Monday, February 3, 2014

The Secret to a Great Spontaneous Speech

I work with many mid and senior level individuals on the Art of Delivering a great speech.  We work on
script blocking, vocal messaging, body language.  All in an effort to make their speech appear natural and seamless.  With all of the various techniques you can use and apply, the biggest secret to sounding spontaneous and conversational is... Practice!

Many of my clients err on the other side of this equation though, erroneously believing that over-rehearsing will make them sound mechanical and wooden.  Certainly, if that is what they are rehearsing then that will be the end result they achieve.  However, in order to have the confidence to let your content 'go' and to focus on the true delivery of the underlying messages you need to know your content backward and forward. Not a memorization of content, but an internalization of your content.

Great actors know this. They don't rehearse their role once or twice, they rehearse for weeks in an effort to sound and appear unscripted.  It's the rehearsal that frees your mind from its fears of forgetfulness, allowing you to be fully present in the moment, delivering your speech in a way that resonates with the audience.
"It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech."                                         - Mark Twain
I typically refer to the content of a speech, the actual words you use, as your primary message.  However, the delivery of it - your voice and body language - are the vehicles by which your secondary messages are delivered. It's your secondary messages that direct what you want your audience to think, feel or do as a result of what you are sharing.  It is your secondary messages that set your speech apart from all that precede or follow.  People will forget much of what you share with them, but they will long remember how you made them feel.

Think of the soundtrack to a movie.  Often, the soundtrack is operating at a more unconscious level.  We are paying more conscious attention to the action on the screen, the words the actors say.  However, the dramatic build-up of the moment the babysitter opens that basement door and begins creeping down the stairs would not have us squirming in our seats without that soundtrack.

So too with the need for you to integrate your non-verbal communication with your verbal.  You want them to operate in sync, to strengthen and clarify the messages you are delivering to your audience, thereby assuring the messages they receive.  This requires practice.  And more practice.  However, getting good at anything in life requires the same.  No one is perfect at anything right out of the gate.  Just because you have been speaking for most of your life does not mean you are automatically capable or skilled in public speaking.  Don't mistake the two.  Public speaking is an entirely different medium and the skills need to be rehearsed for us to gain any measure of competency.
"There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave."         - Dale Carnegie
Actively rehearsing, strategically and consciously working to ensure that your verbal and non-verbal cues align and work to support your key messages, is the difference between being a disaster or a master on-stage. Practice may not be the 'secret' you were hoping for, and it may sound counter-intuitive - but it is the secret of all the great speakers we admire.  Practice your Spontaneity.

(for those that would like to learn more about the above and about applying Body Language principles in other aspects of their communication, check out our Beyond Words program at

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