Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

When Speaking ~ Be Brief

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, Guest Author

Centuries ago great speakers often spoke two hours and more. But today when sound bytes on television news are the norm and serious problems are solved in an hour on a television drama, audiences are most interested in speakers that get their points across in a short period of time. In a speech delivered to a Women in Communication audience, Patricia Ward Brash said, “Television has helped create an impatient society, where audiences expect us to make our point simply and quickly.”

Today great speakers are noted for their brevity. Billy Graham, in a recent city-wide campaign in Cincinnati, spoke about 20 minutes each night. Theodore Sorensen in his book, “Kennedy,” gave guidelines by which President Kennedy prepared speeches. No speech was more than 20-30 minutes. He wasted no words and his delivery wasted no time. He rarely used words he considered hackneyed or word fillers.

A&SbeBriefAs Purdue communications professor and researcher Josh Boyd wrote, “In physics, power is defined as work divided by time. In other words, more work done in less time produces more power. In the same way, a speaker’s message is most powerful when he [or she] can deliver a lot of good material in a short amount of time.”

Here are guidelines to make brevity a key foundation in your next speech. First, keep your stories under two minutes in length. In preparing a story, continue to ask the question, “How can I say this in less time and in fewer words?” Script out your story and then seek to condense it. There is an adage in using humor: “The longer the story the funnier it had better be.” Connecting this principle to stories in general, we might say, “The longer the story, the more impact it had better have.”

To make sure your stories stay under two minutes, include only information that answers the questions, “Who?” “What?” “When?” “Where?” and “Why?” If it doesn’t answer one of these questions, leave it out. Make sure also that you have a sense of direction in the story. Each part of the story should move toward the conclusion in the mind of the listener. The listener should always feel you are going somewhere in developing your story.

Second, when possible, follow the proverb, “Less is better than more.” Never use three words when you can say it in two. Leave out clichés, filler words, and hackneyed words, such as “You know,” “OK,” and “All right.” Leave out phrases such as “Let me be honest,” or blunt, or frank. Avoid “In other words.” or “To say it another way.” Speak in short sentences, short phrases, and short words. Word choice should be instantly clear to an audience. Make it a goal to make every word have impact in your speech.

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Third, know the length of your speech by practicing it. Never be surprised by the length of your speech. Never say to an audience, “I’m running out of time, so I must hurry along.” You should know because of your preparation and practice of the speech. To go one step further, if you know the time limit on your speech is 20 minutes, stop a minute short; don’t go overtime. Audiences will appreciate your respect of their time and will think more highly of you as a speaker because of that. You should never be surprised by how long it takes you to deliver a speech

AnecdoteFourth, learn to divide parts of your speech into time segments. Let’s use a 20-minute speech as an example. The introduction should be no longer than 2 minutes. You can get the attention and preview your message easily in that length of time. Avoid opening with generalizations about the weather or the audience. Let the audience know up front that every word you speak counts.

Spend the bulk of your time in the body of the speech. This is where you make your points and give support or evidence for each point. The final two minutes should be your summary and move to action statement. Some speakers have a hard time concluding. When you say you are going to conclude, do so. As one wise person stated, “Don’t dawdle at the finish line of the speech.”

One way to keep your speech brief is to have few points in the body of your speech-no more than three. With a maximum of three points, you will have the self-discipline to condense rather than amplify. In organizing your material, accept the fact you will always have more material than you can cover and that you will only include material that relates to one of the two or three points you plan to make. Trying to cover four to six points will almost invariably make you go overtime in your speech.

A key to success in speaking is not just having something worthwhile to say, but also saying it briefly. We need to follow the speaking axiom, “Have a powerful, captivating opening and a strong, memorable close, and put the two of them as close together as possible.”

BONUS Articles: Ten Lessons on Presentation & Performance You Can Learn by Watching Taylor Swift
Speaking Secrets of Joel Osteen
Speakers: Stay on Time!

Copyright © 2015 – Stephen D. Boyd. – Reprinted with permission. Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is a professor of speech communication at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky. He is also a trainer in communication who presents more than 60 seminars and workshops a year to corporations and associations. See additional articles, resources and contact info at www.SBoyd.com.

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Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact: AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. CelebrateLove@cox.net – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at: www.AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com

Subscribe to Larry’s FREE monthly “LoveNotes for Lovers” eZINE. Contact: CelebrateLove.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – CelebrateLove.com and CelebrateIntimateWeddings.com

NOTE: All articles and “LoveNotes” listed in this BLOG – written by Larry James – are available for reprint in magazines, periodicals, newsletters, newspapers, eZINEs, on the Internet or on your own Website. Click here for details.

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Incorporate Humor in Your Next Speech

Filed under: Guest Author Articles,Speaker Tips — Larry James @ 7:30 am
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Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, Guest Author

Some speakers say, “I could never use humor in my speech; I just don’t feel comfortable with it.” I believe that anyone can use humor and that it is a valuable tool in speaking. Appropriate humor relaxes an audience and makes it feel more comfortable with you as the speaker; humor can bring attention to the point you are making; and humor will help the audience better remember your point. It can break down barriers so that the audience is more receptive to your ideas.

AudienceLaughingFirst, let me make it easy for you to use humor. The best and most comfortable place to find humor for a speech is from your own personal experience. Think back on an embarrassing moment that you might have thought not funny at the time. Now that you can laugh at the experience, you understand the old adage “Humor is simply tragedy separated by time and space.” Or think of a conversation that was funny. Remember the punch line and use it in your speech.

Probably the least risky use of humor is a cartoon. The cartoon is separate from you and if people don’t laugh, you don’t feel responsible. (Be sure to secure permission to use it.) You’re not trying to be a comedian; you just want to make it easy for people to pay attention and to help them remember your point.

Here are some suggestions on using humor to make your next speech have more impact.

1. Make sure the humor is funny to you. If you don’t laugh or smile at the cartoon, joke, pun, one-liner, story, or other forms of humor, then you certainly cannot expect an audience to do so. A key to using humor is only using humor that makes you laugh or smile.

2. Before using humor in your speech, try it out with small groups of people. Do they seem to enjoy it? Even if your experimental group does not laugh or smile initially, don’t give up on the humor, because the problem might be in the way you are delivering the joke or quip.

I often use this line in talking about the importance of listening. “We are geared to a talk society. Someone said, ‘The only reason we listen is so we can talk next!'” When I first tried that line, people did not smile; but I worked on the timing so that I paused and smiled after “listen” and that seemed to work. I was rushing through the punch line and did not give people time to be prepared for the humorous part. It took practice to get comfortable with the piece of humor. Only use humor in a speech after you are comfortable telling it from memory and have tested it.

3. Make sure the humor relates to the point you are making. Do not use humor that is simply there to make the audience laugh. The humor should tie in with some aspect of your speech. For example, I tell about my experience of getting braces at age 46 and how difficult it was for me to get used to the wires and rubber bands in my mouth.

funnyspeakerAfter I tell the story I make the point that you may have not had the braces problem I had, but we all have challenges in communicating well, and what we want to look at today are ways of making it easier for us to be more effective in speaking. The audience enjoys the story but also remembers the point that I’m making. If you don’t tie your humor to your presentation, the audience may like the humor, but will wonder what point you are attempting to make.

4. Begin with something short. A starting point might be to summarize a cartoon and give the caption as your humor. A thought-provoking yet clever line about a point you are making is another way to get started. For example, when I talk about creativity and getting out of your comfort zone, a line I found that worked well was, “Orville Wright did not have a pilot’s license.”

In your reading, look for lines that make you smile; consider how they might be used in your next speech. Be careful about launching into a long humorous story — audiences are quick to forgive a single line that may not be funny, but they do not have much patience with a long anecdote that isn’t worth the time. So start out with brief bits of humor.

5. When possible, choose humor that comes from people you interact with. You do not have to worry about people having heard it before, and you will feel more comfortable with what has happened to you. Find such experiences by looking for a humorous line or situation.

For example, I was making a bank deposit recently at a drive-in window. When I asked to make a second deposit, the teller said solemnly, “I’m sorry, sir, but you’ll have to go around the bank a second time to make a second deposit.” We both laughed and I may have a line to work into a speech.

If you have small children, listen for something they say that might be funny to an audience as well. Art Linkletter made a great living on the notion that “Kids say the darndest things.”

6. Don’t preview by saying, “Let me tell you a funny story.” Let the audience decide for themselves. Look pleasant and smile as you launch into your funny line, but if no one smiles or laughs then just move on as though you meant for it to be serious. This approach takes the pressure off as you relate the humor. Remember you are not a comedian entertaining the audience; you are a serious speaker seeking to help the audience remember and pay attention by using humor as a tool.

Humor is simply another way of making a point with your audience, and it can help you be a more effective speaker. Look at humor as a tool in improving your speech in the manner of attention devices, smooth transitions, and solid structure. Remember, “A smile is a curve that straightens out a lot of things.”

stephen_boydCopyright 2013 Stephen D. Boyd. – Reprinted with permission. Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is a professor of speech communication at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky. He is also a trainer in communication who presents more than 60 seminars and workshops a year to corporations and associations. See additional articles and resources at www.SBoyd.com.

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Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact: AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. CelebrateLove@cox.net – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at: www.AuthorsandSpeakersNetwork.com

Subscribe to Larry’s FREE monthly “LoveNotes for Lovers” eZINE. Contact: CelebrateLove.com, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – CelebrateLove.com and CelebrateIntimateWeddings.com

NOTE: All articles and “LoveNotes” listed in this BLOG – written by Larry James – are available for reprint in magazines, periodicals, newsletters, newspapers, eZINEs, on the Internet or on your own Website. Click here for details.

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Add Larry James as a “friend” to your Facebook page: http://www.Facebook.com/larry.james
Follow Larry’s “once daily” Relationship Tweet at: http://www.Twitter.com/larryjames
Follow Larry’s “Relationships” BLOG at: http://CelebrateLove.wordpress.com
Follow Larry’s “Networking” BLOG at: http://NetworkingHQ.wordpress.com
Follow Larry’s “Weddings” BLOG at: http://CelebrateIntimateWeddings.wordpress.com

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