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When can you break the rules during your speech?

When it’s ok to break the rules during your speech

When it’s ok to break the rules during your speech

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to go down to San Diego for, what turned out to be, one of the best weddings I’ve ever attended.


It’s always fun to see the best man speech. You never quite know what they’ll come up with.


This one was exceptionally interesting. There was serenading, a change of clothes and a flash dance mob.

But it worked. And it got me thinking, when is it ok to break the rules during a speech? There’s a fine line between creativity and an awkward, uncomfortable performance. You don’t want to land on the wrong side of that.


When can you break the rules during your speech?

When can you break the rules during your speech?

In this post, we’ll look at some things that you need to understand before you try to get too creative and “speak outside the box.”


Understand the goal


This is crucial. I’ve talked about goals before, but it really does apply to just about anything you do as a speaker. If you don’t know what you want out of the experience, or what the audience should take from the experience, you won’t know what to do.


Start with your goal. Your purpose. Then work your way backwards. This is much better than starting out with, say, a joke or a funny story and trying to squish it into a speech that it doesn’t belong in.


For example, if your goal is to shock the audience, you can search for a shocking joke to include. It makes sense. It’s what you’re going for. But, you wouldn’t want to start building a speech from a shocking joke and then try to fit it in to the bigger picture if your ultimate goal is to bond with the audience. It won’t work.


When you are beyond comfortable with your topic, situation AND skill set


If you’re feeling unsure about your ability to speak on the topic or if you’re unsure about your skills as a speaker, don’t risk stepping outside the box. I’m all about pushing limits and taking on challenges, but this isn’t something you want to risk because, more often than not, it’ll end up feeling really icky for the audience.


Trying to make risky jokes or do something outrageous won’t work if you are feeling uncomfortable. The audience will sense it. And they’ll feel that uneasiness themselves. That’s when things get awkward.


But, if you know that you’re comfortable and that putting yourself out there and telling outrageous stories or jokes won’t bother you, then go for it. If you’re comfortable, the audience will feel comfy too.


When you aren’t sacrificing clarity


Clarity is always important. If your message becomes fuzzy by adding in something risky or off the wall, it’s better to leave it out.


If the audience is left feeling like… um… where did that come from? They’re not going to focus on the rest of your message. (Tweet it. You know you love it 🙂


Unless your sole purpose is to entertain (which it rarely is), then you still have a message to deliver. You still have a goal. Don’t distract from it.


But… if your joke or story supports your goal, and makes it easier for your audience to remember and understand it, then go for it! Entertaining is fine (and appreciated), as long as it doesn’t become distracting.


Your turn

In the comments below, let me know about a time that you broke the rules and it felt really good! Or, let me know when you saw another speaker break the rules and how that worked.


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About the Author Sandy Donovan

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.