Tuesday, June 06, 2006

SPEAKING SKILLS--Pomp Without The Circumstance

It's graduation season--which means you can't swing a tassel without hitting a celebrity speaker who can't or doesn't seem to care about his audience. I just sat through an interminably looooooooooong, self-serving speech by a really big name with an even bigger reputation. This celebrity obviously didn't understand the central concept of a graduation speech--it gives the speaker the chance to send young minds out into the world with a greater sense of purpose, a more practical perspective on life's trials and triumphs, or a call to arms to make the world a better place for future graduates.

Most graduation speeches fail because most graduation speakers think that the speech is about them, so they use the occasion to stroke their own egos or promote their pet causes. No wonder they're boring. However, there's a great lesson here that every speaker should use when forming their presentations--something world-class trainer Patricia Fripp calls the "I-You Ratio."

It's simple--just use the word "YOU" much more often than you use the word "I". For example, instead of saying "I was fishing with my dad one day when I caught the biggest bass I'd ever seen." Turn the perspective around to include your listeners:
"Imagine you're fishing on a calm, quiet lake as the sun breaks over the tree tops...and all you can hear is the breathing of the most important man in your life. Suddenly, your father says, 'I think you got one!' You stumble around the boat, struggling to reel in your prize catch. It is the biggest smallmouth bass you've ever seen. But not nearly as big as the smile on your dad's face."
Not only does that opening have a great emotional connection, it puts your audience in the middle of your experience. It engages them in a positive mental adventure that sets you up for a successful presentation. Most important, the proper "I/You Ratio" puts the focus of any speech, not just graduations, where it should be--on your audience, not on you.

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