Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Speaking with Spark by Dr. Chuck Wall

This is the final segment
of a special multi-part series
by Dr. Chuck Wall—president
and founder of Random Acts
of Kindness.


Thinking about a 20-minute speech can be a bit intimidating and cause considerable heartburn as you try to prepare it. I have found an easy way to get started that takes much of the stress out of speech preparation.

Don’t think of a 20-minute speech, but of three smaller speeches. One is a 2½-minute speech called “The “Introduction.” The second is a 15-minute speech called “The Body of the Speech,” and the third is a 2½ minute speech called “The Conclusion.”

In brief, the Introduction tells the audience what you plan to tell them. The Body of the Speech tells them. The Conclusion tells them what you told them.

Be careful not to introduce material in the Introduction that you do not plan to discuss in the Body of your speech. You might say, “For centuries, pottery has been a common gift from those who possess such skills. In my presentation today I will describe some of the types and shapes of pottery that I make and give as gifts to friends and family. My pottery is based upon centuries old designs which I would like to share with you today.”

You have now vocalized what you plan to discuss, and you’d better do just that or once again you have deceived your audience. I make a point of this because I have heard many speakers tell their audience what they plan to speak about in their introduction and then never mention the topic again. If you carefully craft your introduction, the rest of the speech becomes quite easy as you are now merely following through with what you said you want to talk about.

I like to use the “Three Points” rule when preparing a speech. The audience can usually stay with you if you present three distinct issues during your 15-minute Body segment. Try to introduce too many topics, and your audience will become confused and lost in the details.
You probably have a good idea what specific information you want your audience to carry away with them. But have you organized your ideas in such a way that you will stay on track with the information you wish to share? This brings up the issue of speech notes.


Do not use standard writing paper, which is prone to rattle, wrinkle and slide away just as you are trying to figure out what you meant to say next. A better idea is to invest in 5 x 7 index cards with no lines at least on one side and preferably no lines at all. You will be writing across the 5-inch width rather than following lines across the 7-inch width of the card. Why? Because if you write on the 7-inch width, you are tempted to write sentences or write down far more information than is necessary for a 20-minute speech.

Why is that a problem? Where there are sentences, there is also a tendency to want to read those sentences. No one can read a speech and make it sound natural. Ronald Reagan came close, but still didn’t quite succeed.

When preparing your notes, bear in mind the three parts to your speech: the Introduction, the Body of the Speech and the Conclusion. Therefore, use three note cards. On the first card use green ink. On the second card, use blue ink and red for the third card. Yes, rest assured there is a method to what sounds like arbitrary madness. These colors are a code. With the green card, you are just starting; blue has you in the body of your talk; and the red card is your conclusion – time to wind things up.

Print your notes, making the words large enough so you do not have to squint or look down and lose eye contact with your audience. Notes should be just that – notes, not complete thoughts. Leave out words that will not trigger thoughts.

For instance, the words, “Now let me describe for you…” have no place on a note card. Instead use key words that are central to your point. Words such as “ancient wheels” and “electric wheels” will do fine if you are describing how potters’ wheels have changed over the centuries. Other key words (keeping our theme in mind) might be “candle holders,” “fruit bowls,” and “coffee mugs.” Each of these thought joggers would be on a separate line, and would remind you of the various pottery items you like to give as holiday gifts.

On the blue ink card which describes the body of your talk, number your points to be made in the left hand column. This keeps you on track with the sequence you wish to follow. Write on only one side of your note cards, so you won’t get lost turning them over and lose your place. As soon as you have completed one card, remove it from the podium. Put the card on the shelf below or on the table next to the podium. This will keep you focused on the specific points you want to emphasize, without being distracted by cards you’re no longer using.

Now it is time to do the one thing many speakers think they do not need to do, and that is PRACTICE.
That’s all, folks! Dr. Wall has some great suggestions on rehearsing your speech. He also talks about presentation, using your voice to best effect, details to think about, and providing contact information for your audience. But if you want to take advantage of his vast experience, you’ll have to purchase Speaking with Spark. It’s only $5.95, and worth every penny. Follow this link to get your copy.

Dr. Chuck Wall is a published author, lecturer and motivational speaker in the fields of communications, stress management, employee motivation, leadership and "random acts of kindness."

Even though he is blind, Dr. Wall does not consider himself disabled, but merely must spend extra time dealing with one of life’s little nuisances.

Learn more about Random Acts of Kindness and/or purchase Speaking with Spark—a 53-page spiral bound booklet jam-packed with speaking hints.


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