Did you know that when it comes to speech (including webinars, videos and live presentations), the organization of your ideas is often more important than the delivery? Assuming your delivery has no major flaws (like having so many um’s and uh’s that people start to count), a highly organized speech will influence more audience members than a speaker who has excellent delivery skills, but poor organizational skills. Unlike writing, listeners can not back up and re-hear what you said to gain clarity. You need to have all of your thoughts highly organized – just winging it will back fire every time.
After working with many people who are about to deliver a presentation, I found that many are not only under prepared, but they often don’t even realize that there is a formula for speech. This is true for live presentations, webinars, video blogs, small presentations and formal speeches. If your information is out of order, you will fail to reach your audience. It is that simple.
Having unorganized thoughts can leave you in a situation in the future where you simply are not understood, regardless of your true expertise on the subject and regardless of whether or not you are “right”. However, there are simple formulas that the best speech writers use to create presentations. They are simple and effective. They are the most simple tools of speech writing, and if you’re not using them, you’re really missing out.
So, I decided to put together this kit to break down the process of determining the organizational pattern required for any presentation. Again, this is relevant to any vocal presentation – regardless of whether it is in person or over the web. (As a bonus, you can also view 7 templates you can use for any presentation with full explanations as to when and how to use them – enter your email to access the download.)[box][/box]
There are three possible goals you might have for a speech. They are…
Although every speech will have elements of the other two, you will need to select your over arching purpose from the list above. Here is a shortcut to understanding the types.
If you don’t need the audience to take anything away from the speech, the goal is to entertain (like an after dinner speech, or recognizing someone for an award).
If you want the audience to remember and learn from your speech, the goal is to inform (like giving someone an update on a project).
If you would like the audience to make a decision about something, or to change their mind, beliefs or actions, the goal is to persuade (like when you are asking to increase your budget or proposing a change in policy).
Here, we’ll focus on two of these goals: to inform and to persuade.
Once you know what your goal is, you are in a position to make a decision about the type of speech you would like to give. To do this, consider the audience. You’ll need to determine what they know and how they feel about the topic to make sure you’re not giving them trivial, common sense information. At the same time, you don’t want to provide information that is so complex they won’t understand and/or can’t apply it to their situation. A very common mistake is a speaker feeling she/he needs to give all information about a particular topic. This isn’t the case. Keep the focus just on things that further your goal.
If you are aiming for persuasion, you’ll also want to make sure that you aren’t wasting your audience’s time by arguing something they are already on board with. Otherwise, that isn’t really persuasion. Take the time to learn their current beliefs and attitudes and aim to push them one step further. Example, if they already believe there is a problem, but aren’t sure which course of action to take, you can spend your time focused on debating which policy to pursue. If your audience already knows which course of action to take, but is stuck up on a road block, spend your time motivating them to take action. Make appropriate goals and keep all information focused on furthering that goal.
Most topics can fall under any type of speech, it is all up to you. You’ll need to keep consistent with your goals. Here are your options: a speech about objects, about a process, about an event or about a concept.
Types of Informative Speeches
A speech about an object talks about things or physical objects, people, whatever you can touch or see. A process is a series of events that leads to one specific outcome. An event is something that happens in time. A concept is something that is abstract and exists in your mind. Again, just about any topic can fit into any of these types of speeches. It is all about how you want to paint the picture for your audience and what your ultimate goal is. You are in control. For instance, if your company is moving to a new location, you can talk about this topic in a few ways. You can talk about the physical building or location – the object speech. Or, you can talk about what your department must do to move from one location to the next. Or, you can talk about the move as an event, like a grand re-opening. Or, you can discuss it as a concept if you are in the planning stages of design. It all depends on the purpose and your goals.
This sounds simple enough, but a common mistake that I mentioned earlier is to try to cover everything and consequently losing focus. So, if the purpose of the speech is to discuss the steps your department must take in order to accomplish a successful move, you won’t want to spend time discussing the physical building, unless it is directly related to a step in that process. An example I always use to show just how silly you can sound if you get off topic is this: If someone asked you how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, you wouldn’t want to start out discussing the history of the cheese. Sound silly? Yes, but think of just how many meetings you’ve attended where someone wasted 30 minutes of your time talking about the history of the cheese. I’ve witnessed a few.
For now, just keep in mind which type of speech you have as it will inform your decision about how to organize your speech in the next section.
Types of Persuasive Speeches
If your goal is to persuade (to change someone’s mind, beliefs or actions) select from the following. This is where it can get a little more confusing. The three types are:
The “true/false” speech is referred to as a question of fact and will attempt to change someone’s mind as to whether something is true or false. Example: We will see an increase in sales next quarter in comparison to the previous quarter. This is a question of fact because you are deciding if this will happen or not. In a few months, you can look back and say yes this was true, or no, this is false. Select this option if you are aiming to change the way someone views a statement as being true or false, incorrect or correct.
The “good/bad” speech is referred to as a question of value and aims to change someone’s belief as to whether something is good or bad, better or worse, just or unjust, or some other value. This deals with morals, but also can deal with any priority setting. For example: Customer service is our most valuable asset. It is a question of value because you are assigning importance, or value. Select this option if you want to change the way your audience prioritizes something.
A “Do this” speech is referred to as a question of policy and addresses a change in behavior. This is the only type of speech that addresses a behavioral change. (If you are selling something, you must select this type of speech). This is used if you either want to gain support for a new policy (passive), or if you want an individual to do something themselves (active). An example: We should allocate more money to our marketing department (passive if not speaking to decision makers) or: Buy this product (active when speaking to decision makers). Use a policy speech every time you want your audience to do something that they wouldn’t normally do otherwise.
Now that you have a goal and a type of speech, you can finally select an organizational pattern.
The most common mistake I see when selecting an organizational pattern is doing these steps out of order. You can’t possibly decide you’ll have a “topical speech” for example, if you don’t even know what type of speech you are doing or what your goals are. I have witnessed this in brainstorming sessions and in edits of speeches I edit. People too often start with the details they want to include without having a grasp on the big picture. Set your goals first. Only then can you determine how to reach those goals. If you jump ahead to this step, you will have a difficult time making the information fit together in a logical way. Let’s break down the options, depending on the answers to the questions above. We’ll start with informative speeches.
If your goal is to present information about a person or object, you may select topical, chronological, spatial or cause and effect. If your goal is to teach someone how to accomplish a process (a how to), you may select chronological or topical. If your goal is to tell someone about an event, past or future, you may select topical, chronological, spatial or cause and effect. If your goal is to tell someone about a concept, or something that exists only in your mind or is very abstract in another way, you may select topical or chronological. However, most of the time, it will make sense to select topical for a concept speech.
Let’s go through each type of organizational pattern. (Remember too, the bonus templates are available).
The topical speech breaks down the purpose by sub-topics. Each are equal and comparable to one another. For example, if your goal is to discuss accomplishments your department made, you will make each main point an accomplishment because they are equal and comparable sub topics. Don’t try to mix other elements into the presentation. The chronological is in time order (limit 2-5 main points). The most common mistake here is trying to talk about every detail, or feeling you need to start from the beginning of time. Like all other presentations, you’ll need to have focus. Start at a relevant part for your audience and break the time frames into 2-5 manageable chunks. This will make it much easier for your audience to remember the focus and maintain interest. The spatial pattern discusses locations in space. Select this if you are discussing how object are related to each other based on their physical location. So, you could talk about something top to bottom, or left to right, or north to south. Cause and effect discusses what event led to another. You’ll always have two main points in this pattern. Example: “Sales increased this quarter due to our newest product line.” You could break this down into two main points. First, the effect (sales increased), then the cause (new product).
Depending on your main goals, you will select a pattern that makes sense. Keep in mind to select only one pattern, don’t mix. Otherwise, you’ll sound off topic and you risk losing your audience. For example, if you were discussing the reason sales increased last quarter, you wouldn’t want to start with the history of the new product. It isn’t relevant. If you stay on topic, your audience will become more involved and you will hold their interest.
For the persuasive speech, it gets a little more complicated and more structured. For the true vs. false speech, you’ll usually stick to a topical pattern. You have two options. The first option is to simply list reasons the statement you are debating is true or false. The second option is to structure it in three main points. The first, state what is now observed. The second, state how this observation came about. Third, state how this information should lead to a change in beliefs (see the bonus templates for more detail).
For the good vs. bad, you’ll use topical. However, this is a bit more structured. You always use the first main point to establish your value standards and your second to apply those standards to your topic. For instance, if you were convincing your audience that customer satisfaction should be your highest priority, you would first discuss your company’s values, then apply customer satisfaction to those values in your second main point.
For the “Do this” speech, you’ll avoid the topical and chronological speeches. Instead, opt for either problem-solution, problem-cause-solution, comparative advantage or motivated sequence. An explanation of each is found within the template that is provided, but let’s quickly discuss motivated sequence.
The motivated sequence is great for sales. It brings the audience through an emotional roller coaster with the intent of convincing them to take immediate action. The presentation starts by focusing on what the audience is missing out on and capitalizes on negative emotions and feelings of loss. Then, it slowly moves to a feeling of satisfaction, provides benefits to the audience and ends with a strong call to action. It is important to note that this pattern is extremely effective when asking the audience to take action immediately as opposed to in the future. Use this if you are in sales and you’ll improve your conversion rate without a problem (perfect for sale webinars).
And there you have it. You’ve selected the organizational pattern for your speech. By doing this, you will quickly form the layout of any speech. You can now quickly and easily “fill in the blank” to create the speech that is custom for the audience, speaker and occasion and come across as highly organized while still appearing original and creative.
Bonus: Reminder: if you want instant access to “How to organize any presentation + 7 templates for creating the perfect presentation” for free, enter your email and I’ll send it over right away. The kit is 23 pages and explains how to use each template.
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Sandy empowers the young and talented to increase their power and influence by improving their ability to be heard and be clear. She does this by providing access to rigorously tested research in the communication, psychology, and marketing fields.