Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Speaking is just Talking with Style

One of my favorite parts of Toy Story was when Buzz Lightyear, after insisting that he could fly, jumped off the bed, hit a rubber ball, a toy car, and then launched from a ramp to a plane hanging from a ceiling, zooming in circles above Woody and the other toys before landing, and announcing "Can!" Woody protested, saying "That wasn't flying, it was falling...with style!"

Didn't matter, Buzz had won over the other toys, and Buzz was the next big thing in the Toy Chest.

Many new speakers may see speaking well as impossible as flying - and that without an amazing Turbine Engine voice, a message with a large Wingspan, and a confidence powered by Jet Fuel, they'll forever be grounded. They see great speakers like Zig Ziglar, Mark Sanborn, and, over the last few years, newcomer Rory Vaden, and think they'll never fly as high as these Jets of the speaking industry.

But the best Speakers start by just Talking...with Style. Are you ready to take the jump?

A. Organize - Just as Buzz climbed to a high spot in the room to take off from, you want to set yourself up for success before you begin. Speaking doesn't have to be complicated - a simple opening, body, and close is sufficient. The more speaking you do, the more complex you can get with points, subpoints, transitions, etc. For now, just have a clear beginning and end with some support in the middle.

B. Grab Attention and Jump In - Buzz intoned "To Infinity and Beyond" before he jumped, and all eyes were on him (it?). Have a strong opening statement, and proceed to back it up with supporting ideas and examples.

C. Talk - Don't Speak. Buzz just let the flying take care of itself, and you can let your talking speak for you. Don't pontificate from the stage. You're not an actor or a preacher (unless you are). You're a speaker who needs to converse with the audience. You may need to be a little louder, and look at more people, but you're really just talking about your topic. Just let yourself go!

D. Enjoy the Flight - Once you're talking, you're speaking. You may not be ready to join the Blue Angels, but if you can glide from one point to another, you're getting the job done. Be enthusiastic and remember the importance of your message, and your concern about yourself will fade into the background.

E. Land on Both Feet - Can! Make sure you close by restating what it is you want your audience to think, feel, and/or do. Don't end on Q&A, and risk landing on the wrong runway. Don't rush to sit down without putting the landing gear down, and making sure your audience gets to the destination you wanted them to reach.

After a few practice flights, you'll find you've talked yourself into being a speaker. You'll improve as you go along, maybe build a jetpack for effect, even learn to do some loop to loops for the sake of making a point. Just don't ever forget this basic principle - to be an effective speaker, start by talking WITH your audience, not TO your audience. Don't be an actor, a reader, a politician, or an interpretive reader. Follow the Five Steps of Talking - with Style, and you'll be well on your way To Infinity, and Beyond!

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