Discover more from Understandably by Bill Murphy Jr.
Perhaps you'd like to say a few words
A *very* few words, would be my advice. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
I once went to a small fundraising event for a nonprofit. They did so much good in my neighborhood that I truly thought they could do no wrong.
Then one of the organizers asked someone to stand up "to say a few words," and her presentation turned into the longest, least organized, most lifeless talk I've ever heard.
Those who were standing near the back of the room slipped out. For the rest of us, the goodwill slipped away.
You can find a lot of advice out there on how to give a speech in front of a big audience, but how often do most of us do that? More often, you're likely asked to take a few minutes to address a smaller group—sometimes with little or no warning.
The next time that happens to you, here are seven things to keep in mind.
1. Strip it down.
There's an unfortunate temptation in a short speech to try to cram everything you have to say into a short time. Instead of trying to make the time fit the speech, however, recognize that you have to make your remarks fit the time allotted.
If you've got five minutes to talk, you shouldn't have more than three main points.
Key: If your short speech is longer than this section of the newsletter, it's too long.
2. Plan and rehearse.
This applies whether you have five days notice before your speech or 30 seconds. If you're surprised to be called on to speak, your planning might consist only of conjuring up your three main points while someone else is trying to get everyone's attention and introduce you, but that's better than nothing.
Ideally, you want to plan everything you're going to say, rehearse in front of other people, and rewrite over and over.
Key: Don't fall into the trap of thinking that short remarks require less preparation. In fact, giving a good short speech can be harder than giving a long one.
3. Cut yourself off.
In the history of the entire world, I don't think anyone has ever said, "I wish that speech had been longer." So keep track of time, and by all means don't ramble.
If you've run out of time to make a major point, either work it into the questions people have for you afterward, or send a follow-up note to the members of the audience.
Key: Take the length of time you've been asked to speak for, and cut it down by 20 percent.
4. Use milestones.
For a five minute speech, you want to organize in roughly one-minute intervals, and you want to offer milestones to the audience at the top of each minute. You get one minute for your introduction, during which you explain what you plan to say.
Then you get 60 seconds each for your three main points. That last 60 seconds can be used either for a short conclusion, or as a buffer in case you run long.
Key: Use verbal cues to keep the audience on track. Phrases that seem obvious on the written page can be much more helpful in oral remarks: "That was the first point. Now we'll talk about the second of my three points."
5. Show. Don't tell.
For a short speech, I generally like to have something physical to show the audience—a couple of photos, a prop, anything that gives the audience's eyes something to focus on.
Think of the difference between announcing, "Yesterday, we signed an important deal," versus holding up a ballpoint pen and saying, "With this pen, we made history yesterday when we signed Spacely Sprockets to a five-year contract." (Or else, raise your coffee cup and proposing a toast, rather than just making an announcement.)
It can be a little bit corny, granted, but it's much more memorable.
Key: If you use props, you almost always want to use them early in your remarks. Don't distract the audience and have them wondering what the projector is for, or why you are holding a teddy bear or a vacuum cleaner (or whatever your prop may be).
6. Make it personal
You do not need to bare your soul, but in almost every short speech there is an opportunity to connect on a personal level with your audience. Don't be afraid to allow emotion to enter into your voice if appropriate.
If the news is good, say you're happy and proud; if you have to share something sad or infuriating, make your tone and your expressions match the news.
Key: A few short words can be enough to make a connection. "On a personal note, I'm so incredibly proud of this group" or "I can't tell you yet how we will overcome this challenge, but I can tell you for damn sure we will find a way"--depending on the circumstance—can be enough.
7. Speak up.
All of your preparation, cutting, organizing, and emotion goes for naught if people can't hear you. If you have good audio equipment, use it. If not, at least start out by asking whether people can hear your voice.
One trick: Ask the audience to raise their hands if they can hear you well. If you see a patch of people somewhere without their hands up, you know there's an issue you need to address.
Key: Remember that ensuring everyone can hear is your responsibility. Project your voice, and if you find that people in the back can't hear what you have to say consider moving to the center. If you run into trouble and can't find a solution, cut your remarks short, and find a way to follow up later.
What do you think. Do you have other advice? Got a story about a terrible speech you had to listen through? Those can be fun, too. Let us know in the comments.
7 other things worth knowing today
At least 2.5 million Floridians are currently under some type of evacuation order as Hurricane Ian rapidly intensified into a major hurricane on Tuesday. Among the areas: Tampa Bay, where 300,000 people alone are being told to evacuate their beachfront property as forecasters say storm surge will create massive problems for the state's third-largest metro area. The storm hit Cuba Tuesday, leaving the entire country of 11.3 million people reportedly without power. (Fox Weather, Reuters)
Hundreds of thousands of Russian men of military age have fled the country in the last few days, since Putin announced a partial mobilization as part of Russia's war with Ukraine. “At 26, I do not want to be carried home in a zinc-lined (coffin) or stain (my) hands with somebody’s blood because of the war of one person that wants to build an empire,” one such refugee told the AP as he crossed into Estonia. (AP)
Putin granted Russian citizenship to former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who fled the U.S. in 2013 after leaking classified information about U.S. government surveillance programs. (The Hill)
Actor and pro wrestler John Cena is officially the owner of a new world record: 650 wishes granted through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. (CNBC)
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged the owners of a New Jersey deli business with running a massive market manipulation scheme that amounted to “brazen fraud.” The deli made headlines last year for somehow being valued at more than $100 million on the stock market. (Vice)
U.S. News publishes an annual list of the world's "best countries." This year's top five: Switzerland, Germany, Canada, the United States, and Sweden. The U.S. has moved up a few slots over the last several years. (US News)
In a milestone move to expand enrollment, UCLA announced Tuesday that it is buying two expansive properties owned by Marymount California University, a small Catholic institution in Rancho Palos Verdes that shuttered its doors last month. UCLA drew nearly 140,000 first-year applications for about 6,600 spots in fall 2021 and even more applications this year. (LA Times)
Thanks for reading. Photo credit: Unsplash. I’ve written about this before at Inc.com. See you in the comments.