There are so many encounters in life for which you have to prepare your thoughts; and not just formal speaking engagements! Many situations often require planning ahead so that you know what you want or need to say, like remembering all the questions you have for your doctor or for a job interview; sometimes just what you need to communicate in a phone call. Too many times I have left a situation saying: “Darn, I forgot to say…!” Sometimes the thought is even on the tip of my tongue — but I get distracted by a new thought, or someone else says something on a different point and I don’t remember to circle back to it.
IF YOU CAN’T KEEP YOUR THOUGHT ON THE TIP OF YOUR TONGUE AT LEAST YOU CAN KEEP IT ON AN INDEX CARD! The best IDEA RETRIEVAL SYSTEM is to have an index card! or the electronic notebook on your phone handy so you can jot down your points.
I got to a certain point in my career, between teaching classes, running seminiars, running meetings, runing a networking organization that I thought – I can wing this — i will just get up and welcome everyone and outline the program. I wish i could say it only took one incident where i was tongue-tied, or searching for my point to make me realize I always needed to prepare some remarks and then deliver them, but unfortunately, I’ll still walk away thinking – oh I could have said…
The value of thinking ahead AND capturing those great thoughts in writing is inestimable. Then, when you have to stand up at the rehearsal dinner and give a toast to the Bride, you won’t be fumbling for words or saying something awkward. Have you noticed with those who have not prepared remarks that the less they have to say, the more they go on and on?
BE BRIEF. Everyone is looking for soundbites. Sure, that may be extreme reducing every message to something the attention-deficient among us can absorb, but we have to realize that we only have people’s attention for a moment. If we don’t earn the audience’s interest quickly, the gist of our message is lost. Is there anything worse than listening to a rambling speaker who can’t articulate her message? Our time is valuable! If the speaker had thought ahead as to what she wanted to communicate, she would not be searching for words in front of an audience. Stay true to brevity by honing in on a few points beforehand and then make sure you stick to them.
BE SUCCINCT OR TO THE POINT OR KNOW WHAT YOUR POINT IS OR . . . Synonyms are great, but not as a time filler! Say what you have to say and stop! Going back to the rehearsal dinner reference, I recall one where everyone, and literally almost every guest, felt compelled to stand and give testimonials. Listening to some people talk was almost painful. At least the shy speakers had prepared a few remarks, and when they got nervous, they simply read them – a bit long, but fairly interesting. Other speakers were too cool for that – they stood and went on and on about drunken forays into bars in college, used buzz words and referenced private jokes without sharing the actual jokes with the audience– it was deadly. But there was one speaker, an older gentlemen, who put them all to shame. He had one simple point, and he told it skillfully and engagingly and with humor. I swear: he had a note card.
MEMORY JOGGER: You may not even have to refer to the notes – the gentleman at the rehearsal dinner only looked at it once, The mere fact of writing something down helps reinforce the points. If you see it in print, it imprints. I don’t want to get caught like this again!
ON THE LIGHT SIDE- Humor can capture the attention of an audience. Humor can even help relieve the tension in job interviews or at the doctor’s office. But even if you are a stand-up comedian, it is VERY difficult to come up with a joke that works. (I have been trying to add some humor into this piece and the harder I try the more serious it becomes!) The audience may appreciate a joke or pun, but how many times have you cringed when a joke falls flat? Guess what the best way around that is? Yes! Think of something ahead of time that pertains to the situation and jot it down on your index card. It may change the whole mood to optimism.
OK, I’ve got some ideas, I’ve got an index card – there is no way I am saying the same old thing at the Holiday Party THIS year!