Today, we’re going to look at how trimming the fat can lead to a fantastic speech. No, I’m not talking about the spare tiresome us of have, but the extra words and phrases that we don’t need. We will look at how to trim and tighten for a terrific speech!
Recently, I had the opportunity to compete in the Toastmasters International speech contest. Competing is something I enjoy doing. I was fortunate to make to the division level only to come in third place and was therefore eliminated. However, I still felt it was a personal victory because I competed against some of the best speakers in Toronto. What was also a victory was how much I learned. Especially how to trim and tighten up my speech in order to get the most bang for my buck.
When I first wrote my speech entitled “Never Ever Ever”, it was originally 10 minutes long. Way over the 5-7minute limit. I knew that if I didn’t bring that down, I would be disqualified. So the following, are ways that I was able to trim down my speech:
1. Check your stories – are you monologuing or dialoguing? Can you convert narration to a dialogue? dialogues can reduce a lot of words to a conversation. Inside conversations you can imply a lot of things. You can take advantage of facial expressions of each of your characters so that you don’t need to say what the expression is. For example, images of saying, “he smiled”, just smile!
2. Do the action – saying “I picked up a glass” is less powerful than simply picking up the glass. Its a visual and your audience members love visuals. Instead of saying “I walked” simply walk across the stage. Again, performing actions will not only add visuals that your audience will appreciate and remember better, but it will cut down on your word usage. If you squeeze in too many unnecessary words, you’ll lose your audience for sure.
3. Can a prop summarize something? A picture is worth a thousand words is a phrase that is incredibly overused yet very relevant. This also leads back to the second point of doing the action as well. If you said to your audience “I put the glove on”, its not as powerful as simply putting a glove on. Have a glove ready and put it on at the right moment. Suppose you’re doing a speech and your mom was one of the characters. Instead of saying “she has long black hair, blue eyes and ….. “, hold up a picture of your mom. It again leads back to the visuals I discussed in the second point.
4. Is there irrelevant information? In my speech “Never Ever Ever”, I started off my speech talking about how I went to the local arena when I was small to learn how to skate and fell down and never got back up. In my earlier versions of the speech, I mentioned how the school offered free skates to learn on and how they were so old that you could find these skates in the hockey hall of fame and that they were skates that the original six hockey teams used way back in time. It was my attempt at humour but really it was irrelevant. I wasn’t making any point about using old skates. So I had to cut it. What irrelevant information are you portraying? Are you using jokes that don’t help your cause? If so, cut it out.
5. Is your introduction too long? Try and keep your introduction to about 5 percent of your speech. If your introduction is a story, keep only the relevant information in it. Try timing individual parts of your speech. If you find your introduction is 5 minutes long and you only have 10 minutes to talk, then theres something wrong. Maybe some of your introduction needs to be cut. Or maybe your intro is really your body and you’ve written it in such a way that it looks like an intro to your audience. In my case, having that story where I mentioned old skates was irrelevant and really cut into my introduction time. Once I removed it, I had more time for the stories in my body.
6. Did you squeeze out your conclusion? The conclusion is your most powerful part, its where you leave your mark. Its where your audience will have a lasting impression of you. You need to budget enough time that you can write a conclusion that will stick in the minds of your audience for days and make a call to action. If you find that your conclusion is simply “Thank you for your time”, then you need to cut material from the body.
So there you have it. six tips to trim and tighten your speech. Like George Foreman likes to advertise, you need to knock out the fat. If you do, you’ll end up with a more powerful speech.
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