Author Archives: thetoastmasterjerrywalch

About thetoastmasterjerrywalch

I am a full-time professional freelance writer living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I have been writing professionally since 1970s and publish both in the print media and online. I have been affiliated with Toastmasters International since the 1960s and am currently a member of the Downtown Toastmasters Club 5158 in Colorado Springs and am currently serving as the VP of Education.

Outline! Outline! Outline!

Once you have selected the subject that you will be speaking on and have narrowed it down so you can cover it adequately in the time allotted you, it is time to begin outlining your speech. Many people will tell you that there is no need to spend time outlining a short speech i.e. a 5 to 7 minute Toastmasters Project speech. Do not listen to them. Do not become one of the sheep they will have led astray. You need to begin writing every prepared speech by creating an outline.

During the topic selection stage you narrowed your topic down to manageable size. You decided upon your core message. If you were writing an essay instead of a speech, that core message would have become your thesis statement. Every English teacher that I ever had in school said repeatedly that if we could not express our paper’s thesis in one sentence, we were not ready to start our outline. The same thing applies to your “core message,” if you cannot express it adequately in one sentence, you are not ready to start outlining your speech. You need to have a clear understanding of your core message because your speech outline will be built on that core message. Outlines are essential to crafting a coherent and focused presentation.

An Overview of an Outline.

Just as a blueprint would be a contractor’s guide to erecting a new room addition on your home, your speech outline is your guide to constructing coherent and focused speech. It is a road-map that leads you from your place of departure, your opening attention getter, to your final destination, your speech closing where you will tell your audience what you have just told them. It is the road-map that delineates all the interesting points along way, your main points and their supporting points in the body of your speech. It is a road-map that links all the key elements of your speech—the opening attention getter; the main points and their supporting points in the body of the speech; and the close or recap of your speech—together in one unified message. The outline also defines and smooths out the transitions between the speech elements, although some speech writers leave the creation of smooth transitions between speech element for the speech editing and rewriting stage.

The Basic Speech Outline is a Template for the Structural Elements of your speech. The structural elements being

  1. Introduction

  2. Body

  3. Close

of your speech.

The Basic Speech Outline is a Template for the logical elements of your speech. The advise given every new speech writer as well as every beginning public speaker is to

  1. Tell your audience what you are going to tell then (speech opening)

  2. Then tell them (speech body)

  3. And then tell them what you have just told the (speech close/recap)

Combine the Structural Elements Template with the Logical Elements Template and we get the Generic Speech Outline. The Generic Speech Outline contains the following elements

  1. Introduction: The introduction gets your audiences attention, establishes the subject of your presentation, establishes your core message, and establishes your supporting points.

  2. Body of your speech: the three main points of your speech each with one to two supporting points. Your speech should be limited to three to five main points because studies have shown that is the maximum number of points an audience will retain.

  3. Conclusion: The recap (tell them what you have just told them), give them your call to action.

There are several major variation to this Generic Speech Outline and I will cover those in individual, future articles here on TheToastmasterJerryWalch Blog. The Generic Speech Outline is an outline that will work with any speech and is the ideal one to use with your very first speech, which, if you are a new member of a Toastmasters Club, will be your Icebreaker Speech.

General Speech Writing and Outlining Tips.

Your first order of business when outlining the body portion of your speech is to seek and extract the meaningful relationship between your main points and supporting points. This relationship can take one of five formats

  1. Chronological: i.e. a historical/biographical speech

  2. Spatial:i.e. a travel log

  3. Cause and Effect: the relationship between drug use and crime

  4. Order of Importance (low to high):i.e. reasons to eat healthy

  5. Broad vision to specific details:i.e. The mission of Toastmasters International to the mission of you TI club.

Time:a typical Toastmaster presentation is 5 to 7 minutes long for projects in the Competent Communicator Manual, the manual every new member must complete. Most competent speakers will agree that most successful speeches follow the Rule of Thirds. The rule of thirds would imply that you divide your stage time into three equal parts. For a 5 to 7 minute speech, that would mean devoting 1.7 to 2.3 minutes for each part of your speech. For a 5 to 7 minute speech, figuring that the speaker will use his or her allotted 7 minutes, I modify the Rule of Thirds, advising speaker to allow themselves 1.5 minutes for their opener, 4 minutes for the body, and another 1.5 minutes for their close and call to action. I teach this to new speakers because the speaker needs at least one minute speaking time for each of his or her main points that he or she will cover in the body of his or her speech.

Many word processing programs have outlining functions that make creating and editing outlines a snap, but if you are more comfortable using pen and paper, then, by all means, use pen and paper. It does not matter what method you use to create your outlines, what is important is that you start outlining all your speeches beginning with your very next speech.


What to do About Presentation Jitters?

Everybody suffers from nerves just before making an important presentation. Even the old pros who have been doing it for what seems like a lifetime. Any speaker who denies that truth is either lying to you, or even worse, lying to themselves. A speaker who lies to himself or herself about suffering from nerves just before going on stage is doing themselves a great disservice. They are keeping themselves from becoming all that they could be as a speaker. We may experience the jitters for many reasons. We may feel that we have not prepared properly for the presentation. We may feel that we are not as expert on our subject as we should be. We may feel unprepared to face the audience Q&A session that will follow your formal presentation. You may feel that you will be facing a hostile audience. No matter what the underlying causes of your jitters are, you can alleviate those jitters in just five minutes before taking the stage.

The process that I am about to share with you here will transport you from your self-conscious, nervous state to a “Productive Level of Relaxation.” This relaxation technique will put you in “The Zone”, that sweet spot where every speaker wants to be, no matter how important or unimportant his or her presentation may be for his or her career.

This is a simple breathing exercise.

The first step in the exercise is to find a quiet place, a place of solitude. You don’t have to go to a Tabetian Monastery or a mountain retreat to find your place of solitude. A hotel or motel room will do nicely. Your car parked out in front of the venue where you will be speaking will work OK too. Even a stall in the restroom will suffice in a pinch. Anywhere where you can sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor will do for this five minute breathing exercise.

The second step is to close your eyes and close out the external world. You objective here is to concentrate on what is happening within your body. For the first minute, listen to every breath that you take. Notice what is happening in your body as you breathe slowly and calmly. Experience the sensation with your body, not with your mind. Feel each breath as it travels from your mouth to your lungs, bringing with it, life giving oxygen. Transporting life sustaining oxygen to every cell in your living body.

Third, focus on a visual image that you create in your mind. The image should consist of a neutral shape—a circle, a triangle or a square. The figure should have a neutral color—a green, a yellow, a blue or some shade of green, yellow or blue.

Fourth, focus on that single image, making it as crystal clear as possible. Adopt a passive attitude while focusing on this single image. While doing this, other thoughts will enter your mind. Take note of them and then let them go on their way. Stay totally focused on your chosen image. Do nothing, just let your awareness be.

Fifth, after five minutes, your breathing will have become much slower and much deeper. Open you eyes slowly and rise to a standing position. Maintain this relaxed state as you leave your place of solitude and take the stage to make your presentation.

This breathing exercise to reduce presentation jitters is no substitute for practicing your presentation, it is an adjunct to that practice. Every speaker needs to practice his or her presentation until they can be ready to give it on a moments notice because that’s when they will need it most.

The 7 Deadly Sins

At Toastmasters we make a big deal of counting every filler word uttered by a speaker during their prepared speeches and uttered during impromptu speaking. The Darth Vader of the Ah Counting universe, and we have a few of them in my club, even catch the “ahs”, “ums”, “you knows”, “so”, “you see”, and other filler words uttered during every speaking moment. The Darth Vaders take their job very serious and take pride of reporting every lapse to the speaker when giving their role report at the end of the meeting. Regardless of what our beloved Darth Vaders would have you think, an occasional filler word will not destine your presentation to failure. A speaker with good content, content that is important to and useful for his or her audience will earn the audience’s forgiveness when an occasional filler word slips from between the speaker’s lips. There will be no forgiveness for the speaker who commits one or more of the 7 Deadly Sins and get caught in the act. Your presentation will be doomed to fail and you, the presenter, to disgrace.

Everyone knows what the Biblical 7 Deadly Sins are, they were drummed into our heads during those seemingly endless Sunday School classes;

  1. Sloth

  2. Envy

  3. Lust

  4. Gluttony

  5. Greed

  6. Wrath

  7. Pride

but how do the Biblical 7 Deadly Sin relate to the world of public speaking?

The First Deadly Sin: Sloth.

A speaker commits the unpardonable sin of Sloth when he or she fails to prepare properly for his or her presentation. Sloth is another word for laziness. Speaking in public, whether formally or informally, is an activity essential to our success in business, in life itself, yet many people never put forth the effort needed to master it.

People join Toastmasters because they see the need to improve their communication skills. They achieve that goal in a setting where everyone wants to see them succeed, a safe environment. Sadly, because it is a safe environment where their speeches are evaluated to motivate, they are never under pressure to become all that they could be. Many Toastmasters are guilty of Sloth because they never prepare for their speeches until the eleventh hour and depend on their ability to speak extemporaneously to get them through their 5 to 7 minute presentation. The Competent Communication Manual, the manual containing the first ten speech projects that every Toastmaster must complete to reach his or her first level of competency, is a veritable communications textbook, with a wealth of invaluable information on speech making, but far too many Toastmasters never really study that material. Far too many Toastmasters simply rush from one project to the next on their way to getting their Competent Communicator Certificate. They are guilty of Sloth because they do not put forth the effort to master each project before moving on to the next project.

The Second Deadly Sin: Envy.

As public speakers we are guilty of this unpardonable sin when we express the belief that truly great speaker got to where they are because of luck or because they were born with the gift of gab. Those guilty of envy believe that great speakers are natural born speakers. Speakers who are guilty of the Deadly sin of Envy are likely to commit other sins because of it.

  • They commit the sin and crime of vulgarism. They steal the stories and anecdotes of other speakers and claim them to be their own.

  • They steal other speaker’s Power Point presentations and tell everyone that they created them.

  • They copy the speaking styles of successful speakers, never putting forth the effort to find their own voice.

These speakers doom themselves to failure because they know that they are phonies. This self awareness leads to their lack of self-confidence and promotes their nervousness in every speaking situation. They are their own worse enemy.

Beginning with the Second Deadly Sin, a chain reaction sets in, each deadly sin leading into the commission of the next deadly sin. Envy leads directly into Lust.

The Third Deadly Sin: Lust.

Picture your audience naked. I cringe every time I hear someone tell a new speaker that. It is common advice. It is also the worse advice anyone could give a speaker. The theory behind it is picturing an audience naked makes them appear just as vulnerable as the speaker feels. Picturing an audience naked might help feed the speaker’s erotic fantasies, but it will not help them become better speakers. Picturing you audience naked is falling prey to the unpardonable sin of Lust. Picturing your audience naked can lead to other distractions that make speaking even more difficult. I’ll leave it up to you to imagine what those additional distractions might be since I want to keep this post G-Rated.

The Fourth Deadly Sin: Gluttony.

The unpardonable sin of gluttony is committed by speakers who believe that more is always better. More Power Point Slides, more numbered or bulleted lists, more graphs, more words on every slide, more detailed examples, more of everything. The speakers who have fallen prey to the unpardonable sin of Sloth are especially susceptible to the Deadly Sin of Gluttony because they allow their visual aids to take the place of a presentation. Gluttony leads the speaker down the path to Greed.

The Fifth Deadly Sin: Greed.

The unpardonable sin of greed is the sin of excess. Speakers commit this deadly sin when they go over the time limits of their presentation. Going over the time allowed for your speech is a violation of the unwritten contract that you have signed with your audience. The members of your audience are busy people and they have penciled in a certain amount of time to hear your presentation, to exceed that amount of time means that you are interfering with their next scheduled meeting or task, and that is never good for you or for them. On the other hand, they will appreciate it if you finish a couple of minutes early because that will give them a minute or two to relax between appointments. However never finish too early or the audience will fell cheated. If you are scheduled to speak for 30 minutes and finish in 27, that’s great; finish a 30 minute speech in 20 minutes and the audience will feel cheated especially if they paid good money to hear what you had to say.

The Sixth Deadly Sin: Wrath.

Commit this unpardonable sin and the wrath of God will descend upon you and your presentation. A speaker commits this Deadly Sin when he or she handles problems that may arise during a presentation in an inappropriate or otherwise bad manner. It does not matter how bad a presentation is going; it does not matter whose fault that may be, surrendering to the provocation and becoming angry is counterproductive. Getting angry—whether at yourself, at someone in the audience, or at some other factor that affects you speech—is the worse possible thing that you can do during a presentation. Anger displayed by you makes your audience uncomfortable. Your anger destroys your credibility in the eyes of your audience.

So why do speakers succumb so easily to these first six Deadly Sins? The answer to that question lies within the deadliest Deadly Sin of them all, the Seventh. The Seventh Deadly Sin is the progenitor of all the other unpardonable, Deadly Sins.

The Seventh Deadly Sin: Pride.

Speakers fall prey to this unpardonable sin when then succumb to the thinking that being a public speaker is all about them. They are too full of self. They think that they really are “all that.” As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, And an haughty spirit before a fall (KJV).

Now Hear This: Public Speaking is Never

  • all about you

  • about the lavish praised the MC may bestow upon you during your introduction

  • about your razor sharp delivery

  • about your lavish, elaborate Power Point slides

public speaking is always all about your audience and the message that you have for them.

What Should I Talk About?

What should I talk about? That is the very first question that every new Toastmaster that I have ever mentored asked me as they approached their second speech project. The topic of their first speech, The Ice Breaker Speech, was a no brainier, they were to talk about themselves, to introduce themselves to the other club members. The subject of their second speech wasn’t so obvious. It could be anything as long as it was presented in such a way that it met the projects objectives. So the $64,000 question became, “What should I talk about?”

There are many approaches to answering that $64,000 question, and they are all legitimate approaches. For today, I will concentrate on what I call the “Three Question Approach.” Those three questions are:

  1. Am I an expert on this topic?
  2. Am I passionate about this subject?
  3. Will my audience care about this subject matter?

Am I an expert on this topic?

In order to qualify as an expert on the topic, you don’t need to know everything there is to know about it—no one person knows everything there is to know about anything—you simply need to know more about it than your audience does. In order to appear as creditable to your audience, your subject knowledge must go beyond that which you plan to present, if you are to handle any questions your presentation prompts audience members to ask during a Q&A or to ask after the presentation.

Am I passionate about this subject?

The passion that you feel for what you are speaking on will energize your speech. Your passion will be transmitted to your audience through your voice, your gestures, your eyes, your movements on stage, through everything you say and do. Your listeners will be able to “see” that what you are talking about really matters to you and through you they will feel that it should matter to them too. By the same token, if you find your subject uninteresting and unimportant, those feeling will come across to your listeners and they will begin to feel the same way.

Will my audience care about this subject matter?

When speaking outside of a Toastmasters Club setting, the odds are that your chosen subject will matter to everyone that comes to hear your presentation. If they didn’t see value in it for them, they would have stayed home or gone to hear a different presentation. A better question to ask would be “Will the audience get what they came for from my presentation?” You must speak to their needs or they will never come to hear you speak again. Even more important to your career as a speaker, the people who paid you the big bucks to speak will never hire you again.

Three Lists!

The very first step in selecting the perfect subject for any speech begins with making three lists. It doesn’t matter whether you make your three lists as word processor documents, with pen and paper, or even with a crayon on toilet paper, as long as you make them. Label those lists like this:

  1. Things that I know a great deal about.

  2. The things that I really love.

  3. The things that will really matter to the audience I will be presenting to.

Make these lists as complete as possible, especially the first two lists because those are the lists that you will use over and over again whenever you are faced with the question, “What should I talk about?” The third list will vary from one audience to another and will be based on your analysis of that audience.

The Zone System

Now that we have constructed our three subject lists, we will transfer all that data to an 8 zone Venn Diagram and see what zone the various interest fall into. We then compare the pro and cons of using those subjects as a subject for our speech.

Zone 1: The Sweet Spot.

The “Sweet Spot” is where the subjects you know the most about, the subjects that you are most passionate about, and the subjects that your audience is most interested in all converge. It’s the spot where every speakers like to find him or herself, the spot where every audience likes a speaker to be. When speaking from this position, the speaker and his or her audience are in the “zone.” Hence, it is affectionately known as the “Sweet Spot” on the Venn Diagram. This is the zone from which you should choose you speech subject whenever possible.

Zone 2: Expertise but no passion.

Speech subject that fall in this zone are subject that you have expertise in and are subjects that are of importance to your audience, but are subjects that you are not passionate about. Your audience will recognize your expertise but your lack of passion will have a negative impact on your audience. Unless you are able to rekindle the passion that you once felt for that subject while presenting it to your audience, you will not be able to make them feel passionate about it. You should only choose a subject from this zone as a second option.

Zone 3: Not for this audience.

If you speak from this zone you are faced with a major problem—you are an expert in the subject, a subject that you are passionate about, but a subject that has absolutely no perceived value to your audience. If you are forced to speak from this zone, which may be the case if you have the subject of your speech assigned by the person hiring you to speak, you will have to find the value it has for your audience and then convince them early on in your presentation of that value. The best option for you, if you have the option, is to save those topics for a different audience, an audience who already has the interest.

Zone 4: Passion but no expertise.

The problem in this zone is that you lack the required expertise in the subject. You have a passion for the subject and it is a subject of value to your audience but you know no more about the subject than what your audience already knows. You will need to develop the expertise before picking a subject from this zone. The only way you could make it work without that expertise would be to discard the traditional speech format and facilitate an open discussion with the audience.

Zone 5: Don’t touch them.

Speeches that fall in this zone would be of great value to your audience, but they all fall in areas where you have no expertise as well as no passion. Whatever you do, don’t try and bluff your way through this station. Your lack of knowledge of the subject, complicated by your lack of interest in it, will show through.

Zone 6: You have the expertise.

You know enough about the subject to speak on it—the problem here is that you have no passion for the subject and the subjects has no apparent value for your audience. For any chance at all for a speech to succeed here, you will either have to kindle a sincere passion for it during the presentation or show its value to your audience. If you can do either one of those things, it will help you with the other. Better to avoid this zone completely if possible.

Zone 7: Fascination is not enough.

These are things that you love to talk about, but know very little about them, and your audience has no interests in them. Keep them to talk about with friends, don’t waste the time of your audience who has paid good money to get information on something of value to them.

Zone 8: Eight is a nice number.

There is nothing there for you or your audience.

The bottom line is that for best results shoot for the “Sweet Spot.” Pick a topic from Zone 2 as a second and last choice.

What’s Your Hook?

What do professional public speakers have in common with champion prize fighters? They both have devastating hooks. One champion boxer may have a great left hook, another champion a great right hook. Every world class speaker has many great verbal hooks. Just as the boxer may set his opponent up for the knockout punch with a left hook or a right hook, so must the public speaker with his or her verbal hook which consists of the very first words out of his or her mouth.

What is a verbal hook?

A “hook” is anything that gets the audiences attention. A speaker can begin by asking the audience a question that requires a response on the part of the listeners. A rhetorical question doesn’t work well as a hook. A speaker may open his or her speech by presenting a shocking fact or statistic, that will get their attention. The speaker might even choose to open his or her speech with a personal story. Audiences like personal stories as openers. What you need to remember that every hook will not set your audience up for the knockout punch, the body of your speech. In order for you to deliver an effective knockout punch, your hook must not only get the audiences attention within the first 30 seconds, it must hold their attention for the punches to come. In order for your hook to accomplish that, whatever you use to hook your audience with must be relevant to the rest of your speech. For example, yesterday was the eleventh anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and on the Pentagon. I might have opened a speech yesterday by telling the story of how I lost several very close friends during those attack. That story would have caught my audiences attention as an opener, but it wouldn’t have held their attention for the rest of my speech unless the rest of my speech pertain to those 9/11 events. A good hook not only captures your audiences attention, it will make everything else you say more memorable.

What kind of hook should you use?

The good news is that there are many great hooks to choose from, but not all of them work equally well with every speech. What would work well with one audience for a given speech might not work with a different for the same speech. This is another reason every speaker must master the art of audience analysis. In order to pick an effective hook to use with any given audience, we need to know what motivates that audience in the way we want to motivate them.

Personal stories are great hooks provided that the story is something that your audience can relate to and provided that it is relevant to the rest of your speech. The story must also be a true story. I once knew a speaker who had been hired to give the keynote speech at a fund raiser for a local animal shelter. His face was badly disfigured so he had devised this opening story about how he had been burned while rescuing puppies from a burning tenement building. The story was a masterpiece of fiction but it was fiction none the less. He captured the audiences attention, a few of the women were even crying, as they hung onto his every word. Things were going great until a few minutes into his presentation a man in the back couldn’t keep quiet any longer. He stood up and yelled out at the top of his lungs, “You are a fake. You hate dogs. You didn’t get those burns rescuing puppies, you got burned in a car accident. I know. I was there.” Well, that got the audience to wondering if the fund raiser itself was on the up and up and many needy animals went without funds because of that deceitful speaker. I know that this story is true because I was the man who stood up in the back of the room and accused him of being a fake.

Physical props work great as hooks too. Public speaking is all about making an oral presentation. If you suddenly reach down beneath the lectern and pull out a physical object that is critical to the subject you are speaking on, you will have captured your audiences attention and will have them in the palm of your hand for the duration of you speech. Not just any prop will do. It has to be something that will reach out and grab your audience in a vise-like grip.

I am a lifetime member of the NRA, the National Rifle Association and a Second Amendment activist. I was asked to give the keynote at a rally where most of the audience was in favor of stronger gun control. What was my hook? What were the props that I used to capture and hold their attention that night? After I was introduced and before saying anything at all, I slowly laid out on the table provided for me, some of the rifles, shotguns, and pistols that they would like to see banned. That really got their attention. Then, each of those legal and legally owned weapons were used to illustrate various points that I made throughout my 45-minute keynote speech. For me this approach worked because I had the credentials, which included a concealed carry permit for all the pistols I had displayed. The display of actual guns got their attention. I then combined that with true stories about how private citizens had used legally owned firearms to save their own lives and to save the lives of other citizens when their lives were threatened by armed criminals.

Startling statistics are an unbeatable hook. I used this one recently when presenting a speech on second amendment rights. I opened my speech with this question/statement: “Did you know that the four states in the United States—Vermont, Arizona, Alaska and Wyoming has the lowest violent crime rates of all the fifty states and the District of Columbia?” of course, if you are going make that kind of assertion, you had better be able to back it up with some cold, hard facts. I did, the Uniform Crime Report published by the United State’s Department of Justice.

In conclusion.

Just any old hook will not do. You need the right hook for the audience you are presenting to. Quite often you will spend more time developing the right hook for each audience you present to then you will spend preparing the speech itself. One final word about props that could pose a threat to your audience’s safety, such as my weapons, make sure they are displayed in a safe manner. In the case of my weapons, they were displayed with their magazines removed, their bolts locked back, and with a trigger lock in place.

Audience Analysis

Audience analysis involves gathering and interpreting information about the recipients of oral, written, or visual communication. Back in the day when I got my start as a freelance writer, I was told to not even consider querying any magazine with an article idea until I read, no, not read, analyzed 6 months to 1 year of back issues of that magazine. I was told to analyze the articles to see the slant or approach the published writer took to their subjects. The tone they used, the voice they used, the level of the vocabulary they used, all provided valuable information about the magazine editorial preferences, as well as those of their readers. The display ads told the writer about the readers economic and social status. Everything between the covers provided valuable insights for the writer and helped him or her craft their query letters and send them to the right target market. Audience analysis does the same thing for the public speaker. The techniques involved in gathering the information is different and more involved but the purpose behind doing an audience analysis is the same. Let’s begin by looking at the kinds of data a speaker gathers while performing an audience analysis.


I love acronyms. An acronym can be defined as a pronounceable word made up of a series of letters or groups of letter taken from other words. In some cases, as in this case, we can transform a single word into an useful acronym. For the public speaker getting ready to do an audience analysis, each letter in audience points the speaker towards certain type of data that he or she needs to know about his or her audience. What does A.U.D.I.E.N.C.E. Stand for?

  • A nalysis
  • U nderstanding
  • D emographics
  • I nterest
  • E nvironment
  • N eeds
  • C ustomized
  • E xpectations

We will now look at each of these items in greater detail.

A is for Analysis.

We should begin our audience analysis by determining who will be in the audience we will be presenting to and the number of people that will be in our audience. The size of the audience is especially important at this point because it will determine whether we will need to use a microphone or not.

U is for understanding.

How much the audience already knows about the subject you will be presenting on will determine how much background information you will have to present before getting into the real meat of your presentation. For example, if you are presenting on the flight characteristics of a new single-engine trainer to an audience consisting of flight instructors and other aviation executives, you will know that you will not have to define terms like “Roll”, “Yaw”, and “Pitch”. Audience understanding will determine the vocabulary you can use for your presentation.

D is for Demographics.

Demographics is data on the age range of the people in your audience, their educational background, their social-economic status, and their sex. For example, if you are presenting on the benefits of Final Expenses Insurance Plans to high school seniors, you will know that they will not feels the need for this kind of insurance that a group of senior citizens would. Audience demographics determines the approach you take in making a presentation.

I is for Interest.

Why did they come to hear your presentation? Did they come because they have a sincere interest in the topic you are presenting, such as the senior citizens in my last example, or, perhaps, like our high school seniors, they came because it was required of them? To put that same question a different way, will the people in your audience have a real and pressing need for the information you will be providing them? The urgency that your audience has for the material you will be presenting on will determine how hard you will have to work to hold their attention during your presentation.

E is for Environment.

In this case the environment that I’m talking about is the speakers environment. You need to acclimate yourself to the area in which you will be presenting from. Will you be speaking from a stage or raised podium or will you be on the same level as your audience? If there is no stage or podium, will everyone in the room be able to see and hear you? If you plan to go down into the audience during the Q&A, are the aisles between the seats wide enough for you to move easily?

N is for Needs.

You need to be aware of your audience’s needs as well as your needs as the speaker. If you are presenting in a large room with no raised platform to speak from many of those in the room may not be able to see you easily. In this case the need of your audience is to be able to see you. Your need as the speaker is to be seen by all those in your audience. Your need as the speaker is to get the people who requested you to speak to provide you with a platform to speak from. Your audience has a need to hear you. If you are presenting in a really large room or in a room with really bad acoustics, you have the need to be heard. You have the need for a sound system. If you move around a great deal during your presentation, you will have the need for a wireless microphone.

C is for Customization.

Depending on your assessment of your needs and your audience’s needs and the accommodations that the event coordinator can provide you, you will need to adapt to your speaking environment so that your audience can benefit the most from your presentation.

E is for Expectations.

The last letter in our acronym stands for Expectations, your audience’s expectations, not yours. You need to know what your audience came to hear, what they came to learn from you. You need to know what their needs are and then you must meet those needs. If you fail your audience in this respect, two things will happen and neither of them will be good for you and your career as a speaker. First, they will never pay good money to hear you speak again. Second, the event coordinator will never hire you to speak at one of his other events ever again.

Unlike with writers who can study six to twelve months of back issues when doing his or her audience analysis, you cannot study your audience in advance, that’s the bad news. The good news is that you can get the answers to all of these questions by visiting the venue where you will be speaking and by talking with the event coordinator. The event coordinator is paying you good money to speak, so it is in his or her interest to provide you with everything you need to make your presentation a success. That’s the rule. Of course there is an exception to every rule. You may run into a lackadaisical event coordinator from time to time who is anything but helpful. As a rule, you chances of encountering one of those is slim unless you are speaking for free at an event that was free to attend.

5 Keys to Writing a Great Speech

One of the greatest challenges that I faced in public speaking was mastering the art of speech writing. Speech writing has a style all its own that I had to learn by trial and error. There were a plethora of style books to guide me in writing for magazines, but nary a one on speech writing. Sure there were and are books on speech writing, but I wouldn’t call them “style books”. Perhaps, one of these days, I will write and publish a speech writing style book as an e-Book. For now, here are the 5 keys to writing a great speech. These are the corner stones on which every award winning presentation is built.

Sentence length.

One of the greatest challenges for me was to overcome my love affair with long, convoluted sentences. According to Philip Yaffee, a mathematician, speech writer, and journalist, when writing a speech the length of an average sentence should be between 15 and 18 words. Some sentence can be longer, such as my last sentence. The majority should average 15 to 18 words in length. I haven’t counted the words in each sentence in this post, but I think they average 15 to 18 words. Shorter sentences makes it easier for the audience to understand and retain information presented to them orally.

Practice the K.I.S.S. Principle.

This was another of my foibles in speech writing. It was even a problem for me in my technical writing at first. I had the tendency to assume too much knowledge on the part of my audience. I had a tendency to write and talk over their heads. Then, one day, a very wise editor wrote K.I.S.S. in huge letters diagonally across the first page of a manuscript that I had sent him. At the bottom of the page, he Keep It Simple Stupid. He very quickly explained that he wasn’t calling me stupid but to write my articles in such a way that assumed no knowledge on the part of my readers. Today, one of the most popular book series are written on that very principle, The For Dummies series. The bottom line is, that as writers or speakers, we must present our material in such a way that our audience can understand and use it.

Use Simple Words.

Use the vocabulary of the masses. As public speakers, as writers, we pride ourselves on our vast vocabularies. We love to speak and write in a declamatory style. OK, let’s take a break here. Most of you probably knew what the word “declamatory” meant, but, admit it, didn’t it make me sound really pretentious? Never, ever use a 5 dollar word when a 25 cent word will do the same job. As writers, as speakers, we are not, or we at least should not be, out to impress our audience with how many impressive words we know. As writers, as public speakers, our objective should be to convey useful information in a way that our audience can understand and use. Keep those big words in reserve for the next time you play Scrabble. Use them on the Scrabble Board and rack up those extra 50 bonus points for putting down those seven letter words.

Just the Facts.

If you were a fan of the old TV “Dragnet” series, you probably recall Sergeant Joe Friday saying at least once on every program, “Just the facts, Ma’am. Just the facts.” That’s a good mantra for the speech writer to utter over and over as he or she writes his or speeches. Keep your speeches terse, free of fluff. People come to presentations to get answers to to a problem they are facing or to get information on ways they can earn more money, improve their production, find more clients, or some other such reason. They don’t come to most presentations to hear you tell stories that serve no meaningful purpose for them.

Speak to keep your audience actively involved.

No matter what your speech objectives are, you need to keep your audiences actively engaged with you and your speech if you are to meet those objectives. To keep an audience actively engaged, you need to use a lot of verbs in your presentation. Speak in the active voice. Begin as many of your sentences with an action word whenever possible. This principle was driven home again for me when I started writing how-to articles for Demand Studios. Their guidelines required that every step started with an action. Using action words not only keeps your audiences actively engaged, they make it easy to cut out the fluff because the active voice is a terse voice.

In Conclusion.

There you have it folks, the 5 pillars of a great speech. The next time you have a speech to write for a Toastmasters Club project, or for an outside presentation, put these 5 principles to the test. You will be amazed at the results you get.