What does this mean?
My friend Bill Essen – during a recent weeding he attended – noticed something interesting. The couple, like many before them, had experienced all the stress of preparing for their big day:
- Rehearsing the ceremony
- Planning the floral arrangements
- Ensuring that everyone received invitations
- Sweating out the details of the rehearsal dinner,
- Making sure the dresses and the tuxes fit correctly
And so on….
What’s interesting is that, with of these details attended to, the deepest emotions of the event comes from the marriage ceremony itself. As Bill asked me, “What do you remember from the last wedding you attended?”
My response…..”Uh, the really expensive reception and food.”
“Dig deeper, Michael. Stop thinking like a guy. When did you feel the most emotion?”
I thought, and said, “When they exchanged vows. It was cool to hear the emotion of two people who obviously love one another. That feeling carried over to the reception.”
“Right. Even though you remember eating food, what specifically did you eat?”
I said, “Hmmmm, I can’t remember.”
He continued, “What songs did they play?”
“Bill, I don’t have a clue. Where are you going with this?”
He said, “Think about it. All of this stressing and preparation, and what most of the people remember is the way they felt during the ceremony and reception. The other details are lost to them.”
After he saw I was starting to grasp his point, he added “It’s the same way with speaking. A lot of the time, we stress out about the ancillary details of the event, but we forget to focus most on what’s important about the speech – the way the audience thinks, feels or acts when we’re done speaking.”
Bill is on target with his assessment. The ultimate purpose of any speech is to change audience perspective. Otherwise, why speak?
I’ve heard too many speakers focus on side issues like:
- How are my gestures?
- Am I making good eye contact?
- Did I look nervous?
- Did i look at my notes?
Each of these are small concerns compared to the most important questions:
“What was my takeaway message. How did the speech make the audience think,feel or act differently?”
Until you know the answers to these questions, the remaining issues are unimportant, because they’ll be forgotten the moment you’re done speaking.
Am I saying you should ignore those other details completely?
But do keep them in perspective. Know that once your main message is established, other concerns like gestures and eye contact naturally flow from your delivery. If you’ve internalized and rehearsed your talk, and you’re focused on the audience, your personality will shine through. You won’t have to sweat out many of the ‘little’ details.
The next time you begin to stress over every detail of your speech, remember Bill’s wisdom. Just like a wedding, focus on the end-result – the change of perspective you’re providing, and the emotion that goes with it.
Present a well-rehearsed and expertly written message that is focused on the audience and authentically delivered. You’ll create a lasting impact that is as memorable as the best wedding you’ve ever attended.
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What is the right type of humor to include in your speeches?
How do you include funny material without taking away from your message?
What if you’re not a naturally funny person, how do you make people laugh in a speech?
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