By Nick Morgan
I tweeted recently that every speaker needs a 3-minute and a 20-minute version of her speech. To that I would add that every speaker needs to know how to give a minute-long response, in answer to a question, for example, or for responding to the media.
So how do you all of these well? What are the pitfalls to avoid? It can be surprisingly hard to say something interesting in a very short time, and to avoid running on at the mouth and saying too much. What’s the happy medium, and how do you think about it?
The minute speech is best handled as follows. Decide what you’re going to say, take a deep breath, and then give the headline. “I don’t think that mice should be allowed in the Vatican.” Then go on to give up to 3 supporting reasons, depending on your thinking and the time allowed. Hygiene, worry about the destruction of precious manuscripts, and the eek factor during prayers. Finally, finish off with a repetition of the headline: “So that’s why I think that mice should be banned from the Vatican.”
When you’ve got more than 3 but less than 7 minutes, think in terms of problem-solution. If you have a great story to begin the problem section, then do so, but don’t allow it to take over the problem section entirely. You need to spend half of your allotted time discussing the problem in as much detail as you can (which is not much):
Heretical mice are running amok throughout the Vatican. This deplorable plague has led to illness, destruction of some of the Vatican’s most precious artifacts, and the discomfort of many visitors and residents….About half way through your total time, switch to the solution and buttress that with as much logic and passion as you can muster. I recommend beginning with an excommunication, followed by mice traps, poison, and the playing of Barry Manilow recordings in the basement….
That’s really all there is to it. Keep it simple. If you want to conclude by describing the benefits of your solution, then go ahead, in a sentence or two.
Repetition and simplicity will help you keep your remarks organized and under control, and will help your listeners follow you.
The same advice holds for the 20-minute version. You basically have to remove half of the detail that makes for a solid hour-long speech. And watch your stories, because they will loom much larger in a 20-minute précis of your speech than in the full version. You’ll need to shorten those too, without cutting the essential detail that enables your audience to make sense of the story.
A good way to prepare a 20-minute speech is to create the logical ‘spine’ of your full speech – the step-by-step logic of the speech that explains the thought structure, shorn of the detail. It should take the form of a series of declarative sentences. Then, once you’ve worked out the logic, add back in just enough detail to fill the allotted time.
You’ll want to have these versions of your presentation on hand, ready to go, for times when your full speech is too long. If you’re a professional speaker, it’s part of the pro’s arsenal to be ready to give the shorter versions in order to be ready for any occasion.
About the Author:
Dr. Nick Morgan is one of America’s top communication theorists and coaches. In his blog he covers modern communications from a variety of angles, including the latest developments in communication research, the basic principles and rules of good communication, and the good and bad speakers of the day. His passion is to connect the latest brain research with timeless insights into persuasive speaking in order to further our understanding of how people connect with one another. For more information on his company, visit www.publicwords.com