Quick and Dirty Speech Making – Part 1
Learn how to create an engaging and interesting speech in six steps.
Have you ever been face to face with a blank piece of paper? Stressing out because the clock is ticking closer and closer to your presentation deadline … wondering when all your creative juices are going to kick in?
You’re not alone.
As a coach, I created a quick and dirty technique, to help my clients create interesting and engaging speeches. It works really well for things like self-introductions, best man speeches, and eulogies and even for corporate motivational talks, but it doesn’t work for every topic. Still, it’s a good technique to master because the basic elements in this model are also part of more complex techniques.
Today’s episode is the first of a two-part program called, The Public Speaker’s Quick and Dirty Speechmaking. This approach has six steps and uses personal stories and examples as the foundation. It’s very simple. And the best part is that the stories make the speech very easy to deliver and fun to listen to.
You might want to try this technique as I explain it. Like most things, it gets easier with practice.
Step One - Brainstorm Descriptive Adjectives
So, the first step is to take out six pieces of paper—that’s right, exactly six. Go ahead, hit pause, I’ll wait. Oh, don’t forget to grab a pen.
On the first piece of paper, write down the main topic. If it’s a best man speech write the name of the groom, if it’s a project at work, write down the project name.
Next, you’ll need a timer. You can use your cell phone or a watch. Set it for exactly two minutes.
Until the timer beeps, write down as many descriptive adjectives for your topic that you can think of. For example, my topic is John, so I might write, energetic, magnetic, passionate, determined, strong-willed, motivated, compassionate, silly, frail…you get the idea, you’re just listing descriptive adjectives.
Remember, you’re brainstorming. Please don’t edit any ideas, not yet. If you think it, write it. Don’t say, ”Nah, I can think of something better.” The idea is to write down as many adjectives as you can in the two minutes. Think of it as a contest. The more you write the better.
When your time is up, circle the “best” three words from your list. What do I mean by the best? Well, the ones that are the most interesting. The ones that might be a little unusual or unexpected. The ones that communicate the most. The ones that appeal to you. You’ll know.
Step Two - Defining Your Descriptive Adjectives
Next, take each of the three descriptive adjectives that you just picked and write each of them, separately, on a piece of paper. So continuing my example, I might write “motivated” on one paper, “compassionate” on another and “strong-willed” on the third piece.
Next, either underneath or next to each of the adjectives, you’ll need to complete the following sentence:
To me the word (blank) means...
So sticking with my example, I would write, “To me the word motivated means…”
The idea is to create your own definition for the word.
It’s really important that you use your own words to define the term, but feel free to use a dictionary if you’d like some help.
One big secret to great speeches is to remember to create the speech for the ear not for the eye. Choose words that are short, simple, and have as few syllables as possible. Make your sentences short. You can include a longer sentence here and there for variety, but most sentences should be short. Use contractions; because that’s the way we speak. Use 10-cent words over 50-cent words. For example, “on” is better than upon and “find out” is better than “ascertain.”
Be brief. The main idea of this second step is to create unique, personal definitions that are listener friendly.
So, getting back to my example. I might write, “To me the word motivated means taking action, going the extra mile, especially when you really don’t want to.”
Of course, you’ll need to create definitions for each of the three adjectives.
Step Three – Telling Your Stories
For step three, you’ll need your timer again. You’ll also need a way to record yourself. Just use one of those small digital recorders or use the web. Utterz.com is a good resource.
For each of your adjectives give yourself three or four minutes. This time you’ll brainstorm stories and examples that illustrate why or how these words apply to your topic.
When you do this step, it is very important to just blurt out whatever comes to your mind. You’re not writing the story, you’re talking, you’re recording. The idea is to tell your story, even part of a story, as long as it makes sense to you, that’s all that matters right now. Don’t worry about the wording details, you’re just trying to capture as many stories as you can.
Some people really struggle with this step. Because they think a “story” is some long complicated thing. And I’ve found, that for them, it’s sometimes helps to view this step as a sentence completion game.
[[AdMiddle]For example, (remember that you are saying this aloud), “I know that John was “motivated” because...” or “I know this was true because…” The idea is to complete the sentence by telling a story or giving an example.
In my example, I would say, “I know John was motivated because he went to graduate school even though he was terminally ill.” “I know he was motivated because instead of feeling sorry for himself, he got involved in community education, oh, and also he got involved in fund raising.”
Notice, I am not giving a ton of details, just enough to remind myself of the story I could tell. Again, the desired outcome of this step is to come up with options. If you can only think of one example or one story, that’s OK. But try to come up with alternatives so that you can choose the best story that you’ve got.
Again, don’t get hung up with the wording; you’re going to refine the stories in the next step. Don’t forget, you’ll need to brainstorm stories and examples for each of the adjectives you picked.
If for some reason, you just can’t come up with a story, just choose another adjective from your original list. Once you have stories for each of your words, then pick the best story for each.
OK, let’s review the process. Step one: choose your topic and brainstorm a list of descriptive adjectives. Step two: choose the best three words and create personal definitions for each of them. Step three: record your stories that are examples for each of these adjectives.
Next week, we’ll continue and complete the process. You’ll learn how to refine your stories. Then you’ll learn how to create the beginning and the ending. And of course, the final step will cover how to deliver the talk. So, listen for The Public Speaker’s Quick and Dirty Speech Making – Part 2.
This is Lisa B. Marshall. Passionate about communication, your success is my business.
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