Thursday, June 29, 2017

77 Principles of Public Speaking from Nick Morgan

I always enjoy reading Nick Morgan’s thoughts on public speaking. Starting on May 11th, in his Public Words blog, he presented an eleven part series on the Principles of Public Speaking that included 77 items. Nick gave a brief explanation of that series that said:

“My goal in these principles is to explore the implicit rules of public speaking, the kind that people rarely bring up in lists of the 10 rules for public speaking, which almost always start with ‘follow your passion’ and end with ‘always end on time. Both are true and good bits of advice, but they don’t help speakers much beyond the absolute beginning steps.” 

They are:

1: A speech should be about one idea and one only.

2: A successful speech leaves room for the audience to participate.

3: What you don’t say is as important as what you say.

4: The speaker cannot simply assert, however, any foundational aspect of her argument that is a matter of debate without acknowledging the sleight of hand.

5: Everything you do say is subject to the standards of proof that prevail in your field of knowledge. 

6: Emotional truth is as important in public speaking as intellectual truth.

7: Speakers can reaffirm what the audience already believes or take them on a journey to a new belief. The former are entertainers and motivational speakers. The latter are true teachers.

8: A good speech is a contract that exchanges attention for insight.

9: A speech should be particular to a certain audience, time, and place.

10: The organizer of the speech should arrange to have the speaker introduced to the audience.

11: A great speech foreshadows, teases, anticipates, and builds suspense.

12: A great speech addresses a particular problem that the audience has.

13: A speech begins with a point of view.

14: Nonetheless, that point of view should be heartfelt, credible, and supported by the facts.

15: A speech is performance art - and science.

16: The more immediately relevant a speech is, the more it is likely to be well-received.

17: A speech should offer connection to the audience in a minimum of two ways.

18: A great speech presents hierarchical thinking.

19: A great speech is fully human.

20: A speaker is a fox, a speech is a hedgehog.

21: A great speech strives for objectivity, but acknowledges its particular subjectivity.

22: The science of public speaking lies in getting the basic persuasive structure right. The art of public speaking lies in getting all the details right.

23: The structure of a speech should be informed always by its main purpose - and you should be able to state that in a sentence.

24: A good speaker should be prepared to improvise in the moment.

25: A good speech begins with specifics and ends with generalities.

26: Good speakers save their best stories for the end of the speech. Great speakers start with their best story and find even better ones.

27: A great speech is a process, not a product.

28: A great speech is anchored in a specific topic, time, and place.

29: Great speakers immerse themselves in the craft of speaking.

30: If you’re talking about a particular topic in your speech, the values of the topic need to be reflected in the speech - and the speaker.

31: Nevertheless, a speech never should be mistaken for its subject.

32: Facts in speeches establish the speaker’s credibility. Stories in speeches create trust.

33: A great speech almost always invokes the opposite emotion in counterpoint to the main one of the presentation.

34: A great speech addresses the past, present, and future of a topic.

35: Speeches should present ideas to their audiences in odd numbers.

36: A great speech opens the audience to wider territory at the close.

37: A great speech should be simple in structure and rich in detail.

38: Good speeches present complicated subjects with all their complexity. Great speeches present complicated subjects with simplicity.

39: A speech can persuade, it can teach, and it can motivate, but it can’t do all three.

40: If you can’t give your speech to your children or grandchildren and hold their attention throughout, you’re not ready to speak yet.

41: For those speaking globally, your content will need to vary by culture, but your body language should stay the same.

42: The length and tone of your speech should vary depending on the time of day it is given.

43: A speech is a whole, not a collection of parts.

44: A great speech is fractal.

45: A great speech asks questions.

46: But a great speech doesn’t ask its audience for things it cannot do.

47: All speeches are persuasive.

48: A great speech begins by framing a problem the audience has in a way that it hasn’t thought about before.

49: A great speech solve a profound problem the audience has.

50: In public speaking, as in architecture, form should follow function.

51: Speeches should be just long enough to persuade the audience, no longer.

52: Most great speeches follow a problem-solution format.

53: But if you vary from this classic speech structure, then do so for a reason.

54: There are two ways to deal with the structure of the speech during the speech itself: to reveal it or conceal it. The more complicated the structure, the more the audience needs to have it revealed.

55: The structure of a speech itself can influence the act of persuasion.

56: Structure your speech to have a strong overall flow, but learn it in sections.

57: Props enhance a speech more than slides.

58: Every speech at least implicitly addresses the three limitations of the form: the limit of the audience to retain information, the limit of the speaker to convey information, and the time limit.

59: The speaker and speech are both in service to the audience.

60: Prepare more material than you intend to give.

61: It is more important to move even one member of the audience than it is to deliver a perfect speech.

62: Success in public speaking, like everything else, follows the 80-20 rule,

63: The more successful a speech is, the more chaotic it will feel to the speaker and to the audience.

64: The most important factor for success in a speech is not the brilliance of the content, or even the persuasiveness of the ideas - it is the voice of the speaker.

65: Speeches reflect the tenor of their times.

66: More important than the accuracy of a particular speech is the power of its narrative.

67: A great speaker is the vehicle for a great message, not the message itself.

68: A great speech induces the audience to believe that it owns the ideas therein rather than the speaker.

69: Create a speech from back to front.

70: Always remember the context in which the speech is given.

71: Find ways to protect your soul even as you make yourself vulnerable.

72: Speeches and speakers must ultimately remain optimistic, even the ranters.

73: Own both your successes and your failures.

74: The most important quality of a speaker is presence.

75: Speakers must embrace authenticity and transparency.

76: Let your performance go.

77: Never court the emotional favor of the audience.

For each principle he also provide a short explanatory paragraph. You can find the whole series of posts as follows:

Part I (May 11, 2017): No. 1 to 7
Part II (May 16, 2017): No. 8 to 14
Part III (May 18, 2017): No. 15 to 21
Part IV (May 30, 2017): No. 22 to 28
Part V (June 1, 2017): No. 29 to 35
Part VI (June 8, 2017): No. 36 to 42
Part VII (June 13, 2017): No. 43 to 49
Part VIII (June 15, 2017): No. 50 to 56
Part IX (June 20, 2017): No. 57 to 63
Part X (June 22, 2017) No. 64 to 70
Part XI (June 27, 2017): No. 71 to 77

Without the explanations 39 and 47 may seem contradictory.

“39: A speech can persuade, it can teach, and it can motivate, but it can’t do all three. It’s no accident that motivational speakers often leave their audiences wondering what was said. An emotion was conveyed, but little was taught. Similarly, a speech that teaches a method or system rarely causes audiences to leap to their feet. The emotional ground that persuasion, teaching, and motivation cover is too broad to manage all three at once. Pick any two to be successful. Focus on one to be truly world class.

....43: All speeches are persuasive. Aristotle famously categorized speeches as informative, persuasive, or ornamental, but all speeches at least implicitly seek to persuade their audiences of the value of the speech, if nothing else.”

An image of Giles Penny’s sculpture of a Man with open arms came from Chris McKenna at Wikimedia Commons.

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