To master public speaking, it helps enormously to break down the task into the five parts of classical rhetoric. That’s what I did: I followed the same framework as every speaker since Aristotle. Regardless of the nature of your own interest in speaking, you can do the same.
(What kind of audience do you have? What do you want to achieve?)
If you have a talk coming up, will need to find your own purpose before anything else. Your purpose is more important than the topic, or subject (a common beginner’s mistake).
That’s true whatever the nature of your talk:
- A wedding speech
- A presentation at work
- An artist’s Show and Tell
- A eulogy
- A political speech
- A planning appeal to a local authority
- A webinar
- Or anything else that involves letting words out of your mouth to be heard by an audience
Only after you have identified your purpose do you think about what to include in your speech, lecture, presentation, pitch or talk.
(What to tell, what to leave out? How to use facts and figures. The power of story.)
Having worked out your purpose, you will have material to prepare, some in advance and some at the last minute.
You’ll have to make hard choices about what to leave out.
(Sharpen your rhetoric. Channel somebody inspiring. Raise the emotional temperature.)
We all have our own voice: I have mine, you have yours.
You may worry that you haven’t “found” your voice yet, but you will.
Until then, it’s OK to borrow – but never say something that feels fake.
(Mental routines. Practising out loud. Using mind maps and other visual memory aids. Using props.)
You may not need to remember anything. It’s OK to read from a piece of paper. But you can probably do better than that.
Happily, to memorise things, you can choose from a variety of mnemonic techniques.
(What to do immediately before the event, what to do at the event, and what to do afterwards.)
There are many things to be said about this.
Wow, Cripes, Cor Blimey
When I submitted the first draft of my book to the lovely people at Short Books, I used the names of those five parts just as you’ve seen them: Invention, Arrangement, Style, Memory and Delivery.
My editor wondered if I could make them a little less, well, boring. So I came up with alternatives. As somebody who enjoys playing with words, I found the task amusing:
1. WOW, or Work Out What (The Heck You Are Up To).
2. CRIPES, aka Choose Really Interesting Proofy Evidence Stuff
3. COR BLIMEY, or Clean Out Rubbish But Leave It Massively Elegant
4. CRUMBS, also known as Completely Ram Your Mind/Brain Space
5. GASP, aka Give A Super Presentation.
I quite liked these alternative titles. But my editor decided in the end to go with the traditional versions. Probably very wise. I repeat the list here to emphasize how important those five steps are – regardless of what you call them.
I used those five steps to structure the speaking course I ran, with videos and downloads and one-to-one sessions.
“Thank you so much for what has been the best course I’ve taken. Not only has it been invaluable in getting me to think properly about what a) public speaking means, and b) what I actually want to say, it’s also inspired me with fresh ideas about what to do and where to go creatively.” – N.J., participant