The other day I was listening to a speech. The Japanese speaker was talking about a horrible motorcycle accident, how he struggled in rehabilitation just to walk. He had a great voice. He was very dramatic. It was a great story. At the end there was even a message. That was to “live in the moment.” I was not moved. Does that make me a horrible person?
Some of you wannabe motivational speakers are probably thinking so. I will be brutally honest. I do not like superficial motivational speeches. The kind that say “Go out and live out life to the fullest”, “Aim for the moon. Because if you fail, you fall among the stars”, “Live out your passion” etc. There is a whole host of other glittering generalities. I don`t like any of them.
However, they are attractive. I see them make the rounds of a many a Toastmasters speech contest.
Since, I have been in Toastmasters for a long time, I get asked questions about how to make a good motivational speech. In fact, the World Championship of Public Speaking David Brooks said the key to a good speech is to “Make a point. Tell a story. Make another point and tell another story.”
This is what many faithful speakers do. However, I do notice that many Japanese people do the formula backwards. i.e. tell a story then make a point. That is not so good, but a common pattern in their culture. Anyway, so my Japanese friends then often ask. “Should I think of first, the story or the message”.
That is the WRONG question people. It just doesn`t matter. You can have a great story and find many different points. You can pick one point and find many different stories that would fit. You can go either way.
This is where people go wrong. This is the reason behind why I was not moved.
They put content before thinking through anything else. I am pretty sure the speaker wanted people think “You know I been worried too much about the future/past. I just start thinking about the present right now.” Having a fabulous story and a point tacked at the end will not success into doing that.
At best the reaction would be: “That was a great story, I enjoyed his acting.”
At worst the reaction would be: “Easy for him to say. He is (tougher, smarter, etc.) than I am.
So what can you do?
I suggest the #1 thing to do is: Make the goal of your presentation crystal clear to yourself.
To do that, yes you do need a good message. Yes, you do need a good story. But, you better have a clear imagine of what you want the audience to become after your speech when it is all said and done.
From there you can decide how to structure your presentation to most effectively accomplish your goal. Then you finally you can decide what message would work the best, and what stories would work in your speech.
So, I ask you now. To take a look at a speech or presentation that you will be giving soon.
1) What is goal that you are trying to accomplish?
2) How could you structure the speech or presentation to achieve that goal?
3) Then finally, what pieces of content would be most appropriate?
You can decide at this point what message or story you want to use.