Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Public Speaking for Writers 102

Avery made a very good point in his comments on my yesterday’s post. He suggested making sure you’ve actually prepared more material than you think you’ll have a chance to present. This is in case the question period doesn’t go well. I always try to develop my talks in modules of 5 to 15 minutes each so I can either leave out or add in modules to adjust for my time situation. Here’s how this works, using the example of my Dream Talk at Pagan Pride Day.

Module 1 - I allocated about 5 minutes or so to telling folks why I enjoy nightmares and to giving an example of one of mine. This is largely introductory material.

Module 2 – About 5 minutes were allocated to a brief description of the five stages of sleep and to the facts of sleep, such as that everyone dreams but that typically only those who wake up at the end of a dream remember them. This is set up material for the main body of the talk.

Module 3 – About 12 to 15 minutes were allocated for talking about ways to increase dreaming and improve one’s recall of dreams.

Module 4 – Here I used dream disorders to illustrate specific points about dreaming, such as how these could explain some ghost encounters or alien abduction experiences. This section of the talk was broken into sub modules. I had six sub modules planned, for about 3-5 minutes each, but was only able to get through three because of questions. I had more prepared, though, in case.

In a sense, the modular format works very much like “scenes” in writing. Individual modules can be moved around to fit the demands of the specific talk just as scenes can be moved around within the body of a manuscript. Neither modules nor scenes are infinitely flexible, but they do allow for better movement. They also make it much easier to practice and memorize a speech, at least for me.

More on public speaking in another post.


SQT said...

I was a school teacher for awhile and it was most efficient to break the day up into segments so the kids wouldn't get bored with one topic that went on too long.

J.R.'s point (in the last post) about knowing your audience is key too. I substituted for a couple of years and you learn real quick that works with first graders most definitely won't work in junior high.

SzélsőFa said...

To be prepared with some extra material, just in case we'd run out of topic is great idea!
will interactivity come into your vision? (I'm sorry to be impatient, I have already asked this)

Sidney said...

I'm not sure, but the fact that my cats awaken me during REM stage may ultimately affect my creativity.

Bernita said...

Makes the initial approach much less intimidating.
Thank you.

Charles Gramlich said...

sqt, or in college. Yes, audience is one of the big three things you need to consider, messenger, message, and audience.

Szelsofa, interactivity with the audience is almost always desirable. I try to get this by 1) allowing folks to ask questions throughout the presentation instead of just at the end (which isn't always feasible), 2) asking the audience questions myself to stimulate responses on their part, 3) by making comments that try to draw speaker and audience together as a group, such as commenting on some major news item at the time, and 4) by using an occassional handout that illustrates some of my points and hopefully stimulates thought and discussion.

Sidney, are you saying that your cats are the "anti-muse?"

Bernita, it does for me too.

SzélsőFa said...

I very much appriciate your efforts, Charles, Sorry for being so inpatient - I'm having this event on 29 October...

Charles Gramlich said...

No problem, Szelsofa. I hope this helped a bit. Keeping the modular idea up front will help too, making sure to have the talk divided into subsections.

Erik Donald France said...

I like it -- modules it is.

My father gave me tips years ago about public speaking and how to prep -- he said something similar about having a lot more in reserve than you'll actually use. Plus, it can still be drawn from during Q & A. Mostly it was for the sake of going in with confidence.

Farrah Rochon said...

I've been debating just how I should break up my upcoming talk on blogging. I think I just found my guide. Thanks!

AvDB said...

I like to look at speeches as if they were research papers (with a little more flair). I present my topic, give at least three solid supporting statements and make my conclusion. It's pretty much the same approach as your module format, breaking the talk down into digestible chunks.

I really wish I had been there for your speech; I'm fascinated just by the outline.

Steve Malley said...

My best advice to any speaker?

Bullet point notes. Just a word or two to refresh the memory, maybe a phrase. No risk then of being the one up at the podium mumbling verbatim from dense lines of type held right up to your face.

And you're free to gesture, make eye contact, be a bit more natural in their inflections, etc.

And of course, as with most things in life, rehearse. Fun topic!

Shauna Roberts said...

I never thought of structuring a talk in modules. Great idea! Thanks for the post.

Charles Gramlich said...

Erik, I intend to talk about confidence since it is one of the hardest things for many speakers.

Farrah, thanks. Any little bit helps, I think.

Avery, yes, it's not really that different in many ways from writing a persuasive essay.

Steve Malley, I tend to write my speeches out pretty fully at first, then go through and extract just bulleted points from it and increase the font size for ease of viewing as I talk. Generally, though, I practice enough that I seldom actually use my notes.

Shauna, thanks. Glad you liked it.

Michelle's Spell said...

That's a great suggestion about the modules. And extra material is always a good idea -- sometimes your first ideas don't work and you've got to run with something else.