Find Your Audience: The Sweet Spot

Your Audience Sets the Tone of Your Speech

find your audience's sweet spotIt’s a mistake to think that you alone as the speaker decide what you get to say and how you’re going to say it.  Communication only happens when there are a speaker and an audience.  You have to consider them first, even before your message.  The audience will set the parameters of the words you choose and the techniques you use to convey your message.

The audience is why you’re speaking.  You’re there to serve the audience, not your message.  I think that’s where speakers often go awry in their passion to convert or to persuade.  When we forget that our message is nothing when people aren’t the primary consideration in our presentations.  The best example of this is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s most excellent speech known as I Have a Dream, given at the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.  King’s focus is on humans and serving them with his message.  That’s why this speech is recognized as the best speech of the 20th century in the United States.

Was his speech above the audience?  No.  Was it challenging his audience?  Yes.  That’s the exact spot a speaker needs to aim for when crafting a speech.

Civil discourse is becoming anything but anymore.  Political discussion seems to be following the way of comedians with the increased use of four letter words.

Should we be using these words in our speeches?

It’s a risky gambit.  The key isn’t should or shouldn’t we use these words, but how will our audience respond?  Communication isn’t a one-way flow of words – it requires both a speaker and a listener.  Without an audience, there is no communication.  If the audience shuts down because of our word choices, be it profane, vulgar, or jargon, we stop the flow of communication and end our effectiveness as speakers.

Your Toastmasters Audience

This is the point where we often see new Toastmasters start to struggle.  They can’t think of another speech topic.

The problem isn’t they can’t think of another topic, it’s that they’ve talked themselves out of all of the others they’ve thought of.

We’re here to learn to speak and to listen.  Talk about anything that you’re passionate about and we’ll listen.  Don’t toss your ideas – develop them.  Find a way to present that idea with a good introduction, an informative body and a strong conclusion – and we’ll be delighted to listen.  Passion will make even a topic I’m not interested in more intriguing and compelling.  You may even find a way to make golf interesting to me!  We’ll never know until you try.  Talk to your mentor about your ideas.  They can help you find ways to make your topic work.

Don’t give up now.  It’s all too easy to quit right now.  You’ve barely begun to learn how to improve your speaking.  Are you getting discouraged because you’re very aware of what you’re doing wrong?  Now it’s time to start practicing what to do better.

One of the best ways to improve your speaking is to be a speech evaluator in a club meeting.  Nothing will help you focus better on speaking skills than to have to intently listen to someone else’s speech and give them points of growth.  I’ve discovered that the points of growth I see are most frequently the points of growth that I need to apply to my own speaking.  Funny how that works!  Sign up on your club agenda as a speech evaluator and be sure to give your Competent Leadership manual to someone for them to evaluate you and give you credit for filling the role.

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Project 3: What's Your Purpose?

What’s your Speech Purpose?speech purpose

There are 4 main reasons to give a speech:

  • to inform
  • to inspire
  • to entertain
  • to call to action.

By knowing your speech purpose, you’ll be able to limit your topic and exclude material that’s not specific to your speech.    Often, this will help you decide what to include and what to exclude from your presentation.  No matter how funny the joke you heard last night was, you have to decide if it fits into your speech.  As your audience is giving you the time (and time equals money) and attention, they expect value in return.  Your task is to honor them.

Stage Fright

Do you know how many times I had to rerecord “International Astronomical Union” for this podcast?*

This is the kind of thing that makes you get more nervous – repeating an error just drills the bad into your head instead of the good.  Practice the tough lines several times before you go onstage.  If you get it wrong, don’t make a big issue out of it, or make fun of yourself, or apologize.  Just keep moving along.  This minimizes your chances of getting more negative reinforcement.

Stage fright is what we call the negative symptoms our bodies respond with to stress.  These responses can be channeled into positive ways.  You can take that energy and put it into your voice or body movements to create more interest in your speech.  You can’t really ignore it, but you can learn to manage it.  The more opportunities you take to get on stage, the more you’ll gain control of your emotional physical reactions.

Competent Leadership Manual

When you join Toastmasters, you’ll be given two different manuals.  The first – the Competent Communicator Manual – covers the 10 speech projects you’ll do in the meetings.  The other book – the Competent Leadership Manual – will introduce you to the various roles in the Toastmasters meetings, including speaker, timer, grammarian and ah-counter (in many clubs, these roles are combined), evaluator, meeting toastmaster and general evaluator.

*For the record:  3.

iTunes linkMy Speech Purpose?  Your Call to Action:  Please review us on iTunes – use the button to go right to our podcast listing.

 

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Organize Your Speech… Backwards?

When you have to write a speech, it pays to organize your writing backwards. Consider your goal first and write the conclusion, then the rest of the speech.

However you felt about your first speech, don’t wait to do your second.

You may feel like you bombed. You may have gone over time, under time, mumbled, wanted to vomit, couldn’t breathe, had the shakes… Stage fright.  But don’t wait.  Do your next speech as soon as you can get on the schedule.  If you wait, you’re more likely to work up a worse case of nerves for the next speech.

How to Organize Your Speechorganize your speech backwards

Start at the end.  What do you want the audience to do?

By starting at the end, you’ll prevent three critical problems:

  1. You’ll keep on track as you’re writing your speech.
  2. You’ll have a strong ending that can motivate your audience to act
  3. You’ll find your introduction practically writes itself.

To organize a speech, determine your topic and what format will inform your audience.  Stories are best chronologically, but material with lots of numbers may be better presented in related groups or categories.  You’ll develop the ability to determine if you’re going to do a comparison or a straight narrative with time and experience.    The key with this speech is less about the material, more about the methods of presenting it.  You don’t have to dive deep into the library or Google for material to organize – the more specific you are, the easier a speech is to write.  Consider your audience’s expertise and organize the material at their level.

Organize Your Speech to Speed Up Your Speech Writing

When you have lots of material to cover, having a plan will make your writing simpler and quicker.  Organize your material in only three categories.  If you have more than three, eliminate the excess.  A five to seven-minute speech doesn’t give you enough time to cover more material effectively.  Be very choosy and deliberate in the decision-making process.  It’s easier to add material if you’re short than it is to edit it out later.  That sounds backward, but it’s often true.  You’ll practice and practice, trying to cut the time down but all you’ll do is end up going too fast.

The Introduction Writes Itself

A well-organized, backward-written speech will probably inspire a good introduction.  You’ll want something that will give the listeners a good idea of your topic and your purpose, but you don’t want to be boring and tell them what you’re going to tell them.  Try for some mystery!  Try to whet their appetite with a good story or question before you begin the body of your speech.

Next episode – exploding snowman!  You don’t want to miss it!  Subscribe to our podcast through your favorite podcast app.  If you’d go to iTunes and give us a review, we’ll be ever so grateful!
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Breaking the Ice: The Ice Breaker Speech

The first speech you’ll give in Toastmasters in the Ice Breaker, a speech about yourself. What do you want us to know about you?

Whose Ice Are We Breaking?how to write an ice breaker speech

The first speech you give is the Ice Breaker, a speech about yourself.

Start in the Middle

What’s your story?  Don’t worry about the introduction or the conclusion until you know what you want to say in your ice breaker.  Once you determine the two or three things you want to focus on, then you can perhaps find a personal story that fits into the speech framework. By using a story, you can then write the end of your speech by wrapping up your story, and then write the beginning of your speech with the opening of the story.

Tell Us a Story in your Ice Breaker

What story do you want to tell us?  Is it a personal history?  Is it your career path?  Is it what brought you to Toastmasters?  We’re good with any of them.  By building and using a story, you can create an effective opening and closing to your speech.

Don’t forget your speech introduction for the meeting toastmaster.

This is a courtesy given to the meeting toastmaster.  The toastmaster is expected to give you an introduction that will prepare the audience for your speech.  You wouldn’t want a humorous introduction for an emotional presentation, would you?  The only way for a toastmaster to know how to introduce you is to have a written intro in hand.

The toastmaster needs to know how to say your name – especially if it’s difficult to say based on the spelling.  (We know who we are – our names are always mangled!)  You should also give the name of the manual and the project number with the project title.  This helps not only your evaluator (who will have your manual for the evaluation) but the rest of the club to know what you’re trying to accomplish.  I have a timing tear off on the bottom of my intro that I give to the timer, especially if the timing isn’t the standard 5-7 minutes.

speech introduction formUse this button to see the PDF versions of my Speech Introduction Forms.

 

 

 

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One More Thing: Check out Toastmasters.org so you can get access to the additional information and materials available on the website.

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Want to Improve Your Public Speaking? Consider Toastmasters.

Human usually learn to talk by the age of 3, so why do we also learn a fear of public speaking? If this describes you, then maybe Toastmasters is for you.

What Is Toastmasters?Toastmasters 101 Podcast Competent Communicator Public Speaking

Toastmasters is an international organization that teaches and supports public speaking and leadership skills.

Why is public speaking important?

At some point, whether it’s nurture or nature, people develop a fear of public speaking.  Why?

Do you want to develop public speaking and leadership skills?

Then what you’re looking for may be Toastmasters.

Toastmasters has developed a method to help you overcome those fears.  Over 90 years, Toastmasters has refined a method that can help you as quickly as you want to go.  You will get a manual called the Competent Communicator with 10 projects in it.  Each of those projects is a speech you will prepare and give at a club meeting, and then you will receive an evaluation of your presentation before the end of the meeting.

Surprisingly, one of the most effective ways to improve your speaking…

Public Speaking Leads to Leadership

Communication skills may be called the foundation of leading. If you want to be a leader, you must develop communication skills.

Since communication and leadership are so intertwined, Toastmasters provides leadership training.

If you’re ready to come and explore your future, you can find a local club by going to Toastmasters.org and clicking on the Find A Club button.  You’ll be welcome to join us.

Thanks for joining us on Toastmasters101.  We’ll be focusing on every project in the Competent Communicator manual in our future podcasts.  Instead of repeating what’s in the manual, we’ll focus on other insights into the projects.  Our next podcast – Breaking the Ice – the first speech!  Talk about myself?  What should I say? We’ll give you a few suggestions how to put that first speech together.

If you like our podcast, would you mind going to iTunes and giving us an evaluation (aka rating)?  We’d appreciate hearing from you as we talk public speaking and leadership.

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