When you speak, are your phrases littered with "um's" and "ah's"? Do filler words fill your speeches?
When I first started speaking, I HATED silence. I used to do anything to fill those silences. And when I didn't know what to say next, I filled them with the non-word no-no's that most people often use in conversation. The “Um's”, “Ah's”, “Likes” and “You knows”. It's not that the audience did not understand my speeches when I used these words, but I appeared nervous, unprepared, and less professional.
I took an improvisation (“improv”) class this summer. Why? Speaker Darren LaCroix advised once in an interview that speakers should take an improv class. LaCroix is a Speaking Champion, and I trust his advice.
I took the course in Toronto where I live through a company called Oakville Improv. I had an amazing teacher by the name of Amy – but I was still sceptical. I knew that it would be an interesting class. However, I was unsure about the class' applicability for speakers. I would now HAPPILY recommend that any speaker take an improv class. In fact, I would recommend improv for anyone who wants to improve their confidence as well.
In the last few weeks of the class, I was trying to narrow down why I would recommend Amy's class for someone to take. I came up with numerous reasons, but for speakers, I think it comes down to 7 specific ones.
Here's the hard truth. No matter what your speech is about; no matter how meaningful your message is, your audience members will drift away at some points during your talk.
It's not your fault. The average attention span has dwindled to a meagre 8 seconds.
You may have your audience's eyes when you are talking, but their minds may be elsewhere.
Have you ever heard a speaker tell 2 great stories or give 2 great pieces of advice, only to leave you wondering, “How do they go together?”. Have you ever heard a speaker fumble from one point to the next, or just abruptly move right into another idea without first explaining where they were going or why they were headed there?
Have YOU ever had these situations happen to you? I have...
Early on in my speaking journey, I received a piece of advice that I have always remembered. An audience member came up to me after my talk and said, “Kwesi, I really loved your ideas, but I'm not sure how they were connected.” I have never forgotten that advice.
Transitions are like the oil in your engine. Your car may work without them, but not for long. Transitions are the glue that holds your speech together. When you speak, you want the listener to be connected to your ideas, as you say them. You do NOT want a person thinking “How does this point fit in?” or “That was a strange connection!” when you are already onto your next point. You want them with you at every stage of the ride, until you are ready to let them off.
Here are 3 ways to ensure that your audience flows with you as you go through your speech:
Kwesi Millington helps speakers, presenters and youth to connect with their audiences and master their messages using the power of storytelling in their speeches & presentations. He is a Certified Public Speaking Coach & Youth Mentor.