Wednesday, December 2, 2009

week 14, part 2: Expanding your message

As she's rethinking her message, Stephanie wondered how to take that basic set of three key points and expand them into longer-format talks. Since a message is an outline, at heart, you can approach the challenge one of two ways:

  • Starting from scratch: If you don't yet know your three key points, and are starting from scratch, write down every fact, quotation, data point, story or example you can think of about your topic--then group them into categories. You may want to eliminate some points if they don't fit well with the others, or save them for another talk. Once you've settled on your points and can see ways to make three groups out of them, develop your message around those three categories. The detailed points are what you'll use to expand the talk; the short statement of your message points is the shortest version of your talk.
  • If you already have a message, as Stephanie does, your brainstorming can be more focused. Her message is about what it takes to face your fear of public speaking: Focus, frequency and faith in yourself. For each of those categories, she'll need to research facts, anecdotes, examples (from her own life or from popular culture) and persuasive points that will underscore and put her message across in a convincing way.

Let's take that example further: If Stephanie wanted to expand on her point about focus, she might look up some quotes about focus or single-minded pursuit of a goal or persistance--all similar qualities (follow the links to see examples). A quotation that underscores her point, plus a story or example from her own life or the life of an inspirational figure who overcame great odds or a speaking challenge, taken together, would help her expand on the points she's already included in her message -- not replace them, but in addition to them.

Other ways to expand on your points include:

  • Posing common questions your audience may have on that point
  • Describing common objections or concerns that are related
  • Asking the audience whether they've encountered something similar
  • Talking about a time when you failed to take this step and what happened
  • Talking about what happened when you followed this advice and succeeded
  • Describing your own emotions, concerns and perspective

It's also important, when expanding your message, to be sure you can stay within a specific time limit. If you're just starting out, as Stephanie is, don't expand too far. Start with a short talk of 10 to 15 minutes, get comfortable, then expand further as you need to.

Related posts: Stephanie's week 12 message

Making a message: Using analogy

Glue to make your message stick

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week 14: using speed wisely and well

In week 14 of our Step Up Your Speaking program, Stephanie focused on her message once more, and asked a question about the speed with which she's speaking. My video offers some thoughts on using pacing--speaking fast or slow--as a way to emphasize particular points in your presentation or speech, as well as some thoughts on why you might be speaking too fast. (If nervousness is your reason, check out the links below for suggestions to help you focus on that factor.)

I promised Stephanie a list of tools she can use to create emphasis in her speaking delivery. Here are four:
  1. Pacing: Slowing your pace can emphasize a series of words--that might mean a list, your most important points taken together, or the last line of a dramatic story--or an important phrase or conclusion. You can also use it when you're asking questions or raising issues ("Should she take the job....wait for a better offer...or try another route?") during your presentation. Slowing down allows your point to sink in; speeding up increases the energy and your visible enthusiasm. Aim for a balance, but know in advance where, when and why you are varying your speed.
  2. Vocal variety: Changing the tone of your voice, raising it higher or lower, or "punching" particular words to emphasize them (as in "I don't WANT to do this, so I'll WAIT to do it") also can help you call attention to words or phrases, and also helps you keep the audience attention. Check out these vocalizing tips from an NPR intern.
  3. Gestures: Research shows that gestures, in combination with spoken words, can enhance your audience's understanding of what you're putting across in a speech or presentation. As with all these emphasis tools, plan them and use them judiciously.
  4. Messaging tools: The same tools you use to make a message memorable--alliteration, analogy or references to popular culture--also can help you emphasize particular themes or make them easier to recall.

You can combine these different emphasis tools if you really want to put a point across. In Stephanie's message, she uses alliteration to describe three factors in facing fear of public speaking: Focus, frequency and faith. The alliteration is a subtle emphasis, and she can make it stronger by popping each of those words vocally to emphasize them even more; by gesturing; and by slowing down for each keyword.

Related posts: Vocalizing tips from an NPR intern

Speed's one assumption speakers make. Should they speak as they normally do?

Slowing down for enunciation and clarity

See Stephanie's week 12 video delivering her message

For the nervous speaker: When the speaker needs to catch her breath