A skilled speaker who understands performance knows that sometimes, you say more when your mouth is shut! Photo credit Grantley Gibbons
Womenlines takes pleasure to welcome Michel Neray, a professional speaker, consultant and founder of momondays as a guest Influencer on Womenlines panel, sharing his expert knowledge related to public speaking with Womenlines readers. Michel has helped thousands of individuals craft and perform ‘purposeful’ stories to become more effective leaders, salespeople, coaches, teachers, trainers, speakers, and influencers of all types. He also uses Purposeful Storytelling to more effectively differentiate, position and brand organizations in the market. In this article, Michel is sharing about the importance of writing down your speech and how to improve its delivery-
Some speakers never write anything down. As a consequence, they often appear as if they are winging it. They tend to go over time, ramble, or repeat their points unnecessarily and have three endings when one would have been more powerful. (Watch yourself on video if you don’t think this applies to you.)
If you never write anything down, you don’t give yourself the benefit of having your words and ideas stare you in the face — and you don’t get the opportunity to evaluate the emotional flow or logic of what you are actually saying, let alone refine key, memorable phrases or cut out entire paragraphs that don’t add value.
On the other extreme, some speakers meticulously write their entire talk out, and then read it or memorize it verbatim. That’s not a good idea either.
Here’s why… unless you are a skilled scriptwriter, with years of experience in writing for the spoken voice, chances are you write the way you were taught to write… complete with proper grammar and sometimes clever sentence constructions.
But you see, we listen differently than how we read, and we speak differently than how we write.
- When we write, we tend to add multiple, colourful and flowery adjectives before the noun or verb-like I just did here — which makes it challenging for a listener to keep track of what it is you are actually describing.
- When we read, our eyes scan back and forth constantly to improve comprehension. But, when we listen to someone speaking, we can only make sense of the phrase one sequential word at a time.
- When you speak in natural conversation, you probably mix, in short, truncated half-sentences or exclamations, which just look ‘wrong’ when written down.
- When you read, your eyes look down instead of being engaged with your audience, and you lose opportunities to add body language, facial expressions, hand gestures and act-outs — all the things that elevate your talk to a powerful performance.
- When you recite from memory, you may be able to train yourself to look at the audience, (if you are a skilled actor), but chances are your attention will be focused inside your head instead of in the moment.
Skilled performers know that we can often say more when we keep our mouth shut. But how do you write non-verbal communication into your talk?
Learn the ‘Chunk Trick’ and lose the notes.
In my moSpeaker masterclasses, I teach a technique I call the ‘Chunk Trick’. Truthfully, it’s not so much a trick as it is a 5-step process for outlining, editing, rehearsing, and engraining the flow in your memory!
Here’s how to chunk your talk:
- Write out each distinct chunk of your talk (whether it’s a keynote, presentation or workshop) on separate index cards;
- Label each chunk with a title or key phrase;
- Play with your chunks by moving them around, identifying missing chunks and eliminating chunks that don’t add value;
- Look for spots where you could add humour, performance-based act-outs, memorable phrases, and bridges between chunks;
- Combine all the chunk labels on a single index card, and then using that one card as your only crib sheet.
OK, there’s a bit more to it than that, but hopefully, you get the idea. Chunking helps you develop story flexibility, refine your talk to the essential elements, visualize the audience journey, take a ‘whole body’ approach to your performance, nail your opening and your close, and perhaps most importantly, combine the benefit of writing with the power of performance.