My section head has allotted a part of the monthly staff meeting to what she calls a “Leadersip Take 5”. A member of the section gives a five-minute talk on a leadership topic of their choice. This year all of the topics should relate to the topic of communication.
I volunteered for the month of May and knew immediately that I wanted to speak on the topic of speech organization. After a little bit of thinking and some research on some public speaking web sites, I decided to focus on different aspects of using the power of the number three in communications.
Side story #1: I picked organization because it is something that was emphasized extensively during the public speaking training of my youth. It drives me up a wall to listen to a speech with no structure whatsoever, and the speaker doesn’t understand why no one wants to listen to them. I believe that if you can understand speech organization, a lot of the other aspects of public speaking will fall into place.
Side story #2: During this past spring’s Toastmasters Evaluation Contest at the Division level the test speaker gave a speech on the concept of “ganas” (Spanish for motivation or desire) and how it relates to success in Toastmasters. The meat of his speech was an acrostic giving tips relating to the five letters of ganas. While I was out doing my five minutes of preparation in the hallway, my wife was watching the test speaker being interviewed by the contest master. She told me later that he picked the five-letter acrostic, because he is tired of listening to three-point speeches. Apparently my wife almost burst out laughing when I came out complaining his good three-point organizational structure. I said his speech was organized as a pop culture reference (talking about his discovery of the word ganas from the movie “Stand and Deliver”), original research advice (the ganas acrostic), and a personal story (an applicable story about a fellow Toastmaster who showed ganas). So basically, I have had three-point organizational structures so ingrained in my mind, that I was able to pick it out of a speech where the speaker was deliberately avoiding it. I understand how some tire of the three-point structure, but it is used so often because it works.
To practice for my speech at the Thursday morning section staff meeting, I decided that it would be best to go through it at my Wednesday noon staff meeting. It wasn’t a perfect fit for Project 3 “Manage and Motivate” from the Advanced Communications Manual: “Speeches by Management” (never mind I haven’t done Project 2 yet), but I decided to try and make it work.
Introduction: A short story on the famous Winston Churchill line, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”. It is a famous line, but most of us are more familiar with the phrase “blood, sweat and tears”. The brain remembers the three word pattern over the four word pattern.
Explanation of the Rule of 3
Preview of Points
Point 1, “The Rule of Three in Repetition”: Discussion of introduction, body and conclusion, with that segueing into a discussion of the Dale Carnegie line “Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.”
Point 2, “The Rule of Three in Organization of Information”: Discussed four different three point outlines of a speech, “Past, present, future”; “Complication, Resolution, Example”; “Supporting Point #1, Supporting Point #2, Supporting Point #3”; “Pros, Cons, Recommendation”.
Point 3, “The Rule of Three in Everyday Business Situations”: Showed two examples of how we already are using groups of three in a recent memo and a “Yellow Book” put out by staff in the section.
Review of Points
Conclusion: “We can see we don’t need blood, sweat and tears to get our audience to remember our information, we just need the rule of three.”
To supplement the speech with visual aids, I decided to do something that I hadn’t really ever done, and that was using an old-school flip chart. Other than a picture of Winston Churchill at the beginning and some printouts of the memo and the cover of the Yellow Book for Point 3, the flip chart pages were mainly just written out versions of the subpoints.
Toastmasters Meeting, May 16, 2012
I presented to the Toastmasters club and it wasn’t near as smooth as it should have been. I spent more time trying to get the introduction right (mainly because it involved memorizing an exact Churchill quote) and I should have spent more time on exactly what I was going to say for the body of the speech.
I received an evaluation from Bill who pointed out some great things about removing some hesitation from areas that were not as prepared, but also that I should use a pointer because I had the tendency to cover up my visual aid when I was pointing to certain parts of the flip chart.
The written comments from the individual club members did not offer a whole lot. The comments were mostly in the area of working to smooth out the body of the speech. One person said that I should replace my flipchart with Powerpoint slides, but I really did not think that was a good idea for my presentation because getting something projected in the small room of the staff meeting would not be worth the trouble and I was already pushing the envelope of being too formal for the Leadership Take 5 anyways and I thought the flip chart provided a nice informal, but helpful, aid.
Section Staff Meeting, May 17, 2012
I thought the presentation at the staff meeting was improved over the Toastmasters meeting. I generally get much better at figuring out what I want to say after I have been through the speech once or twice, so this really isn’t surprising. There were parts of the body of the speech that could have definitely been smoother, but I don’t think it was debilitating to the speech. My boss and the section gave nice applause after the speech was over and made comments about how high I had set the bar for the next person. I really don’t think I was that much better than previous speakers (more formal, but not necessarily that much better), but I am happy that I believe I made a positive impression on my new supervisor.
I am up to four advanced manual speeches completed since I achieved my Advanced Communicator Bronze designation. That is an embarrassingly low number considering I got my ACB while I was still living in South Dakota and I have been in DC for over two years now, but having only six speeches remaining (and the club leadership requirements) seems much more attainable.