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Developing The Speaker Within You: Don't Lose The Plot, Or The Audience

April 10, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 148

I'm sure we have all sat through one of those addresses where the audience was left wondering just where is this speaker going? Or worse, after the event asking what was that all about?

Usually this is caused by either the speaker losing their way with the presentation, or, failing to take the audience on the journey with them.

It should be obvious to all that it is essential to have a core plan, a theme, a message and stick to it, making sure that we don't deviate too far from this central core of our message as we deliver it. That we don't lose the plot along the way.

OK, I know, sometimes the strategy of a speaker is to keep the audience in suspense until just the right moment, maybe right at the end and then, suddenly, all is revealed.

But that is a different thing to what I am writing about now. What I am referring to are those occasions where the speaker wanders around and gets so far off their theme that the whole message is lost. Or, perhaps they continually change course throughout the address onto seemingly different subjects, such that the audience is left wondering where are we going now?

No matter how diverse our content may be for an address, there must be a central strategy that we continually reference from start to finish. That way the audience can relate to where we are, and the direction we are taking them.

After all, constructing and delivering a successful address or speech is really no different to going on a journey. The keys are to know where am I now, where am I going, and how am I going to get there.

First, it is important for a speaker to know what they are trying to convey to their audience. To have a game plan. To be able to see strategically, from beginning to end how it is all going to come together. If the speaker can't visualize this themselves, there is little chance that the audience are ever going to get it.

It is equally important for the speaker to continually keep in mind the destination they are taking their audience to. Focus, is key to making it all work in harmony.

To use another analogy, I sometimes liken a speech plan to a tree, where the trunk can be seen all the way from the ground to its lofty heights. The trunk here represents the central theme of an address.

All along the way as we run our eyes up the trunk there are branches that stretch out from the trunk. But these branches only go so far before they end. Just like any example or thought that we explore in a well designed speech. They all end, even though they are intrinsically attached to the main theme.

To go higher we then have to fix our attention on a higher branch, which will also only take us so far, before it ends. Ultimately, our attention is fixed on the very top of the tree, the crown, the pinnacle of our attention.

A good speech is designed just like this. There is a central theme, upon which the whole delivery depends. There may be multiple thoughts, branches if you will, all of which only reach so far from the trunk before they end.

If however, we continue running along a tree branch without stopping, well, the outcome is obvious: sooner or later we will crash. Just so, within any well structured address, our thoughts on a particular example or idea do have to end, lest we crash.

At all times the object is to take our audience to the top of the tree, our theme, or message.

Our thoughts and examples, like the branches in this analogy must be connected to the trunk, and by extension to each other to survive, always.

At this point some speakers simply get lost. Their points are not clearly related to the central theme, or not in any conceivable order. The audience then cannot follow where the speaker is going and begins to wonder where is this going?

Some keys to success in this area are:

Be sure to have a single, clear purpose or theme for our address. And continually reference that with our thoughts as we progress. Write it down in advance, and rehearse it.

Be very clear in our own mind where we are going, for if our message is unclear to ourselves, it will certainly be invisible to the audience.

Don't have too many illustrations or dot points if we are using PowerPoint, and be sure they are really, clearly relevant. Otherwise, we increase the risk of confusing, or boring (or both) our audience. It is not good to have our audience studying their watches to see if they have stopped.

Be sure to incorporate clear bridges or links to tie our material together. This will assist our audience to stay on the journey with us.

Of course, be careful not to run over time. This can lead an audience to wonder if the speaker really knows where they are going.

Never find ourselves in the position of having to apologize to our audience for going over time. And of course, avoid the trap of telling our audience just two more points to go, or just a few minutes more.

Never, ever repeat this line a second time. All credibility disappears when a speaker does this.

Put simply, a well designed, well structured and well delivered address will ensure that we don't lose the plot, or the audience and we get our message across.

Neil Findlay is an active writer and public speaker, and serves as a director or chair of multiple corporate and not-for-profit boards. For further information view his website at

Source: EzineArticles
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