"You can’t always control what goes on outside
but you can always control what goes on inside.”
The key to becoming a stress-less speaker is to have a plan for what you plan to say.
Sounds simple. Right?
For lots of people (and perhaps you) the simpler things are, the harder they are to believe in. We humans like the clutter and challenge of the complicated. Why not? With so many variables that the complicated offers, we can relish in the comfort of knowing that if we come up short, we at least “gave it a good try.” The simple does not afford the luxury of “if at first you don’t succeed”. The simple if very Yoda-ish. “Do or do not. There is no try.”
If you’d like to become a stress-less speaker, think simple. It is not a complicated process. It only becomes that way when you avoid the simple and reach for the complicated. In this blog, I will share 4 simple tips you can use to become a stress-less speaker. The four tips are PLAN, OUTLINE, EXTRACT and KNOW.
Steven Covey wrote in the 7 Habits of Successful People that you should “begin with the end in mind.” This is where your stress-less speaking plan should begin. Simply take a moment to think about what you want your audience to “get” from your speech. What you determine, should let you know if you are speaking to persuade, inform or entertain. Then just write a simple sentence (this is known as a topic statement) stating the purpose of your speech. This has to be a simple sentence. “Ifs” and “Buts” are OK but absolutely no “ands”. If you find yourself including an “and” stop right there. This is a clear indication that you have two speeches. And, that is a very complicated thing to do.
Having a plan is critical to stress-less speaking. A plan will help increase your focus and elevate your intention. The more you intend to do with your speech the less stress you’ll have when you speak.
If there is one piece of wisdom I repeatedly share with anyone who tells me they need to write a speech, it’s this: “Don’t write that speech!”
If you write a speech, what do expect will happen?
Will you fall in love with the beautiful words and phrase you’ve written? Yup.
Will you try to commit the speech to memory? Yup.
Will you needlessly add a whole layer of avoidable stress to the speaking process? Yup.
Writing a speech is an exercise in futility. You will write with your brain echoing the words of your 11th grade English teacher who admonished you to use complex sentences. Therefore, your sentences will be wordy (20 – 30 words or more). They will be indigestible to your brain’s memory core and even harder for your audience to swallow.
We communicate differently for the eye than we do for the ear. The ear processes on the fly, without the ability to slow down, parse, or rehear what has been said. The ear relies on the short and the simple.
Instead, develop your speech using an outline. Only put down simple sentences. Follow an outline format so you will stay on track. This will help you curb verbosity while maintaining an approach that plays to a tried and true recipe for making your speech infinitely memorable and repeatable.
I once heard an author deliver a speech about a list of 10 things you needed to do that she had in her book. She had only fifteen minutes to speak. She never got beyond #3 on her list.
Really effective speaking is a subtraction process. Most speakers (and their audiences) suffer from information (content) overload. They use a fire hose when a sprinkler is required. The key to becoming a stress-less speaker is learning how to eliminate content that, while interesting, may not be critical to reaching your speaking objective.
Once you’ve determined what content you need to have in your speech, begin to refine it by extracting the key words and phrases within your content. By doing this you will trigger the deep knowledge and understanding you have about your topic. This refining will also allow you to speak spontaneously and fluently about your topic.
From here it just becomes a matter of practice and familiarization.
There are three things, and only three things you should ever speak about; What you Feel, What you Know and What you have Experienced. Many speakers encounter a lot of stress regarding the confidence they have in What they Know. This is often the result of being a surface dweller on the topic you have selected. If you are speaking about What you Know, then you should relax and take solace in the following expression, “I know what I know.” This does not mean you know everything, and that’s OK. Nobody knows everything about any one thing. They may know a lot, but not everything.
Experts come in all sizes and with varying levels of knowledge. In most instances, even when there is someone in the audience more accomplished than you, the audience is genuinely interested in hearing what you know about the topic of your choice. They will take from your content what they need to further their own knowledge. This may include new information as well as corroboration of their existing knowledge.
Stress-less speakers “Know what they know”. They find comfort in knowing there may be people in their audience who no more or less than what they will share. But they are full of intention, well-practiced and familiar with their content, and they “Know what they know”.
DOn’t SWEAT THAT SPEECH
If you’re interested in learning the art of becoming a stress-less speaker, begin by following the four simple tips I shared in this blog, PLAN, OUTLINE, EXTRACT and KNOW. When you do, you’ll find yourself more readily embracing each opportunity to share of your passion, wisdom and experience with audiences eager to add your content to theirs.
Thanks for your support as a reader of my blog and I eagerly welcome any comments on how you’re thinking about achieving the possibility of your promise. Also, I would appreciate any suggestions you might have for future posts in this blog on a topic near and dear to you in the comments section below. As always, please feel free to share this post with a friend or colleague.
To Your Speaking Success.
The Speech Wiz