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This Is What You Should Do When You Have To Give A Short Speech

This Is What You Should Do When You Have To Give A Short Speech

Lots of people are intimidated when faced with giving a short speech. Preparation is the key to overcoming any anxieties and delivering a successful presentation.

Get Back to Basics in Order to Find Your Key Message

If you are stuck at where to start writing your speech, try writing it as a letter to a friend. Now, find the key message in your letter and get rid of any extraneous information. Every stage of your speech should illustrate this key message. Being merciless in your editing will ensure a more powerful speech.

Everybody Loves a Good Story, Here’s How to Tell Yours

People love to hear stories. Use a good personal story to connect with your audience and deliver your message.

 

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Next to hunger and thirst, our most basic human need is for storytelling.

– Khalil Gibran

 

Good storytelling has innate patterns and elements.  Every story that you tell should have a main character, in this case, it should probably be you. Personal stories are the best ones to use for a short speech, this way the audience can relate to you.

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Next your story needs to have a conflict or problem, if you are talking about quitting smoking then you want to use a story about the struggle of battling this strong addiction. Each member of your audience has struggled with something in their own life. When you make it personal, they’ll feel your struggle and will be rooting for your success.

Then your story needs resolution. How did you stop smoking, and what did you change to see results? Finally, you want to wrap up the story so that it sends a clear message. Your message here should be the one thing that you want your audience to take away and remember.

Be Descriptive: Show, Don’t Tell Your Audience the Details

Just like in writing, it’s important to show your audience not spell out every detail for them. For example, don’t tell your audience you were “embarrassed” when you cheated and had a cigarette on your lunch break. Instead describe your reaction to the emotions, about “the flush that rose up your cheeks” when a colleague who came by your desk after lunch. You were certain they could smell the smoke.

Plan and Rehearse Your Material to Avoid Nerves on Speech Day

Create notecards to keep you on track with your speech. Make sure they are brief and easy to read. You’ll only want to glance at them, not read them. It’s important to know your subject and material thoroughly. You’ll be much more comfortable and your personality will shine through your speech when you aren’t struggling to remember the words.

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Practice in front of a mirror or, even better, in front of a video camera. Stand up while you practice and imagine yourself in the room where you’ll be giving your speech. Notice your posture and hand gestures. Standing up straight and tall will boost your authority. Plan your wardrobe for the speech. Be sure that what you are wearing is suitable for the venue and projects the desired image. If you are addressing business people, wear a suit.

Body Language:

  • Minimize hand gestures to maximize their impact
  • Don’t pace back and forth, it’s distracting for the audience
  • Use your eyes, connect with audience and judge engagement
  • Maintain a confident posture, shoulders back and head up
  • Clothing sets the tone for your speech

Speak Up, The People in the Back Can’t Hear You!

We tend to speak quietly when we are nervous. Speak as if you are talking to a person in the back of the room. It may feel uncomfortable or unnatural at first. That’s why it’s important to practice using your “speech” voice in advance.

Respect Your Audience By Being Mindful of Time Constraints

Most speeches have time constraints. Make sure you’ve timed your entire speech during practice. Studies have shown that most people are not very good at estimating times. On the day of your speech ask a friend or colleague time your speech and give you discreet cues, one minute before the end time and again at the end. Or set a silent timer on your phone and keep where you can easily glance at it. People will appreciate your respect for their time.

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Your time and effort in preparing for your short speech will pay off. Public speaking is a skill that you can learn and improve upon with practice. You might even find yourself seeking out speaking opportunities!

Featured photo credit: Nina Prentice giving welcome speech/British Embassy Rome via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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