Photo Credit: Salvatore Vuono

Photo Credit: Salvatore Vuono

There are a number of ways which you can effectively prepare your speech. It’s not for me to say what is the right way or the wrong way because certain methods suit some individuals more than others. However, I would like to offer one suggestion that will help you cut the amount of time it takes you to prepare your speech.

Simply, use both sides of your brain. It is  well known  that the cerebral cortex has two hemispheres, the right side and the left side, which perform different functions. The right cortex handles memories and much of your creativity. It can see the whole picture, but doesn’t yet understand the details. That is where the left side brain shines-  it deals with analysis,  is good with lists and sequential thinking.

Before you start preparing your speech you need ideas. Therefore you want to be tapping into the imaginative right side of your brain and let ideas and experience and associations just flow. Essentially have a brainstorm. This can be  easier with other people, but if you don’t have anybody to turn to who is knowledgeable about the subject you are scheduled to talk about then you have to brainstorm your own ideas. Here’s a technique you can use to do that.

Generating ideas for your speech

First identify the aim of your talk. Then take a plain A4 sheet of paper,  and in the centre of the page draw a symbol or small image to represent the subject or title. The point of this exercise is to generate ideas –  so let all your thoughts that connect with your speech title spill on to the page. Draw a line radiating outwards from the image and add your thought as a single word at the end of the line.

Draw another line starting from the word you have just written and following the same trail of thought right another word at the end of this line. Continue this exercise until you can’t think of any more words for that theme. Then starting from the centre image again draw another line and right another word that reflects a different aspect of your subject. Repeat the exercise until you run out of ideas and themes.

The key to this exercise is not censor the words and ideas that flow from  your head. No matter how irrational, irrelevant and nonsensical they appear it doesn’t matter, they are just stepping stones. The aim is that by the end of the exercise you will have enough ideas to extract from your brainstorm to create your presentation.

Organising your speech

Now that you have a page full of ideas- look back and  clarify the aim of your speech. Is it still the same as your initial thought, can you tighten it, or do you need to change it completely? Once you have finally  decided on the aim,  you can begin to structure your speech. To do this choose three agenda headings which support the aim, write them down,  and using highlighters give each one a different colour.

You are now ready to use the logical, rational and critical left side of your brain. Taking one of the 3 highlighter colours, highlight  each word on your paper that is relevant to the agenda item you are sorting for. Then do to the same with the next colour/ agenda item. Then the third. So you will end up with a chaotic looking patchwork of 3 colours all over your brainstorm- with some words/ ideas still not highlighted. Good. These are the ideas you have rejected. And the remaining ones are now already selected and grouped by colour – wherever they may be on the page. And  there are three key criteria you should follow to do this effectively:

  1. Does the word/ idea  help you achieve the aim? If not reject it.
  2. How long is your speech? Select the most relevant content to fit the time.
  3. Who is your audience?

To help you with this last criterion –  ask yourself the following questions:

  • How much do they know about the subject
  • Their level of experience
  • Their expectations
  • Their level of interest
  • The time of day you will be giving your speech (people are usually more alert in a morning)
  • Prejudices
  • Culture/background

Once you have been through  your brainstorm & highlighted  the ideas that have  the most relevance – you can now group  them all  under each of the three agenda headings and arrange them in logical order to suit your audience and the length of your speech.

Using this process will massively reduce the time it takes you to prepare your speech, compared to making a list or writing it out long hand. The latter methods we were taught at school, and they have served us for decades. But they aren’t efficient, and in many ways work against the way the brain is designed, rather than with it.