Thursday, July 8, 2010

Does your speech need Spanx? 5 ways to rein it in

You've tried and tried, but it just won't fit. You can envision it in a smaller size, one that would make you look good, but it keeps spilling over the edges, bulging at the seams. It feels awkward and uncomfortable, but you don't know what to do.

I'm talking about your speech, not your jeans--but the solution may be essentially the same.  You've got to rein it in if you want a good fit.  Here are 5 ways to put some limits on your loquaciousness:
  1. Work with a text.  For the chronically overtime talker, written remarks are the time-honored way to focus and contain your speaking. Just be sure to honor the text (that is, don't stray from it) and time it before you deliver it.
  2. Plan a message.  A good message focuses on three key points--a nimble outline that you can use to organize your remarks briefly or at length.  Go here to see all my posts on developing a message.
  3. Limit your slides.   There are lots of models to follow here. Seth Godin suggests 200 slides in 40 minutes, or 12 seconds per slide.  Business Insider tells startups seeking financing to keep their pitch decks to six killer slides.  Caveat:  Limiting your slides does not mean you can add a five-minute video, 4,000 bullet points or a very small type version of the U.S. Constitution.
  4. Limit your time--severely.  This week saw an online event with 60 speakers using just 60 seconds each, something to try if you really want to test yourself!  See what you can do by cutting your remarks in half, then in half again.  Your audience will be grateful.
  5. Hand over the controls to automate the pace.  Ignite! competitions allow five minutes and 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds.  This takes practice, but there's a reason these approaches are popular with audiences: They keep the pace moving forward, and proscribe the slides and the talking.  You don't need to announce this tactic to your audience, as long as you keep to it.
Related posts:  Speakers: 7 reasons I want you to talk less

This month, I'm asking readers to tell me their answers to the questions "Who are you? What are you looking for here?"  Follow the link to share your reasons, questions and challenges.