27May 2024

Public Speaking Tips for Arranging Content

10 great ways to map out a speech.

Arranging content is often the most daunting part of preparing a presentation.
So much information: how do I organise it?
A common refrain from school students was:
‘Sir I don’t know how to begin.’
‘Do you know where you are going to end?’
‘Not really.’
‘Then you probably won’t be able to know where to start!’
Most of the time, you need to have some idea of where you want to arrive before you can start to plan how to get there.

So if viewed like a sightseeing tour, you need to know where you want to get to and how long you have to get there before you can work out the best journey and the best use of your time.
Too often the tendency is to get started before knowing where you are going.
(Nevertheless, sometimes that may seem to be the only option, and so - to continue the travel analogies, you find yourself sitting at home and know it would be a good idea to go out and get some exercise but you don’t know where to go until you leave your front door.  So you decide the best strategy is to start walking and see where it gets you.
And that requires another type of planning – which we will look at in a moment.)
In a presentation, there are many ways to work out your route.
However, regardless of whichever method you use it must result in a simple clear structure that is easy for you to remember and easy for the audience to follow.

10 ways to map out the contents of a speech.

  1. Tell a story: make a point.

This is the default ‘go-to’ of many TED talks.
It is the simplest structure and requires the least planning.
You can, either start by knowing your story and work out the point, or you have a and then go back and think about the best story to illustrate it.
Either way: the point needs a story and the story needs a point.
How you choose to tell your story should lead directly to sharing the point.
Equally, knowing exactly what point you want to make will help you highlight the important parts of the story correctly;
always remember that a story is more like a painting than a photograph: you only need to highlight the details that help you make your point.
I remember leading a Public Speaking session with Primary School children – ten-year-olds.
For them, the task needed to be clear, simple, and fun,
‘What do we need to do?’ they asked
‘Tell a story and make a point.’
And they all did it:
- simple stories about their Grandad, leading to the message of ‘family relationships’.
- arguments with siblings that led to the message of ‘sharing’
- missing the bus to football training that led to the message of ‘organisation’

  1. Tell three stories: make a point.

‘All roads lead to Rome’
As you know, Speakers like to think and organise in ‘threes’.
Therefore if you have a key point to make, you will be more convincing if you give more than one example.  You do not want to overwhelm your audience – hence the number Three, but if you want to emphasise that your message it is somehow universal.
So if you have a message about the importance of Time Management, then an anecdote about a personal experience will make your message relatable to your audience, an analogy or metaphor about planning a journey will make the message visual and accessible, followed by a story about how a successful person or successful organisation achieved their success because of their ability to plan and manage their time will inspire.

  1. Tell one story and make three points

A humorous story about a bird flying south for the winter illustrates this.
A little bird is facing the onset of a tough winter, but argues to himself
The tough winter will pass and he is tough enough to see it out
Tough times never last, tough people do..etc
Despite all the urging of his fellows, he remains on his home too busy as his flock take wing and fly south.

As winter draws on and its severity bites, the bird realises he has overestimated his toughness and decides to follow his flock in flying south.
By now the cold is crippling, snow clouds gathering
Nevertheless, the bird takes flight, but the cold air and the buffeting winds sap his strength and warmth from his body, and exhausted he spirals stiffly to the ground where he lands flat on his back.
With his wings frozen, he contemplates a lonely desolate demise.
Just then he is aware of a dark shape passing over him and smells the sweet sour bovine warmth of a large cow.
As his eyes become accustomed to the dark shadow over him he realises he is directly under the rear end of the cow, who promptly chooses to evacuate all over the little bird.

Oh the ignominy, facing death alone abandoned, covered in cow excrement.
Slowly he becomes aware that the cow pooh is warming him up
His wings unfreeze.
Hey, it's not so bad.
And feeling better, his spirits rise and the bird starts to sing again
Just then the farmer’s cat crossing the field hears the sound of the singing bird
Pulls the bird out of the cowpat, kills him, and eats him.

3 morals

In work; in business In life; always remember…
1 – Anyone who craps all over you is not necessarily your enemy
2 – Anyone who seems to help you out of the crap is not necessarily your friend
And most importantly
3 – If life has not turned out quite like you envisioned it but you are happy snug and warm living in a pile of crap
Keep your mouth shut.

The joy about this format is showing your audience how much value you can draw from one experience.
A tip – to avoid overwhelming or confusing:
if you have three messages, make sure that you choose one to highlight above the others

  1. One bad: one good

You can split your presentation into two sections
First, you give examples of the damaging consequences of not following the advice you give at the end and then you illustrate all the benefits from doing so.
Within each part, you can back up your points with stories, statistics, Case studies, or metaphors.
And you can choose depending on the nature of your audience – do you want to encourage them or scare them?  And so consequently decide to what degree you want to emphasise either the negative or the positive.

  1. Past. Present. Future

Some presentations have an obvious underlying timeline, which can be used as the organising principle.
This is how it was.
This is how it is.
This is how it should be.

First you do this, then this, and finally this.

As you will notice I am still using a structure of Three.

‘We have an inspection next week.
I would like to cover what we need to do to prepare for the inspection,
what we need to do on the day of the inspection,
And how we follow up afterward.

Martin Luther King’s – ‘I have a dream’ is built primarily on Present and Future
and in a series of examples and images he tells us
‘This is how it is – and this is how it should be’ with the refrain ‘I have a dream’.

  1. General to Specific

‘Let me give you the background.
Let me show you how it is in this specific area.
Let me tell you how it will affect each one of us.’

Therefore - A talk on current school student behaviour:

 - either:
                historical – ‘this is how young people behaved 30 years ago’
- or:
                environment – ‘this is a general overview of the pressures and influences on young people today’
More Specific:
- either:
                examples of how behaviour manifests itself at our school today
- or:
                how these influences are expressed
                And this is what I suggest we do.

  1. Theoretical to Practical

This works very well with instructions and provides a background to a process:
This is the theory behind a combustion engine.
This is how the theory is applied to create one.
This is how you repair one.

  1. Start in the middle

The beginning is sometimes not a very exciting place to begin.
Somewhere in the middle of the journey can be more arresting.
I was recently in Germany.  As I was told, Monday evening is demonstration evening, when political parties have permission to march through the town.
The AfD is a fairly right-wing party.
Obviously, if I wanted to deliver a speech on the AfD, I could use many of the formats above:
- political theory through to how it manifests itself on the streets
- the background of the party, what it does now, and what it could become in the future
- political parties in general, how the right of centre behave, specifically how the AfD behave.

On the other hand, I can start right in the middle, like many films:
‘Last week I was in a small town in the middle of Germany.  It was a lovely spring evening and gradually, faintly at first, I became aware of a drum beat accompanied by whistles and then by the chanting.
Within minutes, a long line of people carrying flags and placards marched past where I was sitting…
…so let me tell you how I got there and who these people were and why they were demonstrating.’
And now I can use for example:
Past. Present. Future.
and bring us to my conclusion as I share my perceptions, beliefs or message.

  1. Full circle

This is another very good story-based structure.
Start at the beginning – develop your ideas and then end back at the beginning.
Think of The Lion King: it starts on Pride Rock and it ends on Pride Rock.
It is the journey in between that leads us to a greater understanding.
For example:

‘We live a privileged existence…examples, stories, statistics, studies...and that is why I say…
we live a privileged existence.’

  1. Transitions

In any structure - and often you do not choose the structure, but rather the subject matter and how you want to handle it reveals its own structure, - the most important parts of the speech to focus on are the transitions from one section to another.
This does not need to be complicated, but it is always worth preparing for those transitions.

For example:
Past…’ that is how it used to be.  However today’ …. Present….’and as we think about where we will be in the next five years’…Future

I short:
Keep it simple!
if there is no obvious reason not to, break it into 3 sections
think about how one section will flow into the next.

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Michael's superb training style is underpinned by an incredible depth of knowledge and experience. Like all true experts, he delivers what he knows with ease and simplicity, exampling the skills he is teaching as he does so.

Very informative and great anecdotes which illustrated points and provided visual markers.

The most interesting training that I have ever taken part in! Experience + Wisdom + Perfect teaching approach.

The training was spot on. He really listened to us and customised his responses throughout.

Loved the creation of visual examples through the use of body and how relating the experience really helps demonstrate the message.

Very approachable and motivational. So much information, brilliantly delivered.

Loads of great analogies and stories - very friendly and helpful.

Very approachable and knowledgeable and good use of examples to simplify the material.

In just one day Michael was able to teach a class of children how to craft their own personal stories and experiences into powerful and engaging speeches that resonate with an adult audience as well as with a younger audience. It is a marvellous way to help them increase self-confidence and in the process - almost without them even realising it - become natural speakers and excellent communicators.

Michael has a style of speaking which draws the audience into his world, captivates them and leaves them with lasting memories of some of the descriptive phrases he has used and the information he has included. He also has the ability to pass the skills he uses in his own speaking on to those he trains.

Very good rapport, attention to detail, individual support, positive atmosphere and encouragement - a great place for learning.

• Very great example; how to express yourself, how to be engaging and how to match body language with what is said.