Sunday, March 18, 2012

Does your speech have too much content and not enough structure?

Crafting an excellent speech requires giving the content a structure (via a storyboard, mind map, or outline), and deciding how much to say (or not say). Too much content is like a bad Santa overstuffing the stockings.

I just read a humorous story by Stephen Leacock called Save Me From The Man Who Has A Speech To Make from the September 1927 issue of Harper’s Magazine. He told about his series of brief encounters with Mr. Robinson over the course of a month.

First, Mr. Robinson told him that next month he had to speak at a Tuesday evening banquet - to give an after-dinner toast to Our Country. A week later he decided it might be a good idea to say something about the history of the country. After another three days Robinson was sidetracked by reading The Life of Christopher Columbus.

A week before the speech he decided it also might be a good idea to say something about the future of the country. On Monday morning, Robinson stayed home to work on his speech. (A newspaper announcement for the banquet noted there would be fifteen speakers).

On Tuesday morning he was still working, and finally had decided to write it out. Also, he complained that he hadn’t had enough time to work on it before. Just before dinner Robinson decided he’d gotten a touch of bronchitis, gave his text to a friend to present at the banquet, and stayed at home, presumably in bed.

On Wednesday evening he whined that the morning paper had misquoted his text:

“...Where I said ‘This country has a great destiny in front of it,’ they’ve put it, ‘this country has a great destitution in front of it.’ ”

Months later Mr. Robinson was still talking in hindsight about what he should have said, of other ideas that came to him later, and of jokes or gags that could have been included.

The bad Santa was adapted from a 1908 Puck magazine cover.

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