Begin your Speech with a Roadmap

My blog post last week shared some stellar feedback I received on how to improve my hook opening by not saying anything that would confuse, distract, or alienate my audience members – right off the bat. I actually received a second piece of advice from my speech evaluator, Distinguished Toastmaster Fred Punko: give a sketch of the overall speech before jumping into the speech’s body.

Usually when giving a presentation, I place my 3-4 main points on a flip chart and introduce them in the opening. Instead, For this delivery, I decided to reveal the main points by writing them on the flip chart as I came to them. My thought was to add an element of surprise. Fred’s advice was contrary to this: share the 3-4 main points in the opening and then further develop them in the speech body.

His rationale was that people will have an easier time listening to and understanding your message if you give them idea of where they will end up at the end of it. I find this analogous to giving a traveler a brochure or roadmap to their destination. Granted there is subjectivity involved because some people like to be surprised; however, I made a tweak to my design on the basis of this feedback. Here it is:

“Each of us has a distinct travel style – just as we have our own writing style, singing style, and presentation style. Paying attention to how we travel, is just as important as where we travel. ”

Ladies and gentlemen, Madame/Mr. Chairperson.

Today I will share with you 3 aspects of my travel style to get you thinking about this concept and prompt you to poke and prod at your own travel style with the aim of improving it. These 3 items are: #1 Be Prepared, #2 Be Strategic, and #3 Be Roman

I think that by using somewhat cryptic titles for my main points, I give a glimpse of where I am going with the topic without revealing too much at the beginning. In other words, I give people a brief context while simultaneously enticing their curiosity.

That said, I would love to hear your thoughts on how to make this speech opening more effective.

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4 Responses to Begin your Speech with a Roadmap

  1. I agree with Fred entirely on this one.

    If you’re trying to lead a group of people to follow your conclusion then share your high level points first and rehash them in your conclusion. Bob used to call this the sign post method – public speaking is driving at high speed through a windy mountain pass – the sign posts keep the listeners focused so they don’t crash.

    If you’re trying to challenge assumptions then I’d say the opposite. For example, a bullying speech could start by explaining that society has gone too far towards coddling kids, that political correctness has gone mad, then the final point could be a high impact photo of one of the many kids who has suicided after being bullied and explaining how the system let them down, etc. For this style of speech telling the audience what is coming lessens the impact.

    Regardless, I think Fred is right on the money with his advice.

  2. gsjonuk says:

    Good point Mike! The objective of the presentation might also determine how much you reveal in the beginning.

  3. Paula Howley says:

    I have to agree with Fred too. Tell them what you’re going to tell them. Tell them. Then tell them what you just told them. People need to hear things over and over.
    Just strolling the net looking for fellow TM’s and always happy to find one. Feel free to drop by my place any time. I am pursuing the World Championships in Cincinnatti this year and documenting the journey.
    http://www.ayearinthelifeofatoastmaster.com
    Cheers!

  4. gsjonuk says:

    Thanks Paula, for dropping in. Good luck in your world championship quest.

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