Monday, 30 May 2011

Prepare a 20 minute speech in 5 minutes or less

An article on how it's possible to construct a twenty minute presentation in five minutes. Before I read this I was sceptical.

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Speech Writing… the Marcus Method

Before I delve into the title of this post, let me start off by saying I used to be just like most people – I had a complete and utter fear of speaking in public. In fact, when I was in high school I once gave a ‘speech’ in front of the student body that went so awfully bad (between the heat flashes, shakes, loss of words, and near collapse) that I committed at a young age to never venture in front of an audience again.

But as time went on, somehow things began to change. Where I once dreaded the thought of public speaking I came to love the results that great communication – the idea of changing lives for the better through your own words. As we all know, there is a special power behind the spoken word, and I’m glad that I can now say that I embrace this gift we’ve all been given.

But I digress. What say ye that we get down to the nitty-gritty? You want to know how to prepare a speech fast, and a good speech at that. I’m here to give it to you.

For many, the process of preparing a talk, speech, or seminar is more painful than passing a kidney stone. They spend hours of reading, writing, and editing just to come up with a few pages of words that will hopefully have an impact on listeners.

If you’ve ever gone through such a routine, I’m here to tell you there is a much, much easier way.

Simple Conversation

Let me ask you a question. When you’re at the office on Monday mornings, how long does it take you to ‘prepare’ what you tell your friends and peers?

Or when someone asks you, “How were the holidays?” how much time does it take you to start to answer?

If you’re like 99.9% of the world, these types of conversations are something you don’t think about.
There is no preparation. You simply are telling others about a snippet of your life.

So my question is why don’t we follow these same steps when we speak in a public setting?

Why do we add so much agony to the process of preparation?

Frankly, the whole thing makes no sense.

How to Burn 20 Minutes at the Snap of a Finger

Recently I was asked by a company to give a seminar to a business group. They told me I’d need to speak for about a half-hour, to which I said it would be my pleasure. The only problem, they said, was the fact that they were having this seminar just days away, which meant that I’d have little time to prepare.

Upon hearing this concern I told them to stop worrying, as I could easily talk about business for 3 hours that same night if they wanted me to.

How is such a feat possible?

Think about it, let’s pretend you’re a business owner and you went to dinner with a friend who asked you, “What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done as a business owner?”

I bet you could sit there with your friend and go on and on for hours about different experiences you’ve had over the years and the lessons you’ve learned from each.

And again, you achieve all of this ‘discussion’ without a lick of forethought.

The Magic of Brainstorming Our Past

This same principal applies to the seminar I mentioned above. As soon as the lady asked me to participate, I sat down at my desk and thought about the 5 worst decisions I’ve ever made as a business owner. Within a few minutes, this brainstorming activity had produced over 10 examples of mistakes I’d made, all of which I knew would make for a great personal experience, and corresponding lesson, in the seminar.

Knowing I had only 30 minutes to speak, I chose the 5 experiences I thought would have the best impact and voila.. I was done. That was it. A 30 minute business seminar had been prepared in 5 minutes.

I relate this story because it’s applicable to every speaking opportunity (well over 200 events) I’ve had over the past 10 years. As soon as someone gives me a subject, I sit down and brainstorm experiences I’ve had that had anything to do with said subject, as well as the lessons learned from each.

With the average personal experience/story taking 3-6 minutes to tell, it’s easy to see just how quickly one can come up with 20 minutes of great speaking material.

Now I know some of you may be thinking, “But what if people don’t like my experiences?”
Let me tell you right now this simple rule of thumb that, if followed, will make your speaking days ahead much, much easier:

“If any experience in life has taught you a lesson… it will likely teach others as well.”
So throw away the script, quit with the worries, and start relying on life and her many lessons folks. By so doing, I can assure you that not only will the process of speech preparation become much, much easier, but there will also come a day when you’ll anticipate the opportunity to change lives with your words.

About Marcus – Marcus Sheridan had his first book on Public Speaking published when he was 24 years old. Since that time, he has become a popular speaker and writer, and has been known to produce some pretty awesome articles on business, marketing, and life at his popular blog, The Sales Lion. I hope you liked Marcus's post as much as I did.

Other posts related to public speaking:

Presentation Skills from around the World
Thoughts on Public Speaking
Thinking of joining Toastmasters, here's my experience