Preparing a speech: are you a monk or a mutterer?

How do you prepare a speech or presentation? Are you a monk or a mutterer? In my experience a lot of people become monks when they settle down to write a speech. They take a vow of silence, retreat behind closed doors, and meditate in silence.

  • They sit in silence at their keyboard
  • They think of the words
  • Their brain sends messages to the fingers
  • The fingers tap the keys
  • Words appear on the screen
  • The eyes evaluate the words on the screen, and send messages back to the brain
  • The brain processes the data and sends messages to the fingers to change the words, or move on

Speakers and presenters who prepare like monks are making life hard for themselves. Think about what’s missing from the process I just outlined.

Two absolutely vital organs are not being used: the mouth and the ears.

You’re not supposed to be writing to your audience. You are supposed to be speaking to them. But if you prepare like a silent monk your speeches will almost always suffer. You’ll be reading at the audience, not talking to them.

So stop being a monk. Become a mutterer. Talk the words out, before you commit them to the page. When you get the words out of your mouth before they pop out of the ends of your fingers, magic happens.

For a start, you start using the speaker’s vocabulary, instead of the writer’s vocabulary. We all draw on two vocabularies. There’s the one we use in conversation:

  • Simple words
  • Short sentences
  • Sometimes not even sentences. Just Fragments
  • Words that slide easily off the tongue

And then there’s the vocabulary we use when we are writing:

  • Bigger words
  • More syllables
  • More complex sentences

Our TalkitOut program for speakers and presenters is all about talking the words on to the page, using conversational language. Speaking the words out loud (really speaking them, not just thinking them) before writing them.

Every time you speak out a word, phrase or sentence you are testing its usability. You eliminate the hard-to-deliver constructions, and liberate your authentic voice.

Try it next time you have to prepare a speech. Create with your mouth and edit with your ears. Become a mutterer, not a monk. I think you’ll like the difference it makes.

Stop writing; start talking

Download our free "Ace That Presentation" White Paper for sure-fire tips on more effective presentations.