“90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.” ~ Somers White
When does a speech begin? Answer: The moment you get the assignment. That’s when you begin the research and the planning for what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it. Great public speaking doesn’t just happen. A great presentation starts with a solid thesis statement and a well-thought-out outline. Investing the time upfront to develop a thesis and an outline will pay big dividends when you step to the microphone for your presentation.
I first saw legendary comedic actor Don Knotts present this hilarious “hero” speech in the above movie clip when “The Ghost and Mr. Chicken” debuted in 1966. I was only 6 years old but even then I could clearly understand how scary it would be to have to go onstage to speak with the entire town looking at you. This movie continues to be one of my all-time favorites and the “hero” speech continues to resonate with me all these many years later.
There are so many mistakes Knott’s character, Luther Heggs, makes in this speech: his poor attempt at humor, his loose leaf script blows away, he has a heckler, the microphone has feedback issues, and he doesn’t know how to stand or how to control his nervous energy. But one thing saves this speech from being an unmitigated disaster: authenticity. Luther Heggs is who he is. His transparency and sincerity shine through in this speech and throughout the movie. He’s genuine and therefore credible. Audiences are very forgiving of mistakes made by sincere speakers. (Spoiler Alert: He beats out a slick rival and gets the girl in the end because of his authenticity.)
Authenticity always has been important in speech-making (and in fact in all communications) but it is even more important in the Digital Age. We’ve grown tired and beyond skepticism of overproduced, slick presentations as evidenced by the success of reality TV, SnapChat, and YouTube. The message that resonated with movie audiences in 1966 that still resonates today is this: be yourself. Atta boy Luther!
How do you deliver a well-organized and powerful presentation without reading from a bunch of notes? Answer: Memorize your speech outline, not a script. Memorizing your outline will help you stay on point and allow you to deliver your presentation hands-free.
Every presentation should have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. There are many sub-components you could add to each of those sections. Following is a sample speech outline that works for many types of presentations.
Sample Speech Outline
Hook (attention grabber)
Verbal Roadmap: “Today we are going to talk about three key points …”
Summary: “Here’s what we covered today …”
Call to Action: “I challenge and encourage you to …”
Outcome: “And when we do this together, we will all live in a better world.”
By learning to speak unscripted, you will look more natural, be more compelling, have more credibility, and exude more confidence. And when you do, you will deliver more persuasive presentations.
Few of us are ever going to find ourselves at a podium ready to deliver a major speech to thousands of people. But all of us communicate every day in countless ways. How well we communicate in everyday situations makes a big difference in how successful we are in our professional and personal lives. Studies show that communication is the No. 1 business skill for business leaders.
If you think about it, life is a series of presentations. You are always presenting yourself. Most of your presentations are unscripted and most of them are intended to be persuasive. You want to make a favorable impression and you want your audience to see things your way. Making a good impression starts with the basics — things like shaking hands, introducing yourself, and exchanging business cards. The art of persuasion is often best done in the form of storytelling, perhaps the most powerful way to communicate.
When done correctly, everyday business interactions can have a powerful effect. But few people have ever been taught how to master these simple but powerful business basics. And most people underestimate the importance of these interactions and settle for “good enough.” As a result, their names are quickly forgotten, their business cards get tossed away, and their poorly constructed stories are ignored.
However, mastering ordinary business situations can have extraordinary results on your career. This blog, and the workshops and personal coaching sessions we offer are designed to help you gain the confidence to speak up and discover the skills to stand out in all situations. Our hope is to create a supportive community here where we can learn from each other and cheer each other on. We’ll offer easy-to-remember tips, tricks, and techniques that you can apply right away. In return, we want to hear your comments, suggestions, and personal experiences. Please join us by signing up for our email list. This just might be a small start to something big!