Have you ever been asked to present something at short notice and not really known where to start? Or walked out of a meeting after addressing your team and gone “oh #%^*, I forgot to point out what I’m expecting from them regarding __”?
At these two pivotal points – when you have to prepare a talk quickly and don’t know where to start, or during your actual address – it’s very easy in the stress or distraction of the moment to get confused or lost in your topic.
So how do you get your point across in the most efficient way?
The solution: a simple structure
Our brains love patterns: the basal ganglia recognise and repeat patterns in our environment, and we can use this capacity to help ourselves become more efficient, clear presenters. So what you want is to have a simple, ‘go-to’ structure which you can use (and modify with experience) for all sorts of different speech scenarios. In a moment I’m going to suggest a structure which you can use, but first let me give you two examples of where you can use it. Just in the past week I’ve had:
- a sales team leader use this structure to present a national award to one of her team whom she’d nominated
- the COO of a top 100 company use it to pull together a clear message when an opportunity suddenly arose to address his marketing team
1. Choose a structure. Here’s one to get you started, but explore your own:
- This is my point
- Why I’m making the point
- Example(s) of the point
- This is my point
2. Choose a topic
Take two minutes to create your message using the above structure: jot down some notes. Yes, only 2 minutes: you’ll be amazed with practice how slick you’ll get at this!
3. Present it out loud
Using your notes if you need to, present your talk out loud. With practice, you’ll be able to speak without notes if you keep the structure simple.
And as I often mention, the key to success here is to practise using this structure until it’s embedded in your ‘muscle’ memory. Test it out at home on your own first, or present to the dog, or your partner. Next, try it in a meeting where you’d like to be clearer as you speak, but the outcome isn’t crucial. You’ll quickly become proficient enough to use it in all kinds of public speaking situations, and you may even find that you become known for your clear, elegant messages!
What do you think? I’d love to hear your comments.