Speech Lesson From a Pup
Before reading this speech lesson, please click here to watch a brief (16-second) video.
If you’re a frequent reader, you’ve seen this pup. She’s Sky, our chihuahua. This clip shows her reacting to a video of cats making odd noises.
If you’ve ever had a dog, you know what her reaction means – she’s curious. She has this physical reaction when hearing odd noises.
Curiosity keeps her interest. She wants to know what’s going on.
The Key to Keeping Interest in Your Speech
Curiosity is also the key to a meaningful and memorable story. If you want you audience to stay engaged throughout, your story must create curiosity.
How do you do this?
One way not to do it is to follow the old speaking mantra of “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell ‘em. Tell ‘em. Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.’ The problem with this saying is that it gives away your ending too soon.
Imagine sitting down to watch a movie, and knowing how it ends. For example, consider the movie Titanic. The key question through the movie was “Did Rose and Jack live? Do they get to be together?”
If you knew the answer in the beginning, would you have still watched?
Maybe, but the experience wouldn’t have been as good because you knew what was coming.
How to Create Curiosity in Your Speech
What should you do to create curiosity?
Offer teasing statements.
Questions that orient to your main message create interest. I have a story called ‘Touch The Future.’ It begins with a question. “Have you ever overheard a conversation that changed the way you thought about your job?”
That question challenges the audience to think about their experiences. It also sets them up for a story about an encounter my Dad had at a restaurant that gave me insight into my role as a speaker.
A teasing statement is one that can startle or change the way they think. For example, in my story ‘Full Throttle,’ I open with a statement. “If you’re having trouble breaking through a personal barrier, may I suggest you do it at 154.1 miles per hour?”
This is not a typical question the audience hears. It also isn’t an experience they have every day. It creates questions.
“What does he mean by ‘doing it at 154.1 miles per hour?’
‘Does he mean drive that fast?’
‘How can I possibly go that speed?’
I don’t care which questions they ask themselves, as long as they’re engaged and want to know more. I want to capture their attention. I can then dive into my story that discusses breaking though my own personal barriers.
Sprinkle Curiosity Through Your Speech
Curiosity statements aren’t just for your opening. Sprinkle them throughout your talk to keep interest.
In my story ‘Launching Pad,’ I relive a scene where my manager give me feedback on a presentation. I could narrate the scene and give away the end’ by saying “he gave me an ultimatum that led me to the world of speaking.”
In a word, that is ‘boring.’
Instead, what I say is “He looked at me and said four words that changed the course of my life.” I then pause long enough for the audience to wonder:
“What did the manager say?”
“How did it change Michael’s life?”
I then answer their questions by telling them he said “Fix this, or else!”
I follow that with the story of how the fear of losing my job led me to Toastmasters, then investing in speaking courses, then becoming a professional speaker and coach.
With just one line, and a well-executed pause, they’re curious.
You Don’t Need Them to Act Like Pups
It’s not necessary compel your audience to twist their necks at a 90-degree angle like young Sky. You should insert enough teasing statements and questions that keep them wanting more.
That’s how you keep ‘em curious.
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