The Number One Public Speaking Rule

“Omne Trium Perfectum”

IMG_4521 (1)Make the Rule of Three your number one rule of Public Speaking, and your message will be heard, understood, and repeated always, and forever. The Rule of Three is a powerful technique, which dates back to the beginning of time. The Romans practiced and applied this writing and speaking principle. They referred to it with the Latin maxim – “Omne Trium Perfectum” which means, “Everything that comes in threes is perfect.” Today, speakers used trios to make their presentations more engaging, enjoyable, and a lot more memorable. It is a tried, tested, and proven writing principle that is effective when conveying information with brevity, rhythm, and recall.

This Rule of Three manifests itself in many different ways on or off the platform.  It can add humor to your content. When the third example of a trio runs contrary to the first one or two, if the third is a twist or that which is unexpected, the result is natural humor. Many speakers use this technique when adding humor to content. The Rule of Three can also be applied when speakers are delivering persuasive speeches to rally support. A classic example is Winston Churchill’s famous Blood, Sweat, and Tears speech. Note his skillful us of the power of threes in the line: – “I can promise you nothing but blood, sweat, and tears.” And who will ever forget -Friends, Romans, Countrymen” – William Shakespeare in Julius Caesar.

Many more examples of the power of the Rule of Three are documented in the scriptures, nursery rhymes, and fairy tale. Three Little Pigs, Three Billy Goats Gruff, and The Three Musketeers are all examples. Even in sport, the Rule of Three sets the standard. In Baseball – “Three Strikes and you are out.”  It is a well-established fact that humans can only hold a small amount of information in their short term or ‘active,’ memory. When content is presented in a group of threes, trios, a pattern is generated with a natural rhythm. The ordering and patterns created are easily stored in the brain for quick recall, from our short-term memory in “chunks.” Audiences remember those chunks and small patterns of information easier than longer phrases or sentences.

Speakers, we are all taught a speech should have an opening, body, and closing. Some Public Speaking coaches can look at a soft-copy or script of a speech and tell if that speech will be “Good Bad or Ugly.” As you prepare your content, practice, and apply the principle of threes. Make it your number one writing principle. Focus on the Rule of Three as you create your content. Try structuring your format like a play:- act one, act two, and act three.

Your act one, two and act three format will help your audience grasp your material quickly and even make the scenes you have created more visual. Your storyline and message will also be easier to follow. Practice using the “act one, act two, act three structure, and you will also find it helps with your delivery when you are on or off the platform. Make the Rule of Three your number one rule of Public Speaking, and your message will be heard, understood, and repeated, always and forever.

Closing to Open

Your conclusion would often lead you to your introduction.

20190907_153155_001Preparing a new speech can, at times, be daunting. One question frequently asked is, should I work on the closing before tackling my opening? My suggestion; speakers should first prepare their foundational statement, then start working on their closing. Your conclusion would often lead you to your introduction.

A foundational statement is that central theme, the purpose statement that runs like a scarlet ribbon, thought your presentation from beginning to end. In your closing, if you are clear about what you want your audience to think, feel or do as you take your seat after speaking, your opening and body would seamlessly fall into place. I call this approach to speech writing and preparation; closing to open. Many great speakers use this approach. Do you close to open?

In a coaching session many years ago, I was introduced to this concept of closing to open. I was also reminded that when you are on the platform, your last words linger, so you should choose them wisely. My speaking coach also went on to state: – The most important minute of your speech is, the minute of silence after you have delivered your presentation. He then explained, that if in that minute of silence your audience is motivated to take some action, make a change or even think differently as a result of your talk, you have achieved what should be the objective of all good speakers, which is to be heard, understood and be repeated. Seldom, will an opening have that kind of effect on an audience.  It is your closing that will leave a long, lasting impact on your audience.

Closing to open works well with all kinds of speeches, even humorous presentations. Speakers should decide how they want to leave their audience. Leave them laughing is the most obvious choice. A pre-prepared closing can be quite handy, especially when speaking at a roast or extemporaneously. All great speakers use them, something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. For example, there are times you may be the only speaker at a meeting. You may want to acknowledge that fact in your closing. Here is a prepared closing example – It is always a special privilege to be the only speaker at one of your meetings. You have been such a wonderful audience; I must leave you with this happy thought. It is never too bleak; it can always be bleaker; this has been a fantastic meeting even without, a second speaker. As mama whale always says to her baby whales, only when you are spouting, you are likely to be harpooned. So please forgive me for cutting my remarks a bit short.

Running overtime is a chronic condition that afflicts many speakers. Imagine what driving records would be if a red light had no effect on drivers. A prepared closing is a must-have for those speakers struggling with that condition. Going over time can destroy an excellent presentation. Here is some sound advice for speakers who frequently go over time, especially when they are delivering longer speeches. Have a hip pocket prepared closing. Here is a sample to use once that red light appears. – I have prepared a great deal more material for my presentation, and have much more I would like to say, but I feel the time has arrived for me conclude, and follow the old advice often given to speakers on how to avoid getting into trouble with their allotted time – Breathe, through your nose. It keeps your mouth shut. Today I invite you to join me as I take a deep breath of fresh air to close.

It is my hope that you too will try this speech writing and preparation concept – Closing to Open.

What is Toastmasters

Do you make Toasters?

What is Toastmasters? Have you ever had to expFB_IMG_1550169405777lain to your friends or family what our organization does? That is a question I have had to answer many times. I once heard the most asked question by people calling Word Headquarters is – Do you make Toasters? – My simple answer I always offer – Toastmasters is an organization dedicated to the advancement of the fundamental principles of public speaking and leadership. It was officially started in October of 1924 by Dr. Ralph Smedley and can be found in over 140 countries, with more than 350,000 members worldwide.

There are many volumes written on the subjects of Leadership and Public Speaking; however, Toastmasters is the foremost organization that provides its members with the opportunity to practice those skills. Toastmasters offers a safe and friendly environment and has become the best “do it yourself” organization for those who wish to develop their public speaking and leadership skills. Although the organization provides many instructional manuals and a newly minted Pathways Program, those manuals and Paths do not dictate what subjects members can speak on at club meetings. Members are free to speak on any topic that is of interest to them, as long as their content or language is not deemed offensive to others.

Most prepared speeches are five to seven minutes. Brevity teaches speakers how to say more by using fewer words. Members quickly learn the first rule of public speaking – speak when you have something to say, that is worth saying. – And any word can become a bad word when used too often. Toastmasters is a program that encourages better listening and better thinking. Better listening and better-thinking-habits lead to better speaking. At Toastmasters, you are encouraged to find your voice. Members receive training on how to listen and evaluate the speeches and thinking of other members. With that training, they are encouraged to form their own opinions, to speak for themselves.

When Dr. Ralph Smedley first started his “After Dinner Club” at the YMCA that would become Toastmasters, he believed individuals could improve themselves to their fullest potential through better communication. Toastmasters is a program based on the principles of learning by doing. It is a proven action plan that one can improve themselves through repetition, practice, and effective evaluations. It does not ask members to subordinate themselves to a club or the organization. It is a program dedicated to the development of the individual. Members are free to join at will and leave at will. Although the focus is on the individual, members work together to bring out the best in each other and then apply those skills learned and developed to help others.

The skills learned at Toastmasters are those we all use in everyday life. Our Communication and Leadership development improvement is most valuable not only in our private engagements but also in many aspects of our public lives. Daily, our peers and superiors evaluate us not only for our spoken words but also by what we have written. Opinions are formed based on how we interact with others. Most members join our organization to achieve some definite purpose. Whatever that purpose is, you will find someone at Toastmasters ready, willing, and able to help you achieve your goal. That is what Toastmasters is and will continue to be until the end of time.

Effective Listening

Make it your goal to be an effective listener.

20190317_120113Listening can be active or passive. It is the practice of taking what you hear and extracting meaning. Active listening is the ability to comprehend and repeat what you have heard. Passive listening is the practice of sitting quietly without responding verbally, as we so often do when listening to music, a podcast, or the news. But, have you ever given a second thought about what kind of listener you are. Are you an active or passive listener? Do you focus on what the speaker said or more about what the speaker meant to say? Those questions may answer if you are active or passive, but more importantly, if you are an Effective Listener.

Effective listening is more of an active skill. Effective listeners practice being present and are in the moment. Although effective listening requires the development of specific techniques for receiving, organizing, and interpreting information, when communicating with others, we should also be mindful that effective listening is an exchange of energy between speaker and listener. Listening and speaking is the act of giving and receiving the flow of thoughts, feeling, and energy, both positive and negative. How many times ‘your better half has had to ask, are you listening?

Even though listening is one of the essential communication skills we use most frequently, it is the skill we give our least attention. Have you ever had any training in effective listening? Effective listening can help us understand ourselves and better understand others. We all are guilty of not being in the moment when conversing to others. While we are listening, our brain will sometime begin to wander. Just as wandering eyes would never see, a wandering brain will seldom hear. Physically we may be there, but mentally if you are over there, wherever that over there is, you will not be practicing effective listening, and you would most likely hear – are you listening?

In the world of public speaking, there are fast talkers and slow listeners. Most speakers speak at an average rate of about 125 wpm- words per minute. Studies show we can process in the region of 400 wpm. This difference between speaking speed and thought speed means that when we listen to the average speaker, we are using only 25 percent of our mental capacity. Because we still have 75 percent to do something else, our minds will wander. I have found that if we practice slowing the brain down by controlling our breathing and energy, we will begin to see a significant improvement in how you receive, organize, and interpret what we hear. Make it your goal to be an effective listener. Effective listening is a skill that will help you identify vital information quickly and improve your daily interactions with others. The following are a few tips we all could practice to becoming an effective listener:

  • Respect the speaker’s point of view – Silence yours.
  • Relax and remain engaged – Breather naturally to control your energy.
  • Do not pass judgment – Remember nonverbal cues, body language, and gestures are indicators of how you are interpreting the information you are receiving.
  • Avoid interrupting. Wait for your turn. Ask clarifying questions to ensure understanding.
  • Give nonverbal cues to demonstrate your interest.
  • Conclude with a summary statement to demonstrate you clearly understood what the speaker said.

Whether you are an active or passive listener, it really doesn’t matter. What matters most is that you are present; you are in the moment, giving and receiving energy and above all, achieving your goal of being an effective listener.

The Art of Interpretation

Bringing words to life can be a daunting task!

20190704_140329The art of Interpretation is one of the essential disciplines speakers should attempt to master. Bringing words to life can be a daunting task for speakers and coaches. Some may ask, what is the art of Interpretation? Is it acting, well, not exactly! It is a multi-faceted dynamic style of speaking which demands the mastery of communicating your concepts, thoughts, and ideas by carefully combing words, tone, and body language. Some of the many other related fundamental requirements include breath control, good diction, vocal variety, rhythm, resonance, and phrasing. Mastery of each of these disciplines can completely change your audience Interpretation of the spoken word.

All speakers cannot fully acquire these requirements in a few short months. Certain concepts are more difficult to grasp than others immediately. It takes long and serious study and the development of best practices. Good speaking begins with proper breathing. There are two points to remember regarding the use of breath in speaking. (1) The speaker should inhale each breath quickly and deeply. (2) Its emission must be gradual and perfectly controlled to sustain, expand, or diminish their tone. The basis of breath control is good posture. Perfect posture makes inhaling easy. An active diaphragm and strong rib muscles provide the necessary perfection of controlling emission.

Speakers should also be aware that it is not the quantity of breath taken in, it is the managed column of air expelled, and that makes for an excellent speaking voice. Some additional physical requirements to produce a resonant tone are the loosening of the neck, jaw, throat, lips and tongue muscles and the regular recurrence of stressed and unstressed words, which creates rhythm in your speech patterns. It is those speech patterns, which add that distinctive quality to your tone and voice.

Tone and body language play an essential role in the art of Interpretation. While there are those who will say that Interpretation and acting are indistinguishable, there are notable differences. The speakers, who excel at this art, are those whose focus is on delivering a speech and not an act. They use verbal punctuation, correct pronunciation, and expression to connect with their audience while discovering the many joys and benefits of interpretation.

Speakers, challenge yourself to explore the use of neutral and weak vowels to heighten the effect of your tone.  Use body language to reinforce your punch lines by adding a punch look. Use silence to send your message. Be aware that sometimes your words may convey one meaning to your audiences while your tone and body language may be screaming something completely different.  And remember speakers,  what your audience decide to think, feel, or do after they have heard your speech, may depend on how well you have mastered the art of Interpretation.

Mentors Coaches And Protégés

Coaching can be part of mentoring, but mentors are not coaches.

20181207_093125Mentors and coaches have a long history of supporting and nurturing protégés through close working relationships with protégés. They offer encouragement and guidance while their protégés work on accomplishing their goals. Both mentors and coaches have the unique opportunity to share their expertise, wisdom, and knowledge while their protégé gains a foundation for building the necessary skills for achieving success in their endeavor. Mentoring or coaching can be a rewarding experience for a mentor, coach or protégé; however, although the roles of mentors and coaches may overlap, their roles and responsibilities are quite different.

Coaching can be part of mentoring, but mentors are not coaches. Coaches are responsible for their protégés meeting specific short-term goals. Common goals a coach can effectively facilitate are skills-based and are specific. Coaches focus on the short-term accomplishment of a goal or, the development of a single skill.  For example, a coach can have a powerful impact when a member wants to enhance or develop their use of pauses, vocal variety or gestures when preparing to deliver a presentation. A coach will assume the responsibility for providing the steps for the protégé to meet their presentation goals by giving specific feedback and direction to a protégés as they prepare for that single event. The coach determines the tasks and steps for the protégé to achieve a successful outcome.

The Mentor’s role is different. The mentor’s role is to provide support as the protégé takes personal responsibility for working toward the accomplishment of broader goals over an extended period. An experienced and knowledgeable mentor knows the value of their wisdom.  They also know how to balance sharing their expertise while allowing their protégés to learn on their own. For example, the protégé may choose to discuss their experiences while working on a challenging project and to share the knowledge they gained by trial and error. A mentor can support a protégé by listening to their thoughts, concerns, and challenges faced, and offer advice for handling similar situations in the future. The mentor offers advice, however, it is the protégé who determines the necessary tasks and steps for their success.

When the primary functions of mentors and coaches are clearly understood by the protégé, the chances of a successful outcome are much higher. Mentors and coaches should identify the needs of the protégé by asking probing questions and listening to the specific needs and goals.  An initial interview is one of the best ways for a mentor or coach can determine the role best suited for a particular protégé.  By listening and noting differences, but focusing on commonalities, a coach or mentor can enhance their relationship and partnership with a protégé. A tailored approach to suggestions and feedback, designed to coordinate with the protégé’s goals and personality, will often form a strong bond and a foundation for the success of mentor coach and protégé.

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Effective Coaching

Coaches should tailor their style to match situational expectations

20190317_120113Although Effective Coaching may very well be the best path a speaker can take in becoming a better speaker quicker, there is a belief held by some experts that not all speakers are coachable. Without a doubt, I believe that with a better understanding of our different Communication Styles and with Effective Coaching, both speaker and coach can come to realize that all speakers are coachable. Yes, even those who choose to take the scenic or Columbus route to their destination.

When both speakers and coaches understand their different Communication Styles and are willing to work with each other honestly, the results can be rewarding for both speaker and coach. Communication Styles are often situational; however, good coaches will determine how to improve relationships by mastering and adapting their application of Communication Styles based on situations. Coaches should tailor their style to match situational expectations. Both speaker and coach must also identify their preferred style of communication very early in their collaboration to decide if their styles may affect the building of a trusted relationship in the future.

Speakers should be able to identify and understand their primary style of communication from their everyday interactions with colleagues, friends, and family. How a person is known to be from daily interactions with others, cannot be magically changed by coaching or by them stepping unto a speaking platform. Who or what you are all about will be revealed when you step in front of an audience.

You know best if your everyday style of communication leads to positive or negative reactions when interacting in creative groups at work, in personal or family relationships. Coaching can help speakers decide if their current style may be a problem or is valid based on feedback and outcomes or if they should consider adopting a new style of communication. Selecting a different style is not an easy fix. Styles can change with time, practice, and Effective Coaching, however, both speaker and coach must be prepared to answer the following questions as they begin that journey.

  • When might the speaker want to adjust their communication style?
  • How can an understanding of their communication style improve their interactions with others?
  • How does their preferred communication style impact others as listeners?
  • How can the speaker tailor their communication style to match situational expectations?

When working with speakers, coaches can achieve positive results if both speaker and coach are also mindful of the following. Direct Communicators prefer their coach to get to the point quickly and succinctly. Avoid over-explaining or repeating yourself. Focus on solutions and only provide details when asked. Initiating Communicators value interacting with others and sharing stories. Allow them time for socializing by creating a friendly, non-threatening environment. Provide time to express feelings and opinions.

Supportive Communicators appreciate a calm, steady approach. Earn trust by providing plenty of reassurance. When seeking their opinions and ideas, encourage them to express their concerns, and allow time to make decisions. Analytical Communicators like facts and figures. They prefer information presented in an organized manner. Be prepared to answer questions. Be patient while they think through and process new information.

Effective Coaching requires the building of an ongoing trusted relationship between speaker and coach. Anyone can provide feedback, but it takes Effective Coaching to elevate a speaker to their next level and beyond. Good coaches can see blind spots and potential that can change a speaker or a speech from the ordinary to the extraordinary.

Let those who choose to be like Columbus be a Columbus. It is all part of the journey. Let them go out and test their feedback. With those experiences, they too will learn, it takes an Effective Coach and Effective Coaching to see the unseen, to think the unthinkable and to try the untried with confidence. And, I do believe that when both coach and speaker realize the value of understanding different Communication Styles and the priceless value of Effective Coaching, they too will come to believe that with honesty, time and patience, all speakers are indeed coachable.

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