The power of five minute modules

The content of your speech is like a diamond necklace. Imagine a string of stones on this necklace. Every diamond on your necklace is five minutes of content. Rather than delivering a data dump, these shorter modules help the audience digest your material and stay on track during your talk. Working your ideas into strong five-minute modules is the start of a great presentation.

Practice delivering these modules with different speech objectives from the Toastmasters manuals. I recently delivered five manual talks to identify five minutes of good content that I used as part of a 40 minute presentation. This polishing of content is the process that stand-up comedians use to refine their act. In the documentary Comedian, Jerry Seinfeld creates a new stand-up act. He went from comedy club to comedy club trying out new material and then reflecting on what worked and what didn’t. You can use a similar process.

Refine your content with these three steps: test-edit-test. Don’t just deliver a speech once. Instead, record every speech you deliver and listen to it. Observe when people laugh or react to parts of your speech. Extract those parts and try them again with a different audience. When different audiences react positively, you know you have good content. But what if your material flops? Try it on another audience. If it still doesn’t go over well, refine it and try it on a third audience. If after three times of re-working a story and it flops every time, drop it! Becoming more aware of how your audience reacts to your content is essential to being a better speaker.

Flexibility is the hallmark of all great presenters. You can ‘string’ your talk with different ‘stones’ of content depending on your speech message and audience. Each module could be delivered independently or as part of a longer presentation.

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