I used to be a terrible speech giver. I hemmed. I hawed. I spoke too slowly. I rushed too fast. I mumbled. I shouted. I was terrible.
But the worst thing I did was wander off topic and get lost in my thoughts. “Where was I?” I used to ask my audiences.
I could have improved my performance by writing out and memorizing my speeches. But I never felt I had the time. And I always wanted to speak extemporaneously.
Instead, I developed two simple techniques that work well for me now:
1. In planning my speech, I stick to The Rule of One. Rather than telling the audience everything I know about a particular topic (let’s say, direct-response marketing or copywriting), I select one specific idea I have about that topic (such as “The Rule of One”) and stick to that. I dig up facts that support my point, anecdotes and stories that illustrate it, and testimonials to show its benefits.
2. I write and memorize the first and last sentences of the speech.
The Rule of One keeps me on topic and allows me to leave the audience with one powerful idea they can benefit from.
Memorizing the first and last sentences helps me start and end the speech strongly.
Together, they help me make presentations that command more attention, are more easily remembered, and have more persuasive power.
In the past several years, I’ve realized I can apply these two simple techniques to almost all of my important conversations.
If, for example, I have a meeting with a joint-venture partner, I ask myself, “What is the single most important thing I can accomplish at this meeting?” And I think about how I can achieve that objective. It usually includes learning facts to support my argument, and finding stories and examples to illustrate it. Then I come up with a phrase I can use to broach the subject, and another phrase to end the conversation in a way that will stick in my interlocutor’s mind.
Planning conversations may seem calculating at first (because it is), but once you get used to doing it you won’t give it another thought. And you’ll be a much more effective negotiator.[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]