The world has changed and so have the ways that we communicate. There are many more channels, many more styles and much more speed. Our conversations are shorter and rarely face-to-face. Even still, the fundamentals of good communication remain the same, especially if you have to speak to a group.
Preparation is key to making sure your message gets heard – so you can always be your best in how you communicate.
You have to know what you are talking about, what you want to say and how you want to say it. It’s critical to get your thoughts in order and have a plan for delivering them.
In her latest book, Impromptu, Judith Humphrey – who founded the leadership communication consultancy The Humphrey Group – offers a four-part script template to help with that organization and delivery.
1. The Grabber
Humphrey recommends a comment, or a short statement that will act as a bridge between you and any speaker who precedes you. It could be something simple as saying, “I agree with that last comment,” or “I’d like to build on what ‘so-and-so’ said earlier.” Building that bridge offers some space between you and those who have already spoken while turning the audience’s attention to you. In more formal speeches, you could choose to open with a pertinent anecdote or a joke, but for the impromptu talk you’re probably better off getting to your message quickly.
2. The Message
Make this short and direct. Humphrey says aim for one sentence that delivers your main point. “It’s important to know what you’re saying and to say it well. To say it well you need to get to the point quickly,” says Humphrey. Be engaging, bring conviction and be positive. Even if you find yourself dealing with negative issues, work on the positive angle of finding solutions.
Evidence is the heart of your talk. Humphrey recommends two to four points that support your main message. Keep in mind that people tend to remember ideas that are grouped in threes: big, bigger, biggest; good, better, best; yesterday, today and tomorrow. Do not be afraid to add a little colour to your language. A turn of phrase or an appropriate anecdote can help to bolster your message and make it easier for the audience to remember your point.
For the impromptu talk, Humphreys recommends wrapping up with a call to action. “This is essential to leadership,” she says. “Getting people to believe, move, achieve and perform at a higher level. It’s all about action.”
Great speakers throughout history make it look easy. Many people have the misconception that they were “naturals” who just “wing it.” That is not true. Churchill routinely wrote out his speeches, word-for-word, then rehearsed them for tone, pacing and drama. Humphrey believes that most people fail at the impromptu talk because they do not believe they need to be scripted. So follow the example of the masters, be prepared, practice those ad libs and be your best every time you communicate.