When speaking in public, there are 15 questions in the minds of your audience members that need to be answered before you deliver the content of your message. These questions are often unconscious, but answering them in advance means that people are more receptive to what you have to say and more likely to remember what you said.
The first set of questions are all about making your message a priority:
1. Why this message? I read a piece recently that suggested that there are 3,500 books being written every day, and the question is not "How will I find time to read them all?", but rather, "Of those I choose to read, which ones are worth my attention?" Sharing information any other way is much the same; the audience gives me an hour of their time, so I had better give them something worth listening to. (IMPORTANCE)
2. Why this message now? Almost every audience you will address will feel that they have a lot on, and that all of it is all-important. This is something you need to navigate every time you are attempting to gather people's attention around your idea or cause. They must give it a sense of urgency! (URGENCY)
3. Why are you the person to tell me this message? This is where you begin to build credibility around who you are and your message. If you get a great response to your first two pieces around the message and the urgency of it, you can spend less time on the third credibility piece. (CREDIBILITY)
The second set of questions are all about positioning who you are and what you do:
4. Who are you? The critical thing whenever you talk about yourself is to do so humbly. Make sure you own your success but be quick to share how you have learnt from mistakes and failures. (DISCLOSURE)
5. What do you do? Think like an engineer as you talk through what it is you do and how you go about doing it. See if you can elevate others. State the fact that you are surrounded by some seriously smart technical cookies. Then proceed to explain how person X's genius allows you to get Y done better than others. (PROCESS)
6. Why should I care? You need to link what you know to what people want. If you can link how what you propose helps the audience get what they are in business for - people get that you are delivering a message just for them - that addresses their real work challenges. This makes you super relevant. (BENEFIT)
The third set of questions are all about knocking down barriers and subconscious objections:
7. What's wrong with you? At some time in your life you will be the odd one - maybe you are short, maybe you are bald, maybe you are white and the audience is not. Be careful that you don't come from insecurity when framing out a what’s-wrong-with-you concern. (PERSONAL)
8. What’s wrong with them? Think through your audience and see if they have a professional bias or some such. Eg. Engineers over specify things (like bridges so they don't fall down), accountants analyse things. Frame their bias in a complimentary way and position the disruption or change that is instructing your thinking. Ask for thoughts - then position your message. (AUDIENCE)
9. What's wrong with your message? If a message is hard to swallow or you know something might be poorly received it’s useful to get that elephant out the front of the room and name it. (MESSAGE)
The fourth set of questions switch the smart cookies on to your talk:
10. What's it like? This question is basically addressing the need for referencing. This helps people to see that you are not passing off ideas as your own. Quote others, hold up books, references, shared experiences and use analogies to start your conversation. (ABSTRACT)
11. What's it about? This is a question that positions your message into a primary overarching context. Basically pick a word that sums up what you want to discuss and share it at the outset. Then, what you want to do is build a memorable phrase that anchors that word in a way that's easy to recall. (EXISTENTIAL)
12. What's in it for me? The ‘me’ in this case may be 'my group' or 'my division' or 'my family' and it’s not an unreasonable question for someone to ask. Take time to get really clear what the pay off is for your desired audience. (INTRAPERSONAL)
The last three questions are about action and driving change:
13. What's your point? Make sure that your point is clear and well articulated. Your three or so great points nest under your primary context, (question 11) and make it real. (CLARITY)
14. How is it unique? Make sure you can explain how your idea is unique - look for a point of difference. (DIFFERENTIATION)
15. So what should I do? Our final frame is the action frame. Pick three, five or seven simple actions that people can take. Make them practical as well as conceptual. (PRESCRIPTION)
If the message you deliver is relevant, thorough, elegant and unique - then they just might act on it.
This month's download is the manifesto Before You Open Your Mouth; The Keys to Great Public Speaking, written by Nick Morgan.
"Why is most public speaking so awful? Why do we subject our fellow human beings to this form of torture when there are so many better things we could all be doing, like cutting our toenails, baking snickerdoodles, or watching re-runs of The Prisoner?
You’re in a ballroom with no windows in some random airport hotel. The lighting is dim. The whir of the heating system fills your ears with white noise. The colors around you are shades of grey and beige with puce trimmings. You’re only awake because you’ve had 1300 cups of coffee from the urn in the hallway. Let the speaking games begin.
It’s a diabolical sensory deprivation experiment.
Why is most public speaking so awful? Beyond soulless venues and Death by Power Point, speakers make the same four mistakes over and over again, continuing the sorry state of the art.”
The publishing world is in a massive state of disruption. I think that author publisher partnerships are more important that ever before. Here is a snapshot of some thoughts I had while preparing for a meeting.
Amid the tragedy of the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King on Thursday, April 4th, 1968, an extraordinary moment in American political history occurred as Robert F. Kennedy, younger brother of slain President John F. Kennedy, broke the news of King's death to a large gathering of African Americans that evening in Indianapolis, Indiana.
The gathering was actually a planned campaign rally for Robert Kennedy in his bid to get the 1968 Democratic nomination for president. Just after he arrived by plane at Indianapolis, Kennedy was told of King's death. He was advised by local police against making the campaign stop which was in a part of the city considered to be a dangerous ghetto, Kennedy insisted on going.
He arrived to find the people in an upbeat mood, anticipating the excitement of a Kennedy appearance. He climbed onto the platform and inquired as to whether or not the crowd knew – and then, realizing they did not know, he spoke form the heart off the cuff.
Here is what he said…
Ladies and Gentlemen - I'm only going to talk to you just for a minute or so this evening. Because...
I have some very sad news for all of you, and I think sad news for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and was killed tonight in Memphis, Tennessee.
Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice between fellow human beings. He died in the cause of that effort. In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it's perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in.
For those of you who are black - considering the evidence evidently is that there were white people who were responsible - you can be filled with bitterness, and with hatred, and a desire for revenge.
We can move in that direction as a country, in greater polarization - black people amongst blacks, and white amongst whites, filled with hatred toward one another. Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand, compassion and love.
For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man.
But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to get beyond these rather difficult times.
My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He once wrote: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart, until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."
What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence and lawlessness, but is love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or whether they be black.
(Interrupted by applause)
So I ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, yeah that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love - a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke. We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times. We've had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; and it's not the end of disorder.
But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings that abide in our land.
(Interrupted by applause)
Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.
Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people. Thank you very much. (Applause)
This speech is carved in stone on the cemetery where Dr King is buried…a powerful piece of speakership.