If you’ve read my book or poured through these posts over the last couple of months, then you’ve got a good idea on how a speech is developed. You have the basics of the introduction, the body, and the conclusion down. You can whip up a speech in about two minutes without even thinking.
And, that’s when the trouble starts.
The problem with the basics is that… well, it’s basic. It’s a good starting point, but the next step is needed. I’ve heard too many speeches that sound like they were written during class. It’s great that thoughts can be quickly transferred to paper and organized (somewhat) well, but not a lot of thought goes into the speech, and it is fairly evident. Allow me to demonstrate with…
The Bumblebee Speech
I’m not proud of this speech, and if you’re impressed by it, then I’m a little concerned. But, this speech illustrates the problems of “whipping up” a speech. Observe:
“Good afternoon. Did you like bumblebees? Well, I do, and today I’m going to tell you about bumblebees. I’ll talk about what colors bumblebees are, the sound a bumblebee makes, and whether or not a bumblebee can fly.
First off, bumblebees are black and yellow.
Second, bumblebees make a buzzing sound.
Now that we’ve established the sound a bumblebee makes, let’s find out if a bumblebee can fly. The answer is: yes! Bumblebees can fly.
So, in conclusion, we’ve looked at the color of bumblebees, the sound they make, and answered the mystery of whether or not bumblebees can fly. So, the next time you see a bumblebee, you can remember these important facts. Thank you.”
What’s So Wrong About It?
Believe it or not, this speech is at least better than the original Bumblebee Speech presented in my book. Don’t believe me? Buy the book and see!
Okay, all shameless marketing aside, can you see what the problems are in this speech? On a technical level, the speech is acceptable. It has (almost) all the parts: the introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction has an attention-getter, introduction of the topic, and preview of main points. The body includes the main points and transitions between main points. The conclusion summarizes the main points and even provides a purpose or next step.
Sounds good, right? Well, it’s not what’s in the speech that’s wrong; it’s what’s missing from the speech.
It’s a simple question, and when you look at the answers, you start to see the problems. We’re missing:
Utility– Notice at the end of the speech, there’s an attempt to provide some purpose for the information, but even still, is there any relevant use for it? Who will say, “I remember a speech about bumblebees that said they were black and yellow. The speaker was so right!”
Necessity– Very much tied to the utility, there’s no sense that this speech is necessary. This particular speech is easy to notice in terms of its uselessness, but others are a little more difficult. In fact, all speeches start out as useless. The speaker has to bring in the need for this information. Why are listening to this? The audience wants an answer, and a good one.
Credibility– This speech requires absolutely no research beyond going outside in the spring or summer months and looking at a bumblebee. Your audience will only look at you as a resource if you show that you have more knowledge on a topic than they do.
Sources– Part of doing your research is putting on display. Part of gaining credibility is using trusted sources to back up any claims you make. Simply asserting a bumblebee can fly might be enough for this speech, but that should be a clue that the topic is weak. Any fact, figure, quote, or claim you make has to have a source behind it. I suppose saying, “in my opinion” constitutes a source, but that’s where the issue of credibility comes back at you. Look for a source, and then look for a better source.
New information– Does anybody not know that bumblebees are black and yellow, make a buzzing sound, and can fly? I suppose it’s possible, but I’d really like to meet the person who is blown away by these paradigm-shifting facts about bumblebees.
Effort– When someone does the minimum to get by and expects the maximum in return, what do you call that? I don’t really know for sure. But, I can say that in public speaking, you get from the audience what you give to the audience. Give them the least, and you get the least in return.
It seems like a lot of work, and it is. Public speaking, like anything else, takes time to develop. It takes work. Can people cut corners and slide by doing very little? Yes, they can, but what does that get you?
Don’t Get Good at Being Bad
At first, it seems like it gets you out of a lot of unnecessary work. But, over time, it becomes a skill (and a pretty useless one). You always get really good at the things you do over and over again. If you cut corners and avoid work, you’ll get really good at it. The problem is, top companies don’t want to hire people who are good at avoiding work.
Take the Extra Steps
Take the time to expand beyond the basics of public speaking. Think about your topic and how it impacts the audience. Do your research to make sure you have the best information to give to them. Give them your sources so they can build trust in you. Give them new information so that the experience (i.e. the speech) has value. Put in the effort so that you get more even as you give more.
It really is the formula for success– in public speaking and in any endeavor.