Organizing and Spicing Up Your Speech Help (page 3)
Introduction to Organizing and Spicing Up Your Speech
Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up.
—A. A. Milne, 1882–1956
In this lesson, you will learn about some tools to help you spice up your speech—and how to keep it organized.
Have you ever wanted a certain item such as a tool, but been unable to find it? I recently needed to test an electrical outlet to see if it was working, and I went in search of my circuit tester. This is a tool that I very rarely use, but I thought I knew just where it was. I didn't. After much aggravation and thrashing around, searching the same toolboxes three or four times over, I went to the hardware store and bought another. I finished the home repair and put away my new circuit tester—right next to the old one that I'd been searching for!
Here is another maxim: "If you can't find it when you need it, you don't own it." I did, in fact, own a circuit tester, but I couldn't find it when I needed it and ended up acting as though I didn't own it by purchasing a new one. The basic principle here is that you need to be organized if you want to be effective in any endeavor.
This principle most definitely holds true for public speaking, as much as it does for home repairs or any other task. You will find yourself preparing your speech and thinking, "Didn't Mark Twain… or somebody… say something funny… I think it was funny… about this topic?" You may be able to recall the gist of the quotation, but you just won't be able to remember the exact wording, the author, or even where you come across it.
If you were well organized, however, you would be able to track down that quotation in a short amount of time, enabling you to use it to spice up your speech. This lesson will help you get organized now, so that you'll be able to find the tools when you need them in the future.
Collect and Organize Information
Using a Computer
The computer is the easiest and most efficient tool for collecting material for speeches. You will use it to gather the information in the first place, which we'll discuss in a moment, but you'll also want to use your computer to organize and save those bits of spice.
The beauty of computer storage is that you can very easily index your material by topic. So let's say that you finally track down that Mark Twain quotation, perhaps this one:
To be busy is man's only happiness.
I found this quotation in a book, so my first step would be to type it into my computer using a standard word processing program. But the next step is very important: The quotation needs to be categorized so that I can find it in the future when looking for spice on a particular speech topic. So at this point, you would ask yourself what speech topics this quotation might be useful for.
Obviously, this Twain snippet would be useful if you were speaking on the topic of happiness. Likewise, it would be useful on the topic of hard work, and conversely on the topic of overwork or stress management. It might seem odd at this point to worry about what topics this quotation applies to since it's the only quotation that we've gathered so far. But it will become very important as time goes along, because you will quickly develop the habit of collecting material like this, and as your collection gets bigger, finding material will get much harder.
There are many ways to gather and categorize material like this Twain quotation. If you're fairly savvy with your computer, the best way is to create a database file, since the computer database programs work exactly like the old-fashioned index card system, which we'll consider next. A database file will allow you to categorize each quotation by author and by topic, and it will enable you to easily assign several topics to one quotation.
I use a database that I designed myself to keep track of all my quotations. I only had to type in the Twain quotation once, then I used a series of drop-down boxes to select the topics of Happiness, Work, and Stress Management. Here is what that database card looks like:
Once you've created a database file, you can easily print out a report of all your quotations listed by topic. Speaking on the topic of gardening? Just open your quotations database file and print out a report of all your quotations on Gardening.
However, learning to use a database program can be a daunting task, so if you aren't interested in creating such a file, you can simply create a collection of quotations using a word processing program. Create a category with the header Happiness, then type in the Twain quotation below that header. Copy the quotation, create a new header called Work, and paste in the Twain quotation there. It's a bit more cumbersome than the database approach, but every bit as effective.
The Old-Fashioned Method
If you don't own a computer, or simply prefer the ease and simplicity of paper, you can choose to organize your quotation files by hand. The simplest of these methods is the 3×5 index card.
Start by purchasing an index card storage box, which will come with alphabetical dividers. You will then fill out an index card something like this:
Then you will make another card with the header Stress Management, but you won't have to rewrite all the information on that card; simply write "See Happiness: Mark Twain." This will refer you back to the previous card, which you'll have filed in the filing box under the H tab.
Finally, you can simply use a standard filing cabinet and create manila folders alphabetically. You could then photocopy and highlight the Twain quotation, filing copies in the Happiness, Work, and Stress Management folders.
Whatever method works best for you, it will be very important that you begin to collect and organize a "spice collection" right away. Following are some tips on how to start your spice collection.
Build and Maintain Speech Materials
Collecting Your Spice
You will want to spice up your speeches by using pertinent quotations, humorous stories, short pieces of poetry, facts and figures relating to your topic, personal anecdotes, and other such material. This is not a one-time process, however, where you conduct a massive hunting expedition looking for memorable material. On the contrary, this is a habit that you will cultivate and continue throughout your professional career—regardless of what that career happens to be.
Building and maintaining a speech spice file is not like a hunting expedition, it's more like a collecting hobby. Perhaps when you were younger you enjoyed collecting coins or stamps or some other thing. A coin collector is constantly alert for the types of coins that interest him or her, just as a stamp collector will habitually examine every stamp on every envelope that he or she comes across. After a while, it just becomes second nature to scan the change from the cashier or to check the stamps on today's mail.
This is the same habit you will cultivate as you begin to collect useful bits of spice for future speeches. Here are a few sources where you will frequently find what's worth saving.
Regular Reading Habits
Whatever you read on a regular basis, develop the habit of saving anything that might prove useful in a future speech. Your regular reading will be based upon your personal interests, and the basic rule of public speaking is to speak to your strengths. Consequently, your regular reading will be a natural source for speech spice, as it will be on a topic about which you are knowledgeable. This can include:
- news magazines
- trade journals
- fiction and poetry
- technical magazines
- hobby magazines
- religious publications
- textbooks on any topic
- Internet websites
Any time you find yourself reminiscing about something from the past, jot a note to yourself to add it to your spice collection. You don't need to go into great detail on your database or index card entry; just write down enough to jog your memory about the event, and then categorize it appropriately.
Perhaps you once met a famous athlete and had a short conversation. That experience could easily be used in a speech about setting goals or imitating success or whatever topic was pertinent in that short conversation. Just add an entry in your spice file, with the notation "the time I met so-and-so and we talked about thus-and-such." File it under the appropriate categories, and you're done!
Don't limit yourself to your own stories, either. If a friend tells you of a humorous or memorable experience, add that to your spice file. Just remember to note who told you the story and when, so that you can get your citations and details straight in the future.
Jokes and Witticisms
Have you ever started to tell a joke only to forget the punch line or confuse the details? That's a very common experience, and it can be pretty embarrassing. Imagine how embarrassing it would be to mess up a joke in the middle of a speech!
That's why it's good to add humorous jokes and witty comments into your spice file as soon as you can, while the details are fresh in your mind. Jokes and witty word play can be a powerful spice in an otherwise serious speech, and these entries will be very valuable to you in your public speaking. You might want to memorize this funny spice so that you are ready to improvise in case you find yourself needing to fill gaps with something fun and interesting!
One important thing to remember, however, is to avoid anything that might push your audience's hot buttons, as we discussed in Lesson 2. Keep it clean, or keep it out.
An excellent source of spice will come to you from any area of popular entertainment, including:
Popular entertainment can be a rich source of spice simply because your audience will be able to connect with your reference. For example, you might refer to a particular scene in a very popular movie that recently came out, tying it in with your topic. Your audience will be familiar with that movie, at least to some extent, and will be quick to see the connection that you are making in your speech.
Song lyrics can also be a good source of short poetry quotations, while advertising slogans frequently say a great deal in a short sentence. The world of professional sports is a fertile source for all sorts of metaphors that can pertain to just about any speech topic. And there's nothing like talk radio or television shows discussing current events to provide you with attention-getting quotations and statistics.
Finally, when you're actually working on a speech, you can also do some searching on the Internet for spice on that topic. You will be able to find facts and statistics, memorable quotations, entertaining anecdotes, and plenty more to add into your speech. (We will address this topic in more detail in Lesson 4.)
As you can see, the world is full of speech spice. All you have to do is start collecting!
Organizing and Spicing Up Your Speech Practice
Start a spice file today, and make at least one entry each day for the next two weeks. Include the following information on each entry:
- Name of author, artist, film, etc., and where you got the information.
- Full citation if it's from printed or copyrighted material. This will include the author's full name, the title of the work, publisher, publication date, page number, and so forth.
- Full quotation exactly as written or recorded, if the material is copyrighted.
- Date of the conversation, if it's an anecdote, joke, witticism, etc.
- Category to which it's pertinent, with cross-references to other categories if applicable.
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