Getting started with content:
- Get clear on the one idea you want to share.
- Why are you the perfect person to deliver this information?
- The narrative arc of your talk (see below). What journey are you taking the audience on?
- Hw will you weave stories through the facts and ideas?
- How will you get the attention of the audience at the start?
- How will you close with a bang?
Great talks stimulate one or all of these 3 chemicals in the brains of your audience. How can you work some of these into your content?
- DOPAMINE - Build suspense, build a cliffhanger.
- OXYTOCIN - Share moving, emotive stories that stimulate empathy for you or a character. This shows humanity and vulnerability which creates a bond with your audience.
- ENDORPHINS - Make people laugh.
Storytelling patterns and frameworks
Duarte’s Persuasive storytelling pattern:
From the "I have a dream" speech to Steve Jobs' iPhone launch, many great talks have a common structure that helps their message resonate with listeners. In her famous TED talk, Nancy Duarte explains this framework.
Help engage your audience with stories using a narrative arc. This builds dopamine and keeps audiences listening and attentive.
In 1863, Gustav Freytag, a 19th-century German novelist, used a pyramid to study common patterns in stories’ plots. He put forward the idea that every arc goes through five dramatic stages: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
Exposition: starting the story, bringing out your characters, setting up the seeds of conflict, and imparting just enough background information to keep your audience interested.
Rising Action: Usually, the rising action is prompted by a key trigger (also known as the inciting incident), which is what says to your audience, “Here we go.”
Climax: A good climax will build upon everything earlier. It’s both the moment of truth for the protagonist and the event to which the plot’s built up (the peak of the arc).
Falling Action: Think of this stage as the bridge between the climax and the resolution. How do you get your characters from the climax to Happily Ever After?
Denouement: The strands of the plot are drawn together or we learn the outcome of a situation.
Hook, Meat and Payoff
The idea is that with the Hook, the presenter gives the audience a sense of place and time, plus a situation that will put them at the edge of their seats, wanting more.
The Meat is the middle section and usually the longest part of the presentation where the story progresses and all the information is relayed in an interesting and inviting way.
The Payoff is the inspiring conclusion that circles back to the beginning and leaves the audience feeling inspired.
'Chekhov's Gun' is a concept that describes how every element of a story should contribute to the whole. It comes from Anton Chekhov's famous book writing advice: 'If in the first act you have hung a pistol on the wall, then in the following one it should be fired.
Show, don’t tell
Show, don’t tell is a writing technique that uses action, emotion, sensory details, and more to describe how characters actually experience things. Showing rather than telling immerses readers in the characters' lives, rather than merely summarising them for expositional purposes. Chekhov famously said of this tactic, “Don’t tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass." In short: showing illustrates, while telling merely states.
Take your audience on a journey.
- Start with a question. End with an answer
- Start in the past. End in the future.
- Start with a story. End with a vision.
- Start with fear. End with hope
The Rule of Three
The Rule of Three is a powerful technique or principle required for writing or speaking. It states that any ideas, thoughts, events, characters or sentences that are presented in threes are more effective and memorable.
WORDS ONLY: “Simple, timeless, and effective” or “Faster, easier and cheaper”.
SENTENCES: “Freedom is imperative. Freedom is your birthright. Freedom is attainable”.
“I’m not saying it’s ineffective. I’m not saying it’s unethical. I’m saying it’s not sustainable”
Practising your talk :
Practising. Separate your talk into clear sections or blocks and type them up with big spaces in between. Stick them up on the wall just above eye height (this is the position your head will be during the actual talk) and learn each block.
Beware of repetitive motion. On stage, people often deal with adrenaline by unconsciously swaying or shifting their weight from foot to foot. This is distracting and can make you look awkward.
Try moving to make a new point. Or moving closer to the audience when you’re saying something personal. Or perhaps you deliver facts and stats on the left side of the stage and stories on the right. Experiment with these and find what works for you. Practise in front of friends and record yourself on camera so you can identify any funny habits or movements you may have picked up.
Voice. Keep your opening few sentences slow and enunciate your words clearly. Some listeners will have a different accent or first language to you, so give them time to adjust.
Mistakes. Don't aim for perfection. Expect a few little things to go wrong, so if they do, you’re not thrown. You might stumble over a word or skip a slide. It’s okay. Take a moment and carry on. You’re human.
Try these exercises while practising to get out of your usual style and comfort zone.
- as though you’re speaking to a stadium
- as though you’re speaking to kindergarten children
- moving constantly (your arms, your legs, your head)
- standing still on a chair
- lying on the ground
- as though you’re in an infomercial
- as though you’re a hammy, over-the-top, pantomime actor
- choosing ten occasions to step forward and stage-whisper a sentence to the audience.
The day of your talk
Water. Drink water 10-15 mins before your talk to help with any dryness in your throat.
Self-talk. Be mindful of your self-talk. Avoid telling yourself you’re scared or nervous and never allow yourself to think about negatives ‘what ifs’. Instead, reframe your energy and tell yourself:
- I’m excited!
- This is a great opportunity for me!
- I’ve got this!
- I’ll feel so proud of myself afterwards!
- I can’t wait to share this information with the audience!
- I can imagine hearing this information for the first time and being really [moved, excited, surprised]
Energy. You’re likely to have a lot of energy in your body. Don’t let this freak you out. Imagine the energy it takes to talk to one person, and now multiply that energy by the number in the audience. You NEED all that energy to project your information and essence to the audience. If it helps, think of yourself as a channel or messenger transferring the energy to the audience.
It may help you to shake it out and do some dancing or stretching backstage. Or try some power poses.
Right before you go on :
Wiggle your body. Touch your toes. Talk with your tongue out. Try a few tongue-twisters. This will warm up your body and mouth and calm you down.
Take a deep breath. Smile. Remember:
- Be yourself. Be authentic.
- Your job is to take care of the audience, not to be judged by it or even to entertain it.
- The audience needs you to lead them, so shine your light! Playing small helps no one.
- The audience is on your side. They want you to do great.
- You’ve got this.
During the talk :
Make eye contact with the audience (even if you can’t really see them). Divide the crowd into quadrants and speak to a person in each quadrant.
Breathe. If you feel nervous, breathe. Take a long deep breath. It will calm your nervous system, focus your brain and help with speaking.
Have fun. Don’t get too serious. It should be fun, right? Enjoy yourself. Delight in sharing what you have to offer.
Mistakes. If you stumble or miss something, stop. Take a breath and start at the beginning of the sentence. This way post-production can edit out the stumble and take a clean cut of your sentence. No one watching later will ever know!
If there are tech issues, calmly ask for ‘next slide please’ or ‘a new mic’ and the team of supporters will sort you out in no time. They’re professionals. They know what to do and have your back.