Better public speaking pt3: Content

Written by Nick Gold on 8 May 2017

In this short series of blogs, Nick Gold, Managing Director of market-leading speaker bureau and consultancy, Speakers Corner, offers expert advice and top tips on how to hone your public speaking skills to ensure you give a speech which the audience remembers for all the right reasons. This week he addresses content.

Own your speech. Whether you have written the words yourself or a speech writer has, when you are on stage, they are your words. The stories you are telling are always built on the backbone of lessons learned, so deliver them from the heart to ensure the messages contained are made clear.

I am regularly asked which speakers I recommend, or who delivers great content; my answer to this is comedians. A comedy set typically goes off on many tangents. When considering audience interaction and current affairs, the same set will be completely different each day, yet the key points and important punchlines always remain constant. 

Any speaker can lead by this example, and know their ‘punchlines’ or key parts of the speech, where they deliver real value to the audience. These are the parts which will stay with the delegates, long after the detail of the stories have faded.

Performing the speech on a stage is the only true way that you can receive feedback about which parts of the content worked and which didn’t capture the audience’s attention.

Practise and develop the content over time. The speech that you originally wrote and delivered should never be the same speech 12 months, or even 12 days later. Performing the speech on a stage is the only true way that you can receive feedback about which parts of the content worked and which didn’t capture the audience’s attention.

Make sure, while delivering the speech, somewhere in the back of your mind you are paying close attention to the sections in which the audience seem to sit up a little bit more, put down their phones or generally seem more engaged.

I would suggest that more often than not, these elements are not the funniest or the most dramatic parts, but are the content areas where you, as the speaker, are feeling most comfortable with the subject matter. 

Developing what I call ‘content blocks’ will allow you to create bespoke speeches for an audience which are actually a set of stories which have been fitted together to form a coherent and different speech. By breaking down your subject matter into distinct blocks, you are allowing yourself completely mastery over each individual story, which in turn will result in supreme confidence in the content you are delivering.

This flexible approach will then allow you tailor your speech to any company, whilst also having confidence in your messages. Importantly, you are delivering a bespoke piece whilst also honing tried and tested content which you feel comfortable delivering. 

Finally, and one of the most important aspects of content is that it is important to remember we are visual people. If you are using slides, use them to complement your speech, they should not contain the body of your speech.

Make sure the slides are visually impactful and instantly memorable, but can be understood in ‘one second’ glances. The aim is to ensure they don’t take over the body of content. The slides are accompaniments, and not integral tools, they should be there only to prompt the narrative arc.

If the audience are spending too long studying the slides as there is so much information on them, they are no longer focussed on the delivery of the speech. If this happens, the speaker can fall foul of only delivering a small part of the overall experience and messages to the audience.


About the author

Nick Gold is managing director of market-leading speaker bureau and consultancy, Speakers Corner


Read more from Nick here

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