This is going to sound so elementary, I almost hesitate to write it. But the fact is, it’s a problem some speakers have, and it’s going to totally sabotage your speech unless you get it under control.
The problem is this: you have to stay focused on your theme.
When you’re preparing to give a speech, think of yourself as a tightrope walker. You’re starting at one end with the introduction, and your eyes are on the other end at your conclusion.
The rope itself is the theme of your talk. You want your audience enthralled with what you have to say, so maybe you’ll do some tricks while you’re up there, or tell some jokes… whatever.
But for the love of all that’s holy, don’t step off the rope. Because everyone’s going to watch you fall and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
How does it happen? Simple. We ramble. We ad lib a little bit. We have a sudden inspiration that seems like a good idea at the time…
And we step off the rope.
Now I want to clarify that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with some controlled ad libbing here and there. It shows you’re relaxed, you’re enjoying yourself, you’re on the ball. But it has to stay focused, or you’re going to lose them.
So how do you resolve this issue?
Again, it’s simple.
If you’ve prepared well for the speech, you have a well through-out outline that you’ve used to practice with plenty of times, and you’re totally comfortable with the material, you should have no trouble at all getting up there and staying on theme.
But here’s the key: you need to start with a speech that has been developed on a focused theme first. If you prepare a talk that meanders all over the place, you can practice until the cows come home. You’re still going to meander all over the place. And your audience is unlikely to follow you.
So remember yourself on that tightrope. You’re focused on the theme, moving steadily from your introduction to your conclusion with confident forward momentum. No matter what razzle-dazzle you’re doing to entertain the crowd, your feet have to keep coming down on that rope and moving you forward.
Then, when you get to the end, you can turn and take a bow. You’ve nailed it!
This is just one in an ongoing series entitled Public Speaking University. It’s a course in how to write, prepare and deliver speeches that will knock your audience’s socks off! If you’ve missed any so far, check them all out here! I’d love to know what you think, so comment away and tell me what you want to hear!