Plotting your emotional journey

Like most geeks I like to deconstruct things, find out how they work and formulate simple rules to describe complex patterns.

One of the points Phillip Khan-Panni made in his recent workshop was that a speech should be journey. Speeches should exhibit a logical progression or they will be difficult to understand. We were shown a speech that described groups of people with different social statuses (lawyers, families, students etc.). The speech jumped around these different groups, rather than taking logical approach like introducing them in ascending order of status. The result was confusing and difficult to follow.

That example stuck with me. The progression through multiple concepts or movement within the spectrum of single a concept, should be identified and adjusted to create maximum impact. For example the emotional changes the speaker experienced during a story. Is the progression through the different changes logical or confusing? Are there too few, or too many changed? Are the key changes adequately signposted?

I have attempted to come up with the simplest possible way to represent the emotional journey through a speech. A simple graph. The y-axis represents intensity of emotion: the positive is happiness, satisfaction, love; the negative is sadness, anger, hate, discontent. The x-axis is time, from the beginning to the end of your speech.

Emotional Graph

In my second toastmasters speech I tried to describe a key emotional change that had taken place within myself. I tried to use the “Hero’s Journey” story structure.

Hero's Journey Plot

Here you can see that the speech begins at a neutral baseline emotion. An event pushes me down into negative emotions (trying to be cool, and not being myself), another event pushes me further down (when I become the rule breaking fakeID manufacturer), where I remain until another event (a realisation and connection with my school motto) which pushes me into a higher positive emotion than at the beginning of the speech. The progression is clear, I am not jumping all over the place. The graph also helps with sign posting the speech, each change in direction is an even that needs to be signposted.

I haven’t really been drawing graphs like this, but I have been doing this as a mental exercise to make sure I don’t over complicate my speeches. I think the impact would have been lost if the progression was not simple, or I ended on a lower emotional state than I had been previously in the speech.

Do your speeches “flat-line”, boring the audience? Do they jump all over the place, confusing the audience? Or do your speeches have a clear emotional progression?

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