The Importance Of Creating Modular Speeches

Things change and so you need to have speech modules
Things change and so you need to have speech modules
Image Credit: V C

As a speaker, we control the world when we are on a stage. Unless there is somebody with a big hook waiting for us offstage, while we are speaking time stands still and our audience only has ears for us as we share the importance of public speaking. However, the biggest problem that we all face is that we don’t yet control the world. What this means is that although we may have been asked to come and give a speech, a great deal can change between when we were asked and when we take the stage. That speech that you have worked so hard to prepare may no longer be the speech that you want to give or your audience wants to hear by the time you are taking the stage. What’s a speaker to do?

The Power Of Speech Modules

One of the biggest things that can change for a speaker is time. When you were asked to give a speech, the person doing the asking told you that they needed you to fill 30, 60, or 90 minutes of time. After you accepted, you went away and thought long and hard about how you were going to do this. You created a speech that had an opening, a middle, and a closing that would both capture and hold your audience’s attention. Based on the amount of time that you had been given you then filled your speech with stories, examples, and key points. This is all fine until the day of the speech when you find out that your time has been cut in half. Or perhaps even worse, another speaker didn’t show up – could you talk for another 30 minutes?

When we are preparing our speech we need to make some assumptions. One of the key assumptions that we make is just exactly who we will be presenting to. We think that we know who our audience is, but we really cannot be sure. If we are smart, we’ll reach out to the person who asked us to come and speak and query them about who will will be in the audience. In some cases they may know, in many others they will have no real clue. What all of this means for us is that on the day of the speech we’re going to show up with a speech to give that may or may not match our audience. There is no worse feeling for a speaker to be milling around with your audience before you go on stage only to have the realization that your speech is a bad match for this audience.

If we could control the world, we’d take steps to make sure that nothing dramatic happened before we gave a speech. We want our audience to be able to focus on our words, not on current events. The things that happen don’t even have to be global events (9/11, housing crisis, hurricanes, wildfires, world cup), they can just be a big deal for your audience (a merger, a bankruptcy, a new CEO, etc.). What this means for you is that although you have carefully practiced your speech, on the day that you show up to deliver it, your audience’s minds may be somewhere else. Yes, your content on how to maximize the value of your audience’s 401lk retirement savings plans is important information; however, yet another Hollywood star has overdosed and everyone wants to know what their status is. Getting their attention is going to be an uphill battle.

How To Use Speech Modules

If you were a really, really important person, then nobody would ever even dream of changing the amount of time that you had been given to deliver a speech. However, as of yet you are not that important. What this means is that when you are creating your speech you can’t just create one big speech. Instead, what you are going to have to do is to divide your speech up into “modules”. A module is a self-contained piece of your speech of about 10 minutes or so that can almost stand on its own. Modules can be added or removed from your speech on the fly. This means that when you are told that you’ll have half your promised time, you can simply mentally remove enough modules to make your speech shorter. Likewise, if you are asked to take up more time you can just add more modules.

When you show up and discover that your audience is a very pro-guns audience and you were prepared to talk about solving school shootings and one of your key points was to restrict access to guns, then you need to make some changes. If the part of your speech where you talked about the need to restrict who can get their hands on guns was packaged in a module, you will then be able to remove that module from your speech now that you know who you will be talking to. What you can do is replace that module with another module, improving background checks perhaps, and you will not end up losing your audience during your speech.

We can’t control events as they swirl around us and our speech. However, if you have built your speech using modules then you’ll have the opportunity to quickly create a new module that includes information based on current events and insert it into your speech. What will happen when you do this is that your audience will be amazed at how timely your speech is. Your ability to get your audience to remember what you said will be boosted by the fact that you were able to tie it in to what was going on in the world that day. If you wanted to, you could include a module in your speech that was designed to allow you to include current events and just change the event based on what was going on the day that you gave the speech.

What All Of This Means For You

The world that we live in is a confusing mix of people and events. We don’t control very much of it and as speakers what that means is that a lot of things can change between when we agree to give a speech and when we actually take the stage to deliver the speech. What this requires us to do is to be able to adjust our speech to match the time that we are allocated, the audience that we are addressing, and the events that are currently occurring so that we can still share the benefits of public speaking with our audience. The right way to accomplish this is to use speech modules.

Since we don’t control how much time we’ll be given to deliver our speech, we need to be ready to shrink it or grow it. In order to be able to do this, when we are creating the speech we need to build it using 10-minute modules that can stand by themselves. This way we can remove modules to make it shorter or add modules to make it longer. All too often we won’t know who we will be addressing so we come unprepared. When we discover what our audience is looking for, we can remove and replace speech modules in order to create a speech that will resonate with our audience. World events can occur that will end up distracting our audience. If we can add a module to our speech that relates the event of the day to our speech topic, then we’ll be able to grab and hold on to our audience’s attention.

I think that it’s the Boy Scouts who tell us to be prepared for the unexpected. As speakers we need to understand that the speech that we’ve come to deliver may not be the speech that we will eventually be giving. In order to deal with this much variability in the world we need to build our speeches using modules that can be swapped in or out in order to meet the needs of a given speaking opportunity. Take the time to build your next speech using modules and you’ll be well positioned to build the perfect speech.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: In addition to the speech that you are planning on giving, how many extra modules should you prepare?

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Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So let’s spend a moment or two thinking about the next speech that you will be giving. You are going to be sitting down to create a speech and all that you are going to have to work with will be words to convey the importance of public speaking. What this means for you is that you are going to want to very carefully choose the words that you believe will allow you to get your message across to your audience as powerfully as possible. What you have laid out before you will be the types of words that we use every day: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, etc. Which ones should you use?