Basic Business Cents
Making Memorable Talks
by Lou Schultz, SCORE counselor
Original publish date 07/2009 (#15)
"When you give a talk, there are only three things the audience will remember-the introduction, the stories, and the conclusion." Roxanne Emmerich, who is a very good professional speaker, told me this surprising and somewhat disillusioning news. People put their heart and soul into content and to think people only remember the stories. But people can relate to the stories and they hold their attention. It is somewhat akin to advertising, which should stress benefits and not the features of a product or service. People are interested in what the product/service does for them and not much on how it is done. In other words, speak to your audience and not to yourself.
The next bit of advice Roxanne gave me was how to prepare the talk and I have found this really works. Take a clean sheet of paper and draw three circles of about an inch and a half in diameter equally spaced on the paper. Divide your message into three main issues or categories of the talk. Then start writing the points you wish to make radiating out from the appropriate circle. I find that my mind does not function serially and my thoughts that come to mind do not lend themselves to follow an outline form but are random. With the circle concept, as thoughts come to my mind, I write them down on the circle where they fit. Don't worry about the order of the thoughts at this point; just capture the ideas.
When you have exhausted your thoughts, start writing. You can put the categories (circles) in proper order and also points around the circumference of the circle in order. Now you can draft that memorable introduction and conclusion. I have found this really helps get started and get it done. It always helps to get another person to proof read because our minds sometimes read what they expect to read and we miss things in our own writing.
Now comes the delivery. I once attended a leadership training seminar for a major political party in Washington DC and an item on the agenda was delivering speeches. We were taught any talk worth listening to is worth learning by the speaker. The next speaker on the agenda was the Speaker of the House and he read his entire talk! I doubt that anyone remembered anything he had to say. Memorizing an entire talk is not easy so, unless we have a teleprompter, we need a prop. Go back to that sheet of paper with the circles and that one sheet is all you need. It is a sort of a mind map and you can glance at it very quickly and pick up the next point that you wish to make or elaborate on. You will be surprised at how much easier it is to find your place on the mind map than it is on an outline form. You may wish to redraw it with black ink and put the items in order around the circles to make it easier.
Additionally, make eye contact with the audience and talk, don't preach to them. Act like you are enjoying yourself and the audience will enjoy the experience as well.
Follow-up is also important. Provide members of the audience with a way to contact you later to expand your reach. I use a bookmark as a handout with useful information and my contact information. It is more likely to be kept than a business card and less costly than a pen. Send thank you notes to everyone who helped you and they are more likely to do it again.
P.S. This three-circle method of drafting a talk also works for writing a paper and even for a newspaper column.