Last month, I was working with my wife as she practiced her keynote speech for BCNF - a Neurofibromatosis Awareness group in British Columbia.
Kristi is NOT a speaker. Well - she is, and she could be, and sometimes she even WANTS to be - but she's a wife, a mom, and in management at Colorado's largest movie theater - NOT a speaker.
Still, she's a celebrity in the NF world. She writes a popular blog, we put together a book for her a few years back, and she's dedicated to both creating awareness and educating doctors, parents, and children about the disorder that affects her and three of our six kids so directly.
As she prepared, she knew she wouldn't be able to memorize her speech. Instead, she's more of a 'lively reader'. She's worked hard to create a very authentic script - which is a lot harder to do than it sounds. Yet, every time she'd read it, I'd have to push her to really wring the emotion out of it.
"You've got to MEAN it!" came out of my well-meaning mouth more than once.
That's a huge lesson for all of us as speakers, whether we use notes or slides, or whether we read our speeches, or even can rattle it off verbatim each time without help at all. It's not just the words we say, it's the emotional meaning we give to them.
Kristi certainly MEANS everything in her speech. It's intensely personal, and designed to connect with and uplift her audience. It has humor, pathos, irony, anger, and triumph - all drawn directly from her real life. The obstacle is more often translating that meaning from the page via our voice inflections, pacing, and volume.
Tips for MEANING what you say:
1. Write the way you Talk - it's easier to be authentic when you deliver conversational phrases vs. well hone prose.
2. Record yourself - you might THINK you sound like you mean it, til you hear yourself say it.
3. Use Note CARDS - with bullet points to remind you where you're going, vs. letting yourself go through the speech solely via the script. Imagine trying to get somewhere new by car looking only at your GPS screen!
4. Highlight Emotions - with a real highlighter - different colors for different emotions, just to trigger yourself when you see it.
5. Get coached - or at least have a neighbor spray you with a water bottle everytime you slip into monotone.
When you MEAN it, the audience FEELS it. When they FEEL it, they remember it, and they are much more likely to act on it - which is, after all, the whole reason you're up there, right? To Speak...and Deliver!
I've attached her speech below - I think she's getting it ;)