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Public Speaking Know How
Public Speaking Know How
Pig or cow. Pig or cow. Pig! Giving a speech without taking the time to practice is very similar to Cristina Yang’s surgical conundrum on the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. Yang extensively researched the procedures for the pig and cow valves that required two totally different surgeries. Yang’s patient couldn’t decide which animal valve felt ‘more like her authentic self.’ While waiting on ‘the Beatnik’s’ decision, Yang crammed for both valve procedures.
While in surgery, the two procedures started blending together. Yang experienced a ‘brain bleed,’ figuratively speaking, due to information overload produced by the ‘pig or cow’ dilemma. A patient almost lost their theoretical life because Yang planned but didn’t practice. If she had spent more time simulating the surgery (she was a surgical intern and simulating surgeries was part of how they learned), there may never have been the ‘pig or cow’ moment. The procedure was theoretical in practice.
Of course, the situation described is from a fictional television drama and, to be clear, medical doctors 'practice' medicine. However, the analogy between the Yang example and public speaking still applies. Studying for the ‘pig or cow’ replacement valve surgery represents time researching, planning and writing the speech. The ‘brain bleed’ or ‘pig or cow’ conundrum represents a lack of practice delivering a well-written speech.
A speaker may practice their speech within the confines of their brain, but until words are vocalized, the speech process is incomplete. And when words are uttered (no pun intended), they never come out the way you planned inside your head. Words and phrases seem disconnected and foreign.
A standard rule of thumb is for every minute of speaking time, there should be an hour's worth of preparation...this includes rehearsal. All the planning, research, pen to pad scribbles, and final drafts are futile unless the speech has been practiced out loud.
Delivering a polished speech is the difference between a good speech and a great speech.
Delivering a great speech is more than just 'mooing' words. Prior to the formal presentation, a speech requires rehearsal and a reset button. Quirks spoken and unspoken will only be uncovered during the dress rehearsal.
For instance, some people use hand gestures when talking. As a public speaker, gestures can be important to create interest and likeability. It’s the big movements that are cause for concern. Flailing arms and untimely motions can distract the audience from the message. The idea is to use gestures in moderation. It’s learning when and how to use them that’s important.
There are methods that are helpful in uncovering the good, the bad and the ugly mannerisms that may either enhance or detract from a speech. Let’s begin by taking a look at speaking in front of a ‘live’ audience.
A good case study in ‘the power of a live audience’ is The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. When Leno took over The Tonight Show from Johnny Carson in 1992, executive producers wanted Leno to be another Carson. The former late night host had been a staple of NBC for 30 years and after all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Carson and Leno had very different approaches to entertaining. Carson was ‘laid-back’ and ‘cool’. He didn’t mingle much with the audience or his guests and only laughed when something was really funny. He required little feedback. On the flip side, Leno’s roots were in stand-up comedy. He lived by the sword (laughter) and died by the sword (lack thereof). He needed audience feedback. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno needed a make-over.
NBC tweaked the show’s set in 1994 to move Leno closer to the studio audience. For years, Leno opened the show by walking out to the audience and shaking hands in order to absorb the audience’ energy. The show had more of a comedy-club vibe, which is where Leno was the most comfortable. Adjustments were made to fit the performer and the audience.
Before tackling a large audience that’s virtually unknown to you, find a few family members or friends to pose as the audience while you practice your speech. There’s no need for critique, unless you’re open to that. The main objective is to have eyeballs on you while working through the speech and make adjustments.
Another good tip to assist in practicing for a speech is to stand in front of the bathroom mirror. The idea is to find a mirror that’s large enough to capture body movements as well as facial expressions. If you see yourself speaking too much with your arms, adjust and try to incorporate planned gestures. It may seem awkward at first but the more you commit to the mirror, the easier it will get.
A tool that’s readily available today is the smartphone. Just click play and begin. Recording your voice, gestures, posture, all the elements that result in a ‘make or break’ presentation could be invaluable as a public speaker. It may be one of those insightful moments when you think, ‘I can work with that.’.
Having a well-written speech is half of the battle. And, if the words are yours and not someone else's, most of the content will come naturally. The tip is to practice out loud. Don’t be caught in a ‘pig or cow’ dialogue inside your head or screaming at the top of your lungs, ‘pig or cow’ “pig or cow’ Pig!
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Liz Latta, Editor/WKCTC Instructor with over 15 years teaching experience. Master's Degree in Organizational Communications from Murray State University