8 Essentials of Effective Speaking–a talk by David Brooks

At the Leadership Conference held by District 30 (Chicagoland) of Toastmasters International on August 31, 2013, David Brooks, the 1990 World Champion of Public Speaking, gave a talk on the Essentials of Effective Speaking.    Joining him on stage was Presiyan Vasilev, a sales professional from Chicago, Illinois, who won the 2013 World Championship of Public Speaking one week ago at the International Toastmasters Convention held in Cincinnati, Ohio, after several eliminating rounds that begins six months ago with 30,000 participants from 122 countries.   For more information on how to become a better public speaker, go to David Brooks website at  http://www.davidbrookstexas.com/.

1.   The audience is not the enemy

The reason why many people avoid public speaking is because they have a fear of it, which is partially fear of an unknown and possibly hostile audience.    Just remember that the audience is not the enemy.    Don’t try to get rid of your fear; harness it and consider it a constant companion which keeps you trying to do your best.   The audience will forgive an occasional mistake; most of them are secretly rooting for you to succeed from the start.    Just remember to locate some friendly faces out there, those people who seem to be nodding and in general getting enthusiastic about your message.   If you do happen to make a mistake, locate those friendly faces!    Just remember that because you see somewhat who seems not to be enthusiastic, it could be a combination of culture, personality, or occupation that does permit them to show it as openly as others.

2.  Determine what you want the audience to think, feel, or do

What is your objective in the speech?   This should be simple enough to apply the “business card test”:   can you write down the “message” of your speech on the back of a business card?   If so, it is simple enough to get across in the 5-7 minutes you are allotted.    If you can’t, then the audience most likely will not get the message, or at least not all of it.

3.  Write your speech word for word

The purpose is NOT so that you can memorize your speech.    The purpose is so that you can edit it.  Good speaking begins with good writing; good writing depends on good editing.    He gave the example of the Gettysburg address, which consists of 10 sentences that took a total of 2 minutes to deliver.    There is an apocryphal story about how it was cobbled together by Lincoln on the back of an envelope on his way to give the speech:   that is simply not true, because we have several drafts of his speech which prove otherwise.    What is interesting in reading the drafts is not what was included in the speech; it was how much was taken out.    Every word has a purpose.

4.   Bring life to your words with colorful images and examples

This is where style becomes apparent.    Choose those words which evoke the audience’s own imagination so that they start to experience what you are saying, rather than just hearing it.

5.  Six words that can change the way you speak:  Make A Point; Tell A Story

It was stated earlier in point #2 that you should have a point to your speech; rather than explain that point to your audience, you need to have them discover it through experiencing it as part of the story you tell.

6.  Six emotions that will connect with any audience:  happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust, and fear

Choose words which not only create an image, but which evoke at least evoke one of the emotions listed above.    When people empathize with you, they are more willing to accept your message that you want to convey in your speech.

7.  Don’t underestimate the power of laughter

When we laugh, we relax.   When we relax, our minds are more receptive to learning.    Many people don’t think they can get people to laugh because they think they are not able to tell a joke.    A professional joke-teller is a comedian; you don’t have to be a comedian to make people laugh.   Just ask yourself what makes you laugh.    Take a notebook with you or a digital recorder and if you see something that makes you laugh, write it down and make a “humor file.”    In fact, this technique works with the six emotions listed above in point #6.   Then have this on hand so that you can insert these into a speech into a place where they will have the most impact.

8.  Don’t tell us, take us

Rather than describing the incident like a reporter, take us as an eyewitness to the event by acting it out with movements, gestures, vocal inflections that put us right there in the middle of the action!

These techniques were demonstrated by David Brooks and his guest, the new World Champion of Public Speaking, Presiyan Vasilev, by having them recount some stories based simply on experiences that had had within the past 24 hours.   After each of the half-dozen examples, they asked to go through the six emotions and the six attributes of the stories.   Presiyan said that besides the six emotions related by David Brooks, the six attributes of your story should be that it is:

  • Believable
  • Relatable
  • Original
  • Optimistic
  • Kind-Hearted
  • Simple

Of course, someone in the audience noted that the acronym for these six attributes is BROOKS, which having just witnessed the talk by David Brooks, should be easy to memorize.    Together, these two champions, one from 1990 and the newest one from 2013, demonstrated that effective speaking is a skill that ANYONE can learn to make their speeches more effective.

It was an inspiring talk on a personal level, and as the Vice President of Education of my Toastmasters Club, I intend to use David Brooks’ materials to start our club’s own Resources Library!


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