How to make a speech worth hearing with Phillip Khan-Panni

Last Wednesday I went to a Toastmasters event hosted by Phillip Khan-Panni called How to Make a speech worth hearing. Phillip has won the UK and All-Ireland public speaking championship three times and won the Silver medal at the world finals in 1995.  His latest book is available here.

The talk consisted of “The 18 essentials of public speaking”.  Only the first six points were covered in detail (presumably due to time), the rest were presented very briefly during an exercise at the end. I’ve listed all eighteen points below and including any notes where applicable.
1. Purpose
Your speech should have a defined purpose. He posed the question “What do you prefer, applause or action?”. Are you trying to create change in thinking, attitude or behaviour? Or are you just speaking for the sake of speaking?  He asked us to write down six things people have gained (or will gain) from hearing us speak, and that if we have difficulty thinking of things then perhaps we need to give some thought to why we are speaking.
This was the main point I took away from this workshop.  I couldn’t think of anything to write down during the exercise!
2. Hook
A hook is essentially a gimmick to grab peoples attention.  The key is to make it relevant.  The examples he used were:
  • A surgeon’s mask which he put on and told a story about people wearing them in Japan to prevent other people catching their colds.
  • A magic trip involving three lengths of rope.
3. Journey
The way you move through your speech should be structured.  If it is scattered then you will confuse your audience.  This applies to your arguments, and any emotions or concepts your introduce.  He us an example where speaker makes several references to groups of people with different social statuses: respected lawyers, public service officials, families, etc.  There was no coherent order in the way they were used, instead they were scattered through the speech and confused the point.
The Three Ms of Public speaking:
4. Message
The essential part of the speech.  Why should the audience listen.
5. Messenger
The message should belong to you (the messenger).  It should be your idea.
You should be an expert on the things you are talking about.  He asked us all to write down what we are expert at, and suggested we should be talking about those things if we want to command respect as speakers.
6. Method
You have to have the skills to deliver your message. He used several examples of skills/techniques:
Voice: Phillip explained that good vocal projection depends on the path of your breath through your mouth.  If it “bounces” off the back of the throat it will be soft and difficult to hear.  If it is allowed to carry all the way to the front of the mouth it will be louder and travel further.  He did a demonstration were he sang a single note and moved his breath backwards and forwards in his mouth and you could certainly notice the difference.
Analysis of an Obama speech: This was probably the best part of the workshop.  Here Phillip pointed out the use of
  • Ascending Triads: Three points that get increasingly broader in scale (blocks, towns, cities; 
  • Speaking to large groups: Requires a different style which Phillip described as declamatory. This is not just amplified conversation, instead it requires a bigger voice, with longer pauses.
Engaging the audience: People think at 500 words per minute, but speak at 150 words per minute, so there are lots of extra thoughts going on in the audience’s heads. People may get side tracked in their own thoughts so it is important that main points are repeated so the audience doesn’t miss things.
The rest of the points were only covered very briefly in a memory/visualisation exercise, and are mainly self explanatory…
7. Keep
8. Katch
9. Konvince
10. Core message
11. WIIFM - What’s In It For Me?
“WIIFM” isn’t a well known acronym, so when he asked the audience “What’s everyone’s favourite radio station?”, somebody shouted out “Radio 4!”.
12. Structure
13. Make a point, tell a story
14. Practice
15. Prepare for the worst case
16. Make your mark
17. Gestures and Movement
18. Don’t Overrun
Some excellent points were made however I think I would have preferred to hear about three or four of the “essentials” in a bit more detail and not have had to rush through the rest.
Some final thoughts:
Phillip was very good at keeping the audience involved.  He would frequently ask “isn’t that so?”, or “yes or no?” after making a point or posing a question, this generally provoked a response from the audience.  This was an effective technique that I would like to incorporate into my teaching style.
I felt that Phillip suffered from his use of PowerPoint:
  • The placement of the projector meant he didn’t have much freedom of movement on the stage.
  • Using slides ment he couldn’t easily go off script.  I thought he covered slightly too much material, and if he wasn’t using PowerPoint he would have been free to delve a bit deeper into some of teh more important “essentials” and cut the rest entirely.
  • The slides themselves were clear and easy to understand (not packed with bullet points), however they looked a little bit turn of the millennium with clip art and a fairly standard looking template.  I would be keen to see them updated for future talks (he should checkout presentationzen.com).
  • He did demonstrate some masterful use of PowerPoint by pressing the “B” key, to turn the screen blank, while telling any stories.

Lots of excellent advice was given and I would like to say thank you to everyone one involved in its organisation, especially Phillip Khan-Panni.

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