LESSON 6 - CREATING A SPEECH - PART 2
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WHAT IS YOUR STORY?
We all have a story or many stories– some of you may not know how to express your story or stories. You may need to be coaxed out of your cave. Do you believe that your stories are not interesting, or worse, don't matter? In the words of Zig Ziglar, that's stinking thinking. Let me assure you that I have yet to meet a person who does not have a valuable story to share even if they at first didn't believe that.
I've had a life that is rich with experience and have plenty of material upon which to draw for my speeches. I didn't plan it that way. After years of struggle and yes, sometimes needless suffering, it occurred to me that traumatic events and painful experiences are often great lessons in disguise. If I could learn something from these experiences I could teach something of value that in turn could help others. Many of my speeches have emerged from my personal experience as well as my encounters with others. To me, to be a great speech writer, one must first become a great observer. Always ask yourself the question, "What can I learn from this?" If you make mistakes and you learn something from those mistakes it has not been in vain. The greatest loss is in losing the lesson.
"Well Chanti that's just fine and dandy for you but what if my life story isn't so interesting?"
Some of my students complain that they have led very ordinary and uneventful lives and have nothing to talk about. It always surprises me, especially when after a little digging, I am able to uncover wonderful content that they did not think was of value. Your story doesn't need to be a BIG story. Some of the most powerful stories are actually really simple stories. Think about the 2013 World Champion of Public Speaking Presiyan Vasilev's speech "Changed by a Tire." He shared how he stopped to change a flat tire on his car and experienced great difficulty because he wouldn't ask for help. My favorite line from this speech is, "“I believed reaching out was a weakness, but I discovered my weakness was in refusing to reach out.” That's magic right there.
CREATE A JOURNAL
I always recommend that my students keep a journal and jot down their thoughts DAILY. A male client once responded, "Journals are for teenage girls." I was rendered speechless and if you know me, that is quite unusual! The point is that even if you don't plan to write a book, your daily journal will become a treasure trove of content where you unearth all sorts of gems for use in speeches. Perhaps I could offer some suggestions about how you could journal so that you can develop interesting speech content. I call it, "Mining for gems."
MINING FOR GEMS - SIMPLE STEPS
Buy a notebook specifically for this purpose. It doesn't have to be an expensive one. Write your starting date on the cover and when you have filled the notebook enter that date on the cover as well. You might also wish to write the starting and end dates on the spine. Example: 1/11/2014 - 9/27/2014. This for later reference.
Set aside a minimum of ten minutes every day to journal. I try to write for a minimum of half an hour a day. If you count all the facebook posts, blogs and other content that I write, I write a lot more than that.
Write the headlines. Start by jotting down your daily headlines. These are short statements about what has happened during your day. These are the headings of your mini stories. You may only have 2 or 3 but you may have more. It depends on the level of activity in your day.
Share your news. After the headlines comes the news. Fill in the gaps. Don't just share the details of your day in chronological order. You don't need to share what you ate for breakfast or write about your bowel movements just so that you can fill your allotted ten minutes. Share your impressions of the day in sensory terms. What you saw, heard, smelled, tasted, touched. Talk about what you learned from your experience in that day. Example: "On our radio show this morning when I was talking about how important it is to connect with your audience and suggested that humor as a tool to make connections, I noticed thatweI had lost our internet connection. There is humor in this. [true story]
Mine for Gems. Scan what you've written for anything that might be of value. These are your gems. You may not find any on a given day but if you continue writing, the gems will turn up more and more often. When you find a gem (or valuable observation) transfer the gem into another notebook or computer file.
Polish the gems. Spend a further ten minutes polishing your gem. Think about how this gem could be best expressed to appeal to an audience. The beauty of a gem is only revealed through cutting and polishing and so it is for speech writing. Write it out, cut out superfluous words and then polish it up i.e. find more effective ways to communicate the brilliance of your gem. Categorise it and store it.
With practice this "mining for gems" system becomes an effective way to develop interesting and original speech content.
FIND THE MESSAGE IN THE STORY
Your assignment this week is to tell an old story with a new twist. This is a very simple form of speech writing. Very simply stated, you tell a story and then you share its message from your unique perspective. In some instances the message is glaringly apparent and you don't need to say anything more. It will speak for itself.
In the last lesson (Lesson 5) I share the story about Benjamin Disraeli and William Gladstone. If you're forgotten what it was about, go back and read it. What did you glean from this story? What message was I trying to get across? I think you'll agree that the lesson in the story is easy to discern. I didn't need to state the obvious.
One of my award-winning speeches is entitled Beetle King. It's the true story about a Zulu King, Shaka. He was the illegitimate son of a Zulu prince and allegedly the product of a rape. When his mother Nandi was found to be pregnant, the tribe's medicine woman claimed a beetle had crawled into her belly. The name "Shaka" is Zulu for "beetle". The tribe refused to acknowledge her pregnancy and when Shaka was born, Nandi and her child were relegated to the status of outcasts. In spite of the circumstances of his birth, Shaka grew to be a leader and eventually was crowned king of the Zulus. The story illustrates that while we may not have much power over our circumstances we can change our outcomes.
TRAIN YOUR BRAIN
You can train your brain into finding creative connections in stories by asking yourself, "What can I learn from this story". Even our biggest mistakes provide valuable lessons. I forget who said that mistakes should be viewed as data and nothing more. If we stop at the mistake we will never advance.
SPEAKERS PROVIDE SOLUTIONS
Once you've trained your brain and developed your creative and critical thinking skills, you will begin to see solutions in every problem. A message in every mess and a testimony in every test. Your job as a speaker is to find the simplest and most powerful way to express this in words. Good luck!
LESSON 1 - You are Your Own Brand
Figuring out who you are and what you offer to this world. What makes you unique and how you can use this to your advantage. Improve your skills through objective evaluation.
How to source content that matters to others. Understanding your audience so that you can speak directly to their needs.
Changing the way you speak so that you will become more interesting to listen to. Weed out filler words and other distracting vocal habits
Choosing words to make the greatest impact. Learn how to landscape your language so that your word seeds take root and grow where they are planted. Change your words to change your world. The magic words of persuasion.
The simple construction technique to developing brilliant speech content. This problem-solving approach will help you to develop speech content using simple triggers.
ASSIGNMENT FOR THE WEEK
FINDING THE MESSAGE
Pick a story from the list of well known stories below. Tell (or write) the story in your own words and in your own unique style. If you prefer, use a more modern approach to an old tale. This was effectively accomplished in the book "Politically Correct Bedtime Stories" by James Finn Garner. Read it if you'd like a good laugh.
Keep the basics of the story intact so that it will be recognizable to an audience.
Now ask yourself the question: "What's the message?" or "What's the lesson or lessons in this?"
Sometimes the message is obvious and at other times you may need to scratch a little deeper. By all means be creative. There may be more than one message or lesson. Delve deeper. Give it more thought.
In the well known fairytale Cinderella, the prince searches for the girl of his dreams with a glass slipper that she left behind. His aim is to find the foot that is the perfect fit. In the original story he arrives at Cinderella's house and Cinder's ugly stepsisters try the slipper. It must surely occur to the reader that this must be a rather shortsighted prince. Nevertheless, the storyteller tells us that the awkward pair do all in their power to force their large feet into the tiny glass slipper but without success. We know why of course. Only Cinderella's foot is the perfect fit. They are wed, and apparently, in true fairytale form, live happily ever after.
What's the message? From the ugly sister's standpoint, "Don't try to force your foot into a shoe that doesn't fit." From Cinderella's: "If you want someone to find you, leave a shoe behind." or to coin a phrase, "If the shoe fits, wear it."
Seriously, I think the greater message may relate to romantic relationships. We may go through a few poor fits until we find the right fit.
What messages could you find?
If you examine this story in more detail, you'll find a myriad. I've been a little light-hearted in my approach but in my defence, the tongue-in-cheek lines provide some entertainment value at least.
Now, why don't you give it a go? Take your pick from this list and have some fun.
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
The Pied Piper of Hamlin
The Ugly Duckling
Three Little Pigs
Beauty and the Beast
The Frog Prince
If you don't know these stories, pick a story that you do know and get to work.
Secrets of a Speechwriting Legend. Master speechwriter and former Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo, reveals his time-tested approach to crafting unforgettable speeches.
For more speechwriting tips use Twitter #speechwriting
Another valuable resource is http://vsotd.com/
Vital Speeches of the Day
Join a Storytelling group in your area if there is one. There is nothing quite like sharing stories with others to develop your own storytelling abilities.
"Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer" by Roy Peter Clark
Bonus Video: How to write fictional stories. Valuable information for budding writers as well as speech-makers.