Education is a wonderful thing. But even a great college education can steer you wrong when it comes to how to think about public speaking, or writing a speech.
Here are some example:
Educated Mistake #1: Use Other People As Your Authorities
In school, you prove the value of your thoughts by citing other people who’ve thought (and written) similar things.
But in a speech, you prove the value of your thoughts by selling them; and footnotes won’t do that job. Instead, your words should be:
- Vital to you
- Relevant to your listeners, and
- Focused and clear
So here are some old school dictates you can ignore when writing a presentation (no matter how many times they were drummed into your tender young head):
Educated Mistake #2: Use “Objective” Language and Delay Your Main Point
No, don’t! Really.
Unless you’re giving a paper at the world’s stuffiest academic conference, leave out the passive constructs (“one might say that…”), the flat statements (“the next few years would prove to be quite interesting”) and the putting of your own thoughts in other people’s mouths (“as Plineas the Elder is said to have remarked…”)
Instead, start with your key message (most important point). And end with it. And repeat it in the middle. And say it exactly the way you would say it to a close friend in casual conversation.
Help your audience out by telling them what your speech is going to prove, up front — and by telling them in a sincere and personal way that makes them interested in what you have to say on the subject!
Educated Mistake #3: Support Your Conclusion with Tons of Evidence
Nope. Use as little evidence as you can get away with.
Sure, write an exhaustive first draft. The point of a first draft is to capture everything of possible value.
Cut something! It only hurts for a minute, and your audience will thank you.
YOU Are the World’s Reigning Authority on What You Think, Feel, Experience, and Know…
…and those things are what make a speech great!
Remember that, when you’re engaged in public speaking, your goal is to connect with and influence your audience. This is a very different task than writing a college paper, or even presenting at an academic conference.
Connecting means being yourself. It means trusting yourself. And it means generously sharing some of your lived experience, as well as your insights and conclusions, in a way that’s relevant to your audience.
Remember, once you’re out of college, finding your own voice (on paper, online, and live) is way more important than following academic rules!