A structure your can use for any type of speaking
Following on from last week’s post, another wall poster I hang in the room as a ‘frame’ for my sales presentation consulting work, reads as follows:
A ‘Speaking a Message’ Structure’.
1. (full one second pause)
2. Open (eg.’Let me tell you about . . .’
3. (full one second pause)
4. Middle (eg. ‘Number One, they like . . . Number Two, they like . . ‘
5. (full one second pause)
6. Close (eg. ‘that’s what they like about me.’
This structure or variation of it can be used for any type of speaking – from chance encounters, to formal presentations, to leaving a voice mail message. Let me elaborate on its uses and variations:
The pauses are important because most people, particularly when under pressure, rush just before they speak, or they rush after making their initial utterance, or rush before making a closing remark/statement.
In practice, use of the structure could work like this, for example, in response to the question, ‘What do you customers like about you most?’ You could respond, 1. (pause) 2. ‘Let me tell you about what my customers like about me most.’ 3. (pause) 4. ‘Number one: that I show up on time, Number two: that I do what I say I’m going to do, and Number three: I finish what I start’. 5. (pause) 6. That’s what they like about me most.’
I call the above structure a three-part structure. As appropriate to the particular situation/environment you are in (use your judegement in the moment here) you can also use a two part strucure (ie. just the Open and Middle) or a one part structure (just the Middle). For the above example a two-part structure response to the above question would be 1. (pause) 2. ‘Let me tell you about what my customers like about me most.’ 3. (pause) 4. ‘Number one: that I show up on time, Number two: that I do what I say I’m going to do, and Number three: I finish what I start’.
A one-part structure would be: ‘Number one: that I show up on time, Number two: that I do what I say I’m going to do, Number three: I finish what I start’.
Now for some caveats on the structure: You don’t have to use the phrase, ‘Let me tell you about’. Other phrases you could use, depending on the question/interaction/environment are: ‘These are my thoughts’, ‘Here’s the deal’, ‘Here’s my view’. For more formal presentations your opening could be ‘Consider this, what if . . .’ (aim to find an opening ‘hook’ for why the person/audience should listen to you.) In your longer one-way presentations the Middle will be the biggest part of your speaking.
Some of my speech communication clients initially think the three-part structure is providing too much information (eg. ‘Why do I have to say ‘That’s what I think about . . .’ at the end’). It can be too much information. However, having the close is a form of ‘rambling prevention insurance’. That is, it can stop you from going on and on and losing your way. When you start to speak you should always have an ending point in mind. Keeping the Close in mind can help you to be concise and not ramble – even if you don’t use it.
A good measure for whether to use the Close or not is this: If the person would be unsure if you have finished your speaking ‘parcel’ or not, use the Close.
My ‘how to’ suggestion is to trial the speaking structure in safe situations and see how it works for you.