Are you Willing – And Able – To Throw Out Your Speech Script When Necessary?
The introducer stood at the front of the room. She said, “Because the program has gone over time, our featured speaker only has 15 minutes with us.” She then introduced Tiffany, who confidently strode to the front of the room.
“I know I was scheduled to speak to you about the “5 Steps to Get to ‘Yes’ in Sales.” But, after talking with some of you one-on-one, and listening to many of your comments during lunch, I’m going to change up my message.”
She then pivoted to a brief, but powerful talk about using your personal story to best sell your message. As a storytelling coach, she hooked me. As a business owner, she reminded me that your one differentiator in the marketplace is your story.
Why Change Your Speech at the Last-Minute?
This isn’t a blog about storytelling. It’s about your ability to change when conditions warrant.
What Tiffany did was pay attention to her audience before she spoke to us. She picked up on a need for to change up her supporting ideas..
This is not a rare circumstance. Meeting planners usually know the right message for their group. A skilled professional has the ability to ‘take the temperature of the room.’ Audience needs can change at the last-minute. Skilled speakers realize their prepared remarks might not be best for that group.
She understood that a change was needed for maximum impact.
Note that Tiffany didn’t deviate from the overall theme of her advertised talk. She was there to help us increase sales. What changed were her suggested ‘tools’ to accomplish this.
To paraphrase an admonition in many TV programs, “Don’t try this at home. Only a skilled professional should attempt this.” Tiffany is a skilled pro.
Six Steps to Change Your Speech Like a Pro
Do you want the ability to read an audience and change your message when necessary?
Follow these steps:
Six Steps to Pivot to a More Impactful Speech
#1 – Know your material so well you don’t have to think about it
If you haven’t mastered your topic, don’t bother with the other five steps. It will only end in diaster.
You must know your topic so well that you can present it from many perspectives. Tiffany knows the five steps to increasing sales. She also knows other ways, such as ‘the power of storytelling in selling.’
#2 – Arrive early
This is a critical step to understand the concerns and questions the audience may have about your topic. Be present for as much of the event as possible. Be around as many people as you can to understand the breadth of issues they may be facing.
#3 – Listen to conversations around you
This step is not easy, as many people will want to talk to you, ‘the speaker.’ There is one proven way to turn those conversations around. It allows you to pick up vital information and be respectful of others.
What is this magic method?
Ask questions. Encourage the attendees to talk to you. Ask specific questions about what is on their minds. Take note of the emotion behind their responses.
#4 – Ask yourself if your prepared message is still relevant
Listen to the tone and topics of the conversations you are hearing. Determine if your prepared remarks will provide the greatest benefit to the audience. If not, consider what would better suit them. Tiffany did this when she changed from ‘five steps’ to ‘storytelling.’
#5 – Stay true to your overall theme
Again, she didn’t deviate from the theme of “increased sales.” Her speech wouldn’t have been effective if she’d altered the main message. For instance, changing from ‘Increased Sales’ to ‘How to Improve Administrative Support.’ The audience would’ve felt frustrated, irritated or even angry.
#6 – If necessary, adjust your supporting material
Go through the first five steps. Trust your instincts. If they tell you that your material should change, have the courage to adjust.
Because you haven’t prepared for this change, your speech will not be as smoothly delivered as the one you rehearsed.
That’s OK! To paraphrase Patricia Fripp:
“It’s not about perfection, it’s about connection.”
Do you want to increase the odds of creating a deeper connection with your audience?
Speak from your heart, with the best message each group needs to hear. Follow Tiffany’s example. Use the six steps. And, when necessary, adjust your message. You’ll leave a lasting impact long after you leave the platform.
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