Focus Public Speaking

Speak Like a Fish: When the content loses the thread

Speak like a fish and create bubbles of inspiration!With the 4 speeches we looked at – Do schools kill creativity? (Sir Ken Robinson), Your body shape who you are (Amy Cuddy), How great leaders inspire (Simon Sinek) and The power of vulnerability (Brené Brown) we find four type of structures, from the very classical one, intro-main body-conclusion, to the storytellling one. Did they all work to convey the idea? Yes. Were they all easy to follow? Yes. Did they all allow engagement with the audience? Yes. Did they all suit the content and the speaker? Yes. What make that possible then? What is the secret behind having so many choices in term of way to organise content?

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call the… thread, ideas and  focus.

Indeed, if you view each speech you will see that they have one focus, and this is their main idea; and then their speech, whatever the structure chosen, is weaved along a thread; the famous “fil directeur” ou “fil rouge”; and the thread is here to support the idea, shaping patterns of information complementing each other.

I hear you; this is exactly when you come with the big question “But… are not the thread, ideas and focus the same thing?”; and you already know the answer… they are not.

Let’s take the speech from Sir Ken Robinson, his focus is creativity “how to nurture creativity”, and from there he has a question “Do schools kill creativity” which leads to several ideas, the main one being about reorganising education and giving value to all subjects. Now if you look at the last speech we looked at from Brené Brown, the focus is not power or vulnerability, the focus is happiness and from there she has a question “how do people do happiness”, which she researched and which leads to her idea “The power of vulnerability”. Simon Sinek focus is about inspiration, his thread/idea is about “The golden circles”. We will see later on that understanding where the focus is, will assist the speaker in isolating his/her intention, which is a combination of focus and idea(s), and therefore the thread which will support best that intention.

Gregory Bateson wrote “The meaning of your communication is the response you get”. Since the meaning of a communication is based on its intent, the first thing a speaker should identify is her/his intention (intent).

What about the thread now? The thread is more about the how, how do we keep the content all together that at any one time we have a clear link focus and idea. Who comes first then, the structure or the thread? It’s a bit like the chicken and the eggs, and it may depends on the speaker and how s/he prepares their intervention. The thread is more a recurrent question to ask to ensure the speech is well built and clear to follow. Let’s go back to Brené Brown speech, the thread is extremely close to the storytelling structure. She actually brings us through her story, through her own experience, creating as well  time for us to feel and nearly experience the same. With Amy Cuddy speech, the thread is actually the subject of body language, the focus is around “the influence of body language”, the main idea “use body language to impact your life”, and her intention, clearly to motivate us to use those power poses.

Let’s use this information, and have fun at the same time. Go and listen to some talks or presentations, and see how easy you can pin point the thread, the idea(s), the focus and even the intention of the speaker. When ready goes one step further and see if you can identify how the thread (and the structure) actually support the idea.

Tomorrow is our Saturday post, and with it some really cool exercises on body language. See you tomorrow.

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