, good speakers don’t get ready – they stay ready. When your energy level is low, it becomes contagious. A low energy level can make the difference for your audience being lifted to higher heights or lower lows. However, that energy must be controlled. Make sure the objective is felt and understood by you and everyone in the audience.

Packaging is just as crucial as every word you include in your presentation. As speakers, we seek feedback about what our audience saw, heard, and felt. While many of us focus more on what we hear, paying attention to what is seen and felt is essential. Study the feedback you receive on your packaging and work on how you deliver those intangible deliverables.

Seek feedback about your body’s spoken image. Rate each category; your posture, gestures, body movement, facial expressions, and eye contact. These are all crucial parts of your packaging and should not be taken for granted. They should be included in your evaluations and preparation simply because – your packaging begins with you.

Writing for the Platform

Unity and logical thinking are two essential fundamentals of good writing.

Is your presentation ready for the platform? Taking a presentation to the stage is a process. Unity and logical thinking are two essential fundamentals of good writing. Emphasis and variety in your structure are two more essentials that will make your presentation interesting. Emphasis makes your writing forceful. Variety makes ideas appealing to the ear. When all the parts of your structure contribute to making one clear point for your audience, your writing is unified. Each sentence you deliver must form part of the perfect whole. Any change, even one word, can disturb the clarity of your point of view and outcome.

Variety in the structure and length of your sentences make for a good speech. Avoid a series of short or long sentences. While there are no specific rules that govern the construction of paragraphs, listeners expect your ideas to be coherent, well-developed and unified as you address the topic. Keep each paragraph word count between 100 and 250 words long with an average of 5 to 7 sentences. Place your topic sentence close to or at the beginning of each segment. Your topic sentence limits and directs the development of your idea. Organize your paragraphs according to patterns. Patterns help your audience stay connected to your story. 

If ever you are asked why I should write out my speeches, the simple answer is to have something to edit. The speaker should know what they would like their listeners to think, feel, or do after hearing your presentation. They should also decide if their purpose is to entertain, inspire, persuade or which combination is their delivery style. They should also choose a topic they are passionate about. They should then make a list as they ask themselves the following questions:  

  • What will you or your audience find engaging about this topic?
  • What supporting data or stories will prove my point of view?
  • What have I read or heard that I agree or disagree with about this topic?
  • What is the lesson, message, or takeaway for my audience?

Write down all the answers that come to mind. Then, write a hypothesis – your preliminary thesis or a foundational statement. Your foundational statement is a short phrase that echoes throughout your speech.  Also, to ensure you have covered every aspect of your story, make sure the following questions are answered: who, what, when, where, why, and how.  Keep in mind; any unanswered questions can become a distraction to your audience.  The amount of detail you offer depends upon your audience. Whether you are a generalist or specialist on the topic you are addressing, show respect to your audience’s intelligence and curiosity.                                                                 

Vocalize what you have written. As you move your text from your head to your heart, remember emotions move audiences. Read your script out loud until what you have written is internalized. Speeches are delivered, not read. Your presentation is not an act; however, you must bring your words to life. Add the feelings you wish to share with your audience. Practice your delivery of those feelings. Show your audience what it’s like to be happy, sad, surprised, disgusted, or paralyzed with fear as you engage them emotionally with your stories. When your speech is unified, and you can make your audience feel your emotions, you are ready to take that presentation to the platform.

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.

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