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.

Impromptu Speaking

Listen for keywords, then let your inner voice silently confirm!

Impromptu, Table Topics, or speaking off–the–cuff are opportunities all speakers will not be able to avoid.  From time to time, you’ll be called upon to say a few words when you least expect. Call it whatever you will, every speaker should develop their impromptu speaking skills.

Many spontaneous speaking opportunities occur inside or outside your workplace – Table Topics contests, social events, or even conversing with your spouse and kids. In almost every aspect of daily life, impromptu speaking opportunities occur. However, if you seize every moment to speak, your improvisational skills will improve and someday pay huge dividends.

 You may ask how do you prepare for moments and questions which you cannot predict? The trick is to avoid trying to expect or anticipate those moments. Instead, it is best to practice being in the moment and using skills you have developed over the years to stay ready. Use life stories and experiences that brought you to where you are at presently. Also, work on your listening skills. A well-delivered response depends significantly on how well you listen.

Listen for keywords, then let your inner voice silently confirm. what you heard. Before you begin to answer, let that inner voice direct you as you deliver your response with confidence and a style that represents who you are as a speaker. Be authentic. Don’t fight the feeling – that’s a battle you will lose. Show your appreciation for the question with body language.

Before you begin to answer or state your position, pause. A smile will help to break the ice with your audience. It’s also a perfect way to establish a connection with your audience. There is no time penalty for pausing and smiling once it is not overdone. Avoid pleasantries. They are unnecessary – Get to the point. Restate or paraphrase the question to your audience. If possible, tag your opening with a bit of subtle humor.   Quick wit is a plus; especially in Toastmasters Table Topic competitive settings. Remember your allotted time is only 3 minutes and 30 seconds. After 3 Min and 30 Sec, you are disqualified.

  • Green at two minutes,
  • Yellow at 2:30
  • Red at 3 minutes. 30 seconds grace period.

For that reason, I recommend you use the KISS approach. Keep It Succinct and Straightforward.  Always leave yourself some time to summarize. Then, sell your answer with your summary. To stay focused on the topic, you can use a formula.  Many excellent samples are available for all different types of questions. Stay with the rule of threes as you create your formulas to gain experience with different types of questions.  Here are some examples. In all of the following examples the speaker should summarize to close:

  • PRE: Point Reason Evidence
  • WAG: Where I was, where I am, Where I am going.
  • CER: Cause – Effect – Remedy
  • PPF: Past – Present – Future

Mark Twain once said it usually takes him three weeks to write a good impromptu speech. Although Twain makes a good point, I believe it takes a lifetime of experiences to stand before an audience without rehearsal to speak confidently.  Whether you are an experienced speaker or your first time on the platform, remember you are delivering just a few words and not a lecture. Those few words should have an opening, body, and conclusion. Sounds familiar – however, it’s the words you choose and deliver that will make all the difference. 

Stand and deliver impromptu speeches with confidence by following the basic rules of public speaking. Never apologize, do not ramble, be authentic, and be in the moment. Sell your point with your summary. Don’t wait to be chosen; don’t wait to be called. Raise your hand.  Stand and deliver, and soon you will master the most helpful public speaking skill all speakers must excel at – Impromptu, off-the-cuff speaking.

Better Living Through Chemistry

A patient cured is a customer lost.

Pain management has become a major part of my daily living. In my youth, I too fell for that old saying, no pain, no gain. However, today, I have taken comfort in the fact that where there is pain, there is life. Recently I have taken an interest in natural remedies for my pain management. So, when I heard the following speech delivered by Deanne Deaville at her Morgan Hill Toastmasters Club, which I often attend, I asked, can I post your speech to my Blog? She obliged, and here it is – Better Living Through Chemistry – Deanne Deaville:

For hundreds of years, traditional herbalists worldwide knew that if someone was in pain, whether it be from a muscle sprain, a broken bone, or maybe something internally, they could go to a willow tree, pull off some bark, and make a compress and apply it directly. Or, make a tea to drink.

And if somebody had a lung issue, they could find a cherry tree and pull the bark to make a syrup with other herbs and local honey. Or perhaps someone inadvertently walked through poison ivy or poison oak; a traditional herbalist would know to go back to the same location and find jewelweed, which always grows nearby and is the natural antidote.

But today’s motto is better living through chemistry. It has a nice ring to it, doesn’t it? It sounds like science. Which means it’s efficient, effective, proven. It also gives us the impression that we can do whatever we want, and if something goes wrong, just take a pill for that.

For thousands of years, energy workers, primarily in the far East, knew how to adjust energy. Subtle pressure, using hands, massage, spinal manipulation, needles, also known as acupuncture, would affect the flow of energy through our body through meridian systems that they mapped out thousands of years ago.

Sometimes too much energy is flowing; other times, too little, it’s stagnant or blocked. Qigong, and energy movement, sometimes called meditation in motion, is practiced daily by millions. And many Qigong masters say, if you practice this ancient art of effortless motion for 20 minutes a day, you will live disease-free to 120 years old. That’s a pretty good promise.

But today’s motto is about science. Better living through chemistry. New is better. The new discoveries and what we’ve learned in higher education are better. And they’ve made pills for whatever we might need. For hundreds of years, herbalists traditionally knew how to gather and use herbs, known as wildcrafting, and for thousands of years, energy workers have manipulated the flow of energy.

Today more and more people are interested in these old ways. Why? Because they work. And they work without side effects.  You can go to your doctor and walk away with a pill to help with whatever is ailing you at that moment, but they’re generally many side effects, and then more pills come as a result. Which can then lead to more side effects, more problems. But there’s a pill for that too. It never ends.

There’s always going to be a need for more. Another issue, another symptom. Another pill, another booster. But by now, our culture has been raised in this “better living through chemistry” motto. And you might think that it unfolded naturally and organically became this way through modern ways of life and capitalism. Supply and demand sort of thing. And while there is some truth to that, as that is a machine we have in place in this country, it didn’t begin this way.

In truth, it began over 100 years ago with a guy named Abraham Flexner. He started questioning the validity of universities, specifically in medicine. Instead, he felt they should be more rigorous and more science-based. This caught the attention of the Carnegie Foundation, who then commissioned him to write what is now known as the Flexner report. This report, published in 1910 with the purpose of promoting science in academia.

To promote science-based, evidence-based, chemistry-based treatments for health issues. For example, teaching the mechanistic method of individual parts and treating these with chemistry – drugs – marketed as medicines. And this is the method that was then taught in universities. But, it was new and better, and the future.

This report came out just a few years after the Food and Drug Act was passed in 1906 (later becoming what we now know as the FDA) and a few years after the USPTO was formed. Their rules stated a natural substance on its own, found in plants, could not be patented; however, if the active component of the plant could be isolated, this could be viable for a patent.

Hence, willow-bark would not be allowed to be owned and protected, but aspirin – salicylic acid, the active component – could be, and the Bayer company owned that product. The Flexner report was then heavily promoted and lauded as a better way. Big money went into the funding of these schools like the Harvard school of medicine, Johns Hopkins University. The report also attacked the natural medicine schools.

While promoting the new and better, it also simultaneously discredited other types of health schools, including chiropractic, naturopathic, and homeopathy. It became obvious that if one aspired to be a reputable doctor, one would attend a professional and formal school and not be associated with the other side, which was starting to be known then as quacks. As these other schools got bigger, the natural side of schools and education got smaller. And 100 years later, here we are.

This is about money. Big money. A patient cured is a customer lost.

It is estimated that more than 400,000 people die annually of properly prescribed medications. That’s properly prescribed! As opposed to herbs and natural forms of treatment which virtually do no harm. There was one time, about 15 years ago, I believe a baseball player took a whole bottle of “ma huang,” also known as ephedra.

And, he apparently didn’t drink any water. And he died. So, the FDA banned the herb. They outlawed it. They said it was dangerous. A few others had died previously, although not conclusively as a result of taking this herb, and one known, after taking it incorrectly. As opposed to more than 400,000 dying every year.

Decade after decade from properly prescribed medications. Add to this person who do not take prescription medicines correctly. Maybe they didn’t remember if they took their meds this morning, so they take another or even over-the-counter drugs which are abused regularly, such as Tylenol. And the opiate crises, highly addictive poisons… Then add to these medical mistakes; this is by far the greatest cause of death every year in this country, by many times over. 

The slogan better living through chemistry came from a marketing campaign by Dupont chemical company in 1935. Their ad stated, “better things for better living through chemistry.” Marguerite Adelman said about this ad, “the slogan had little to do with chemistry and more to do with promoting big business as a force for moral good and continual progress.” Moral good… continual progress…..All things that sound desirable and worthy of moving toward as a society.

But will big business really be a force for moral good and continual progress? I believe the way forward is to go back. To go back to traditional methods. And we each have the power and the choice to do so – at least today we do. Preservation of health is easier than the cure for disease.  And in the process, you will feel better. You will have more energy. You’ll enjoy life more. Better living is not through chemistry but by living in accord within the laws of nature.

Deanne Deaville: After an unexpected cancer diagnosis, Deanne turned her non-stop life of chaos to one of thriving and high energy through targeted nutrition and authentic living techniques, which she now teaches to others. She is a best-selling author, healthy lifestyle coach, and workshop facilitator with a formal background in nutrition who helps stressed and overwhelmed professionals gain increased clarity, productivity, energy, and more fulfillment from life. In short, a coach to help you shift your life to one worth living.  You can reach Deanne by email at Coach@HealthyByHeart.com.

The Way to Valhalla

The year was 1924, and Toastmasters officially began.

Toastmasters
Very First Manual

In Scandinavian mythology, there is a place where fallen heroes go to live out their afterlife. That place is called Valhalla. It is a giant hall with over 500 doors guarded by fierce wolves and giant eagles. The ceiling, adorned with gilded shields and swords of the fallen heroes. It is the place they call Valhalla; their heaven,

Dr. Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters, often spoke about finding your way to Valhalla. However, if you were to ask the good doctor of letters to show you the way to Valhalla, he did not point you to places of higher learning or direct you to the best life coaches. Instead, he pointed to your chest, yes, your heart.

You see, he firmly believed that the one sure way to earn a ticket to your Valhalla was through self-improvement. And that there is no better way to self-improvement than through better communication and better leadership. How and when he found his path in life is one I believe every Toastmaster should know.  

Dr.Smedley began his journey to Valhalla in 1903, after graduating from the Wesleyan University in Bloomington, Illinois. He took a job as a Director at the Young Men’s Christian Association: (YMCA). There he observed, that the young men who stayed at the facility could not communicate effectively.

Now I could tell from the smiles on the faces of some of you ladies; you may be saying, tell me something new. But sometimes, it takes a man to make a difference to initiate change. That man was Dr. Smedley, who began inviting those young men to remain after dinner to toast each other. They would then evaluate each toast. The person who delivered the best toast was declared the Toastmaster.

However, that was not the beginning of Toastmasters. The idea quickly attracted other residents to start attending and toasting. Soon, the group became known as the after-dinner club. Between 1903 and 1924, Dr. Smedley was transferred and promoted again and again.  

Everywhere he was stationed, he continued his journey, starting one of those “After Dinner Clubs” In 1915, he was the Director in San Jose, California. However, the idea did not take roots until club number one started in Santa Ana, California. The year was 1924, and Toastmasters officially began. And in 1932, Dr. Smedley created the Federation.

By 1941, realizing the Toastmasters organization needed full-time attention, Dr. Smedley resigned from the YMCA and started yet another stage of his journey. He continued his mission until his passing in 1965 at the age of 87. Today the tradition of toasting has advanced to include eloquent speeches and helpful evaluations.

The Federation has gone from those after-dinner rooms resembling banquets halls to even meeting virtually. Yet, ironically, the most asked question by people calling the organization’s head office is, do you sell toasters? The answer with a smile is always;” Toastmasters is where leaders are made!”

Club Number One continues to exist as a testimony to Dr. Smedley’s life’s mission. His way to Valhalla was a long and winding road, but he never wavered. If you were ever to visit his club number one, you would notice an empty chair at the front of the room. That chair stands as a constant reminder to everyone present that the founder is gone but not forgotten. And that we are all on the same journey to our Valhalla.

Toastmasters have grown to be world leaders in the advancement of Communication and Leadership from those humble beginnings. Valhalla is “the road less traveled.” It is a highway filled with many peaks and valleys. However, if you take one small step to help others find their path in life each day, just like Dr. Ralph Smedley did, you too will be well on the way to your Valhalla.

Storytelling

Your once upon a time is now!

Do you remember the first time you heard the words “once upon a time”? Who was that storyteller? What was their story? And how about you? Is your story still being written, or will it someday just be told. Why wait to be the sage on the stage. Those days are over. No one can tell your story better than you. Your once upon a time is now. And while we should never let the truth get in the way of a good story, if you keep your truths in the middle of your account, you will always have an attentive audience. With a basic understanding of what it takes to tell stories effectively, you can captivate any audience with your storytelling. 

When you’re an authentic storyteller, audiences will happily take a trip with you down memory lane. Every successfully told story begins with a plot. Your plot is your “what” of the story. It is the foundation on which you build the story. Also, to engage your audience, you need a “setup.” Your setup transports your audience to a time, place, and event. First, introduce the conflict in your setup that leads your audience to say to themselves – tell me more. I want to know who did what to whom. Then, unveil your story by recalling the narrative in a progression of time. As the event unfolded from weeks, months, or even years ago, make that event come to life as if it were yesterday. 

Every story must have characters. Reveal your characters to your audience with clarity. While characters don’t always have to be a person, it takes a persona or personality to make something or someone your main character: your “who” may be fictional, a real person, or even yourself. When your main character occupies center stage constantly in your story, don’t make yourself the hero. Not a good idea – You can be heroic, but not the hero in your story. When your hero is someone your audience can identify with, or root for, making a solid connection with that audience becomes effortless. Storytelling reminds us that we are all human and share many of the same experiences of our everyday lives.

Telling your story using dialogue instead of a monologue can inspire your audience to get involved as they listen. With dialogue, you receive instant feedback. Dialogue takes your audience back to the time and to the place where your event occurred. The more you involve your audience in your story, the more you will feel like you are collaborating, and not just speaking. The days of the sage on the stage are over. Instead, invite your audience to contribute in real-time to your moment with their reactions. A smile, a gasp, a sigh of relief -their responses validate your story and you, the storyteller.

Storytelling is an art as well as a skill one can develop. It’s like riding a horse or a bicycle. The more you ride, the more you will gain experience. As your balance improves, so too will you. One of the first lessons you will learn as a storyteller is that some stories are better received. All audiences are not the same. When you believe you failed, always remember you never fall from grace when the stories you tell touches the hearts and minds of your audience. Your once upon a time is now. Tell your stories with passion and power, and the more you tell, the more audiences you will hold in the palm of your hands when you master the art of storytelling.  

The Olympics of Public Speaking

Did I take a club speech to Division or a Division speech to the District?

Making it all the way to the World Championship of Public Speaking is the dream of many Toastmasters who enjoy competing.  For some, it is the Olympics of Public Speaking. Many enter the competition for the love of speaking competitively and to develop as a speaker. The lessons learned from their successes and failures serve as reminders of the “dos and don’t” when next they are on the platform. However, for many, it’s the 2nd place finishes that are the hardest. You were so close. What could you have done differently?

Did your journey end at the club level, even though some felt that your speech could have been a winner at the finals at the International contest?   Even more painful, did your end come at the Regionals? Where ever it ended for you, make it your new beginning. The 1990 World Champion David Brooks called 2nd place finishes “The Sting of Silver.” Even before the pain passes, take the lessons learned and start preparing for your next trip to the platforms. Look at what worked and start fixing what didn’t. Your journey to the big stage continues.

A good place to restart is with your topic selection. Was your topic appropriate for the contest level, that room, your audience, and judges? Did you take a club speech to division or a Division speech to the District? That’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight. While you should choose a topic you are passionate about, connecting with your audience should be your primary focus. The topic you choose can decide your final place in your competition. Was your presentation all about you? Did the topic have some universal appeal? These are all questions you should address. 

Coaches always emphasize the importance of establishing a connection with your audience through personal stories and real-life events spun into a unique and powerful speech. Your speech should not be an act. Your results are by far better when you use persuasion and the power of the spoken word effectively to keep your audience engaged. While it’s a tall order for anyone, it is one of the main reasons why there is only one winner annually.

Every World Champion I can remember had a well develop (FS)-Foundational Statement. Your FS is the premise, theme, or message on which a speech is built. For some, it was a carefully worded sentence, a question, or a phrase with a unique connection to their message. That message should be powerful, catchy, memorable, and short enough to fit on the back of a business card. Be concise but also be clear. How you choose to deliver your message is also critical. Remember you are giving your speech to and for your audience.

To achieve your best results, don’t just tell your audience; show them, take them, be descriptive. Use word pictures to convey your message. If a picture paints a thousand words, then paint pictures with your words. Also, check for unanswered questions in your script. Questions can become a distraction to your audience. Answer every question, resolve every conflict, and be always clear to your audience.

Speakers should try to avoid recent events and stories overused by the Internet and social media. Events with varied audience interests, opinions, and topics too big to be delivered completely in five to seven minutes are risky to bring to the platform. If a topic can divide the views of an audience, it will most likely divide the opinions of the judges. Remember, all you have is five to seven minutes. And don’t use the platform for therapy. Let those who have moved on rest in peace. Establish your purpose in the first thirty seconds of your presentation and let that purpose resonate through your speech.

Be sure about what you want your audience to think – feel – or do after hearing your speech. The minute of silence after your address can be the most critical minute for you, your audience, and judges. If they feel compelled to take some action during that minute of silence, you most likely achieved your goal who knows, and you could be the next Toastmasters World Champion of Public Speaking. 

All Speaking is Public Speaking

You cannot unsay what was said

My first speaking coach once said to me, all speaking is public speaking. Whether you are giving a prepared speech, an Impromptu talk, a Table Topic, or even speaking with friends and family, you are public speaking. For that reason; speakers must always choose their words carefully. You can undo what was done, but you cannot unsay what was said. Good public speakers strive to speak with empathy, good tone, and vibe when speaking on or off the platform. They know what you practice, becomes permanent. They also learn and exercise the essentials of good communication. They open with short introductions, followed by the premise of their story, the story, before closing with a summary or conclusion. Their communication is always clear, concise, and engaging.

Table topics are one to two minutes long. Prepared and impromptu speeches are five to seven minutes. Call them whatever you wish; once they have an opening, body, and conclusion with a topic and purpose, they are speeches. And they should always be delivered as such to the audiences you are addressing. When delivering any of the thirteen different types of speeches, if you practice using the same delivery style as you would in your everyday speaking experiences, over time you too will notice a tremendous improvement in your ability to communicate effectively.

Preparation is your key to success as a speaker. Dr. Ralph Smedley, the founder of Toastmasters, often said “A prepared speaker should never be nervous.” However, today speakers must stay prepared. While we should always prepare for any speaking assignment, there will be times when you didn’t get prior notice. That’s when staying prepared pays huge dividends. It is great to have one or two pocket speeches you can deliver at a moment’s notice.  However, here are a few more ideas to help you stay prepared. Keep a list of one, two or three-word topics which you can comfortably speak on, anytime, anywhere. Build and keep a story file from your life experiences. Begin with that single word that is the trigger, which always leads you to reflect on each experience. From that single word, you can build an idea, topic, and story.

Your single word can also lead you to a foundational statement. Next, add one or two related words to develop your topic title. For example: Your first word can be Love.  A related word can be Marriage. You now have your topic title from those two related words: Love and Marriage. Another approach is to use categories: Here are a few: Good Times, Rookie Mistakes, Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. You can also string two related table topics into a single five-to-seven-minute speech. Have fun developing your ideas into topics and titles. Titles also make good openings for your presentations. Don’t make them too complex; make them memorable. If your topic echoes universal experiences, that will prepare your audience for what is to follow. Silently they should be saying, tell me more, tell me more.

When speakers accept that all speaking is public speaking, they will notice significant improvements in their ability to connect with audiences.  It doesn’t matter if they are on or off the platform.  With every opportunity to communicate with others, their confidence grows.  When impromptu speaking, they will feel prepared, because they have stayed prepared. Use your everyday conversations to develop your communication skills. You will notice your transformation into a speaker who can take you on a journey, and not just tell you a story about a journey. Speakers who can bring the person they are off the platform, to the platform, are the ones who speak from the heart, and truly believe that all speaking is public speaking.

Your Natural Speaking Voice

The breath must be under perfect control.

Do you know the sound of your natural speaking voice? If you listened to a short statement read by you and seven of your friends recorded weeks earlier, could you identify which voice was yours? Whenever I listen to some of the great speakers of yesterday and today, I realize how critical it is to find your natural speaking voice. Notice the pitch, range, and timbre of the speakers you admire. They understand the importance of inhalation of air when speaking and the control required in its emission.

Many of us depart from our natural breathing as infants with age and development. We use almost exclusively the upper portion of our lung capacity. To develop proper resonance, flexibility, and vocal beauty, focus on correcting how you breathe and correcting that condition called shallow breathing. How you breathe determines the quality of your natural speaking voice.

Before you can improve your speaking voice, you must recognize it. It is the tone and pitch we all use in our everyday communication. There is no need to look much further. Observe the pitch you would typically default to if you were to start humming. Notice the ease and comfort you feel instead of when trying to hum at a lower or higher pitch. William Shakespeare, the famous English poet, and playwright (1564-1616), said it best. He had this to say about finding your beautiful tone when speaking or singing.

Two factors are necessary: 1.The breath must be under perfect control. 2. You must train your vocal organs to act with unconscious ease. Without proper breath control and freedom of the vocal muscles, a speaker cannot attain a beautiful clear tone of voice.

Once you have found your natural speaking voice, the next steps are development and maintenance. Freedom of the jaw, throat, tongue, and lips are critical areas speakers must develop. It is a slow and disciplined process. Some speakers may require help from a speaking coach to break some of the bad habits perfected over time. Speakers should also notice how their tone and pitch changes when they are on the platform.  It is natural for a speaker’s voice to change if they are nervous, excited, or assertive. Understanding how to use those changes effectively can turn what may be, to some, a liability into an asset when presenting. Start with your natural hum and try changing registers. That is an excellent exercise for beginners to practice moving seamlessly between registers. With soft lips lightly touching, hum a favorite tune. Then recite or read and record a few short sentences. Listen to your recordings. If you want people to listen to you speak, you must be prepared to listen to yourself.

Attention to detail as you practice is of paramount importance. Maintain good posture, proper inhalations, and hum with ease as you practice exercising your vocal muscles. Make sure the lips are soft, barely touching, and loose at the corners. The tongue should lie easily and loosely, with the tip of your tongue lightly touching your lower front teeth. Make sure your throat is free as if you are about to begin yawning. Exercises are useless when performed incorrectly. Those performed once correctly are far more valuable than an exercise done repeatedly while ignoring a single detail. Begin your humming with simple songs, even nursery rhymes.  As you become more proficient with your breathing, step it up to include classical pieces and choruses as your resonance improves. Keep practicing and humming correctly, and you, too, will find that which is native to us all, your natural speaking voice.

Understanding Your Audience

Values Beliefs and Characteristics

How well do you understand your audience?  That is a question all speakers should answer when preparing a presentation. Some may regard presenting TO an audience, rather than FOR an audience as semantics. However, both deliveries are different. When a speaker is preparing FOR an audience, they begin by researching mainly the values, beliefs, and characteristics of the group they will be facing. Speakers should also consider looking into the ages, gender, ethnicity, ability, and membership tenure. Of the group.  It’s also a good idea to start with your point of contact. Prepare a list of questions to understand the topics that will resonate best with that group. Once you have done your homework, you should have a pretty good understanding of what you should prepare FOR that audience.

Delivering TO an audience is a bit different. The speaker may choose a speech to inform, to persuade or to entertain. Similarly as when they are presenting FOR, their understanding of the audience’s makeup will help them determine how much is too much or enough.  Although the speaker’s topic usually is one with which the speaker is familiar or may even be an authority, the speaker’s goal is to connect with that audience. Speakers base their content on their experiences and knowledge. They are offering a slice of their life experiences to you. To diffuse discord, the speaker may use rhetorical questions. Speakers should also rely on their instincts and observations as they decide how to connect with the group they are addressing. A little understanding of the group will often lead to success.

Lifestyle can be an indicator of values, beliefs, and characteristics. Looks are sometimes deceiving. It’s always a good idea to compare your research with your first impressions.  Age, gender, ethnicity, and culture can influence everyone’s ability to relate to some topics. Speak to your audiences’ level of understanding. Audiences don’t like being lectured or preached to unless they planned to attend such an event. Be prepared to cite sources for the information you are presenting. Your delivery will determine how the group is receiving your message.  As you continue your delivery, read the reactions you are receiving from the group in real-time. Know what you want your listeners to think, feel or do after hearing your presentation. If your message is clear, concise, and you-focused, your audience’s understanding will keep increasing as you continue speaking.

If your delivery is all TO or all FOR your audience, that is a recipe for failure.  The goal is to make a connection while switching as you deliver. The speaker can deliver parts of their speech TO the audience and others FOR the audience. Decide where you will do your switching during your preparation. Use reminders in your script for your delivery. One approach that works well is the “speaking one to many” method when switching. The speaker focuses on one audience member. At the same time, everyone receives the messaging as if it was intended for them only. Delivery is where the rubber meets the road. Finally, whether you choose to deliver your presentation TO or FOR your audience, success or failure on the platform depends on how well you understand your audience. This talk was prepared FOR a Pathways-L3 project on Motivational Strategies.

What is Your Purpose

Your purpose statement should be laser-focused on your topic

Every speech must have a clear purpose. I am sure you have heard that said many times. The reasons for speaking, in general, are to inform, persuade, actuate, and entertain. But although those purposes are not mutually exclusive, they can still be treated as individual purposes. However, the speaker should always be very clear about what they want their listeners to think, feel or do after hearing you speak.

Speakers should decide on their purpose or foundational statement on which they will build their speech. As Randy Harvey, the 2018 World Champion of Public Speaking, advises:  “your purpose statement should be laser-focused on your topic and run like a scarlet ribbon through your speech from start to finish.”  A general statement is of little value until reduced to a manageable size – a series of why questions will help narrow your message. The first “why” question should be why that particular subject. The second, why your audience would be interested in listening to you speak on that subject. Third, is it appropriate for that audience and occasion, and can you complete this topic in the allotted time?

As the speaker answers the why questions they have chosen, they should also keep in mind the general purposes for public speaking. Speakers should speak to be heard, understood, and repeated while focusing on the central idea and message.

1. When the purpose is to inform, the speaker must clearly understand their message.

2. If the objective is to persuade, the focus should be on getting your listeners to accept your claims or ideas. 

3. If it is to actuate, you want the focus to be on taking some action. 

4. While the primary focus of speeches to entertain centers on entertaining, amusing, or providing enjoyment to their listeners, humor is discovered when you contradict your audience’s thinking. When your audience expects you to turn left, you go right. 

Selecting a subject about which you already know a thing or two and find out more through research. Whether you are speaking to inform, persuade, actuate, or entertain, natural humor will significantly increase your audience’s attention to the content presented. Speaking from personal experience, we exhibit goodwill, and empathy for the feelings of others increases your credibility. However, your purpose will go a long way in determining the success of your speaking occasion. Your purpose is everything.

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