30June 2023

The 7 Ps of Public Speaking

Highlighting ‘The 7 Ps of Public Speaking’ is always a good technique, because Public Speakers do like to alliterate!  Alliteration is a very simple and effective speaking technique as it anchors the words starting with the same letter in the audience’s memory and has the added benefit of making those words easier for the speaker to remember:
‘Cool, calm and collected’
sounds neat and is easy for the listener to remember and the speaker knows that when he is looking for his three words, they are all ‘on the C shelf!’
In the list of the 7 Ps, the first two are to do with preparation before the presentation, the next four relate to delivery style during the presentation and the last one brings it all together on stage in a performance. (I remain a little reticent about using the word ‘performance’. On the one hand, getting on stage does always require an element of performance just as it would for a musician or an actor, but on the other hand, I am always concerned that the word performance might imply a presenter whose thoughts are focused too much on themselves.  A speech that is over-performed can come across as artificial or overdone; it can come across as self-conscious and wooden and fundamentally it may not fully succeed in achieving its aim if the speaker’s attention is focused too much on themselves and not enough on their audience.  This means that if ever I use words like ‘performance’ or ‘show-time!’ as I go on stage, they are to remind me to steady my nerves and focus on the job in hand, which is delivering my message to the audience.  It is not about me going out and delivering a staged ‘performance’.

The 7Ps of Public Speaking

1. Purpose
2. Preparation
3. Pitch
4. Pace
5. Power
6. Pause
7. Presence

  1. Purpose

Every presentation needs a clear purpose.  The purpose of a speech is like a destination or a magnet drawing you forward through the content of your speech.  I remember working with an executive who had a general idea of what he wanted to talk about, but did not have a clear purpose.  Consequently what he had prepared was vague and loosely connected – it felt a bit like being randomly led through someone’s holiday photos:
‘Oh yes – this is one from the hotel.’  ‘This one goes back to the first day.’  ‘This is a picture of a man we met.’
If you decide the purpose of showing your holiday photos is to express to your listener how lovely the local people were, then the photo of the hotel will be used to highlight what great service all the local staff offered, the first day will be a reminder of an act of warmth or generosity when you arrived and ‘the man we met’ is only featured because he turned out to be so supportive and helpful. 
Once we have a clear purpose to our presentation, organising the content becomes much easier.
Photos that can be used to highlight the warmth and the generosity of the local people can be gathered together and pictures of the aeroplane and the mountains will be rejected, because interesting as they might be, they do not fit in with the purpose of the presentation.
Once the executive had established a clear perspective, we had a clear and simple track to run along. 
Did this slide or piece of information lead directly to the purpose?  Yes – keep.  No – reject.
Often I have had a little disagreement with a speaker – usually about a joke or funny line they want to keep in their speech – because it might get a laugh!
‘Is it helping you lead to your purpose?’ I always ask.  ‘If not, you are only distracting the audience from the proper journey.’
Sometimes we need to decide: am I a speaker or a comedian?
Sometimes it would be nice to be both.
But which one are you first?

  1. Preparation

Once you have your purpose, you now have a blueprint for your preparation. You can decide what fits and what does not fit with your ultimate purpose.  All the content must support the final message.
You have two choices as you prepare.
(i)            Focus on your message and make sure you only have content that leads directly to that message.
(ii)           Focus on the content of your subject, and as you do, you may realise that the logic and style of the content might reveal your final message.

And whether you first put your focus on the content or on the final message, by the time you finish your preparation, they need to match each other.
Preparation might also mean practising your speech, talking it through regularly until it feels natural or until you can take an occasional detour without getting lost in the middle.
Talking it through might also help you simplify the structure.
Preparation might mean creating supporting notes or slides for the presentation.  Whether you have a full script, a few key points on a card or a couple of visually engaging slides that can ‘show’ better than you can ‘say’ - or whether you decide to have no notes at all, a major part of your practice will be to walk through your presentation in the company of your technical support, to make sure it is helping you ‘soar’ during the presentation rather than dragging you down.

The next 3 Ps are all about your voice, Pitch, Pace, Power.

  1. Pitch

In terms of maintaining interest and creating vocal variety, pitch is probably the most important of the three.
It is also the one that requires the most work.  Left to our own devices most of us will have a voice that is too flat and monotone for public speaking.  That is not to say that our voices are flat and monotone in every day conversation (though that might also be the case), it simply means that the everyday speaking voice does not translate to speaking on stage.  If you think back to stage actors at the beginning of the last century who moved across from the stage to the new medium of film, often we would find their acting massively over-exaggerated, because they had learnt that when on stage everything needs to be bigger and more pronounced for it to come across as ‘normal’ for the seated audience.  These days, we have learnt with TV close ups, that the slightest raising of an eyebrow can impart enormous dramatic significance.  As public speakers, we need to move back in the opposite direction, because little inflections that may work in one to one conversation will get lost in a larger environment.
Therefore I would recommend to speakers to consciously vary their pitch, maybe even more than they would find natural.  However, so that you do not sound like a demented robot, rather than arbitrarily forcing your voice up and down, actually go out of you way to search for vocabulary that could benefit from a variation in pitch.
For example:
tiny, enormous, remarkable, huge, superb
Try reading those words out loud. 
Now try these:
small, big, fine, large, very good
I hope you appreciate that the first five lend themselves much more to greater spoken energy and some of them even give you the opportunity to vary your pitch within the syllables of the word (enooorrrmous).

  1. Pace

Most of us tend to speak too fast (I certainly do)
So there are two aspects to pace that we need to consider:
                (i)            slowing down the overall tempo of the delivery….and…
                (ii)           varying the pace within that tempo

(i)            slowing down the overall tempo of your delivery
When we get nervous, we tend to speed up.
So what may already be too fast gets faster!
Either record yourself speaking and then listen back,
or put on the BBC news and try to speak along with the news presenter, and you will notice you will always try to rush ahead.  They speak slower than you imagine.
One way of consciously slowing down is to make sure that each word is spoken clearly.
We are not talking about having any form of ‘desirable’ accent, just making sure that each word is coming out clear and separate and the accent can still be Geordie, London, Glasgow or Lagos.
Sometimes it feels like all the words want to come out at the same time, on top of each other!
Hold them back.  One at a time please!

(ii)           varying the pace within that tempo
Anything that lacks variety, becomes boring.  That could be speaking at the same pitch continuously or at the same pace.
Again don’t try affect this in some artificial, mechanical way, look for words or ideas that can help.
Looking back at those five words above that encourage a varied pitch, they could also be used to vary pace and in the process to act as a contrast to the words around them.
For example I could create contrast in the next sentence by speaking the first part quite swiftly (but clearly) and then create a contrast with the word ‘enormous’
‘He wore a simple plain grey suit, but on his head he had an..eeenoorrrmous…..pink beach hat.’
(Imagine saying that word ‘enormous’ – how you would stretch the pace, raise the pitch, probably raise the volume - and that is probably also crying out for you to add an expansive expressive gesture as well)

  1. Power

And last of the big three vocal variety Ps is Power, the control over volume.
Just like with Pace, there are 2 aspects to Power
                (i)            the overall power of your delivery
                (ii)           the variation of volume within that delivery

(i)            the overall power of your delivery
In a bigger room your voice needs to project further.
That does not necessarily mean speak louder, but to consciously project (pitch and pace can help).
In the simplest terms however, more volume will help and this may come from to a positive stance with head up and it may be connected to maintaining good eye contact with all corners of the room.

(ii)           the variation of volume within that delivery
Louder and quieter.  Again look for natural opportunities to create contrast;
maybe between thoughts or sections in your speech.
For example:
you could make a bold strong statement with full voice and follow that with a much quieter
Or otherwise deliver a more restrained statement and contrast it with a more strident
‘…but I believe…’

And when you start to put all three delivery Ps together the variations can be endless:
higher, slower, quieter
lower, faster and louder…etc

However, if you want to create an even greater contrast in your delivery, you can take those three Ps and set them off against a fourth:

  1. Pause

The Pause: this could be a seminar on its own – and probably will be at a later date.
So here all I will say is that the greatest contrast to sound is silence.
Use a pause to let an idea register with your audience
Use a pause before a key word or message to give it weight
Use a pause to give yourself a moment to think
Use a pause after any form of rhetorical question to allow the audience to respond in their heads
Use a pause to indicate breaks in structure
Use a pause to heighten tension.

  1. Presence

And to finish off we come to that word ‘performance’ or the ephemeral ‘presence’.
Anyone can work on a purpose and learn to prepare, we can all practise pitch, pace, power and employ the power of the pause, but how does one develop presence?
Without necessarily aspiring to the presence of an Elvis Presley or the magnetism of a Nelson Mandela, we can all achieve a level of presence as public speakers simply by having the first 6Ps in place. 
A speaker who is well prepared and who has a message worth sharing will automatically have a degree of substance to them and if they can deliver their words with colour, confidence and contrast, they will be able to hold the attention of their audience.

A speaker that knows what they want to say and can say it well,
will inevitably be able to gather together those first 6 Ps and make them into the 7th!

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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.