Many otherwise brilliant speakers go wonky by not getting their balance and flow right. They talk too long or put emphasis on just one topic leaving no room for any other points in the rest of their talk or try to cram so much info in that the audience can’t remember anything! Balance is all about order and power and getting the flow of your speech just right so that is comprehensible and a power filled way to influence your audience.
What is balance?
- Using the right amount of the right type of information.
- Maximizing content flow for optimal effectiveness.
- Ordering content to add drama so that the audience remembers your key points.
Just like anything else, if you plan well then things will go swimmingly. Speaking without structure is like making a house out of custard. When the form of your speech is wobbling and wavering, you won’t convey the most effective message! Planning the flow of your speech will make your speaking shine!
Managing your flow ISN’T about:
Chaining you to bullet points: When you’ve got a structure for your speech, you don’t have to be obsessive about it. Most times it’s the moments we deviate from our course is when we seem the most human and likeable. Even though you need structure, don’t forget to leave a bit of wiggle room.
Taking away your personality: When you structure a speech, you CANNOT forget about the other pillars of the Public Speaking House – Awareness, Empathy, and Freshness!
A foolproof formula: Different talks has different purposes, so there’s no ONE formula for a perfect speech structure. If that were the case then audiences would revolt and throw tomatoes and demand something more innovative. Imagine how boring it would be to hear the same type of speech over and over! You must be creative with your balance, finding what works for YOU in order to keep the audience absorbed.
Managing your flow can be:
Your best mate: Structure helps you organise so that you don’t have to make snap decisions on stage. Finding a balance is about making it easier for you to make an impact.
Your anchor: A firm centered base on which you can rely, allowing you to improvise yet still come back to your key points.
Your superpower: By creating your crucial moments before you speak, you don’t have to flounder for inspiration while you’re speaking. You already have a plan in place in which you have confidence. When you’ve already made your decision about what’s important, you can truly put your whole self into a powerful moment.
Map out a compelling flow: Figure out where the intensity of your talk should rise and utilise techniques for maximum impact.
The most common flow is the classic ‘Headlines – Content – Headlines’. Like on the evening news, it gives the audience the security of knowing what your talk is going to be about. Many times the conclusion is overlooked in the rush to cover ALL the other material. Don’t do this! That little last 10% is vital to helping your audience understand and remember your message.
Connect the dots!
Show your audience piece by piece how your information connects to your message.
Take your audience on a journey, pointing out interesting features and building excitement for them. Don’t just dump information on them, that’s not much better than reading them a grocery list. If your audience doesn’t feel that your talk is building towards something, they’ll just stop listening.
1) Pick which mountain you’d like to climb. The best speeches have one clear purpose.
2) Prepare your expedition. What do your audience need to know to start walking with you? What will you say to make them trust you?
3) Show them sights on the way. What are the viewing stations? What exciting activities will happen on the way to the summit?
4) Raise the stakes. As you get closer to the summit, keep the tension, the drama, the energy or the interest of the audience by creating contrasts between a problem (or difficulty or ‘evil’) and a solution (or ‘good’).
5) Reach a climax. It could be the information we’ve all been waiting for, a surprise conclusion or the punchline of a joke – the moment where everything comes together
6) Look at the view. Now assert your message – to make the change in the audience that you seek. Ask your audience to do something different as a result of what you’ve experienced together
7) Airlift them home. Finally, don’t leave your audience having to climb all the way back down the mountain – do that and you’ll lose momentum and reduce power from your impact. Get them a helicopter and transport them back home.
Building up intensity is like boiling a kettle – it takes time.
Your flow should gently tease the audience towards your message, giving them the freedom to join you at the peak by choice, not force. Just like low intensity can reduce the impact of your talk, so can ‘in your face-ism’. Too much ‘in your face’ equals the audience feeling like they’re being ‘bossed about’.
A powerful way to build intensity is storytelling. The best speakers often use stories as a powerful tool for demonstrating and bringing to life a key message. It’s one of the best ways to be memorable. And a really juicy story will keep the audience on the edge of their seats… quite literally.
Storytellers usually map out the peaks and drama in their stories so they can keep their readers… reading. Instead of drama, think of it as ENERGY. This can mean many different things:
- motivational speakers leave their audiences feeling empowered ‘I CAN DO IT!’
- company leaders may want to shock their audience ‘We’ve GOT to work harder’
- an event organiser wants to leave the party guests in the mood to party!
If you want your audience to remember the most powerful part of your talk, get to the peak and finish quickly.
A conclusion is very necessary. It’s the moment where inspiring speakers call their audience to action! If your call to action is close to the peak of your talk, it’ll have MUCH more impact.
Once you’ve hit your climax, the story is almost over. The audience doesn’t want to go all the way down the mountain with you, they’d much rather get airlifted off the top of the mountain whilst they still have the buzz of reaching your goal. This is what great speech closings manage to do time and again.
Strangely enough the close can be the hardest part of speech. Here’s where you get to hit home your action point – the key thing you want your audience to do differently as a result of listening to your speech. Often the close is where speakers undermine the power of the rest of their speech. So, end with a memorable conclusion that captures the essence of your speech, give it some punch, and stick to it!