Friday, April 20, 2012
Do you know what you are saying?
I know, it seems a silly question to ask a speaker if they really know what they are saying. The trouble is, some speakers don't spend enough (or indeed any) time planning precisely what message they are trying to deliver. They speak well, they entertain, and they may even get a huge round of applause, but when the audience filters out, are they speaking about the memorable message they received, or are they just saying "good speech"?
I've heard people complain that their speaking slot is cut from 40 minutes to 30 minutes. "That's not enough time to get my message across" they say. Try telling that to the organisers of TED.com, where 20 minutes represents a speech that over-runs. You should be able to summarise every speech you hear, and therefore every speech you deliver, in a sentence or two. That should always be your starting point when you sit down to prepare. It may take half the preparation time, but that's fine. It's important to get it right.
If you have concerns about delivering a speech to a particular audience, or you're unsure what to say, perhaps you're not the right person for that event. A true professional will only deliver a message to an audience that they believe will understand it and benefit from it. As William Jennings Bryan put it "The speech of one who knows what he is talking about and means what he says - it is thought on fire"