Practicing a speech from an outlineFeb 11, 2021 3:45 AM
An outline can be an efficient tool for rehearsing a presentation. It frees you from writing and memorizing a rigorous script while focusing on the delivery of high-level ideas. An outlining method that has worked for me goes like this:
- Create a slide-deck with one slide per minute of speech
- Add a title to each slide describing the section
- Add bullet points and speaker notes as appropriate
I learned about the 1 slide/minute rule while preparing for rapid-fire lightning talks at work. This process chunks your content into one-minute sections that can be practiced independently. I omit the slides when presenting to my Toastmasters club to focus on my delivery and the audience.
I used an outline when creating “A consistent cup of coffee” that I presented to Mountain View Toastmasters on Dec 2, 2019. Take a look through the transcribed slides and a recording of the speech.
Here’s the speech that I presented to the club for reference.
If you read through the outline, you’ll see where the significant transitions occurred in the speech. Try picking out the timestamps where I transition between topics.
Spoiler: Click here for timestamps
0:00 - Has coffee gotten too fancy? 2:27 - Introducing the Aeropress 3:01 - Making a cup of coffee 4:09 - How you screwed up the coffee 5:00 - Controlling the coffee-making process 6:05 - Making a consistent cup of coffee
Here are a few pointers for your own practice.
Prepare the introduction and conclusion
The introduction and conclusions are the most memorable sections of a speech, so it pays off to prepare them. Memorizing these sections can help build momentum before you jump off into unwritten territory.
Be terse with supporting statements in the outline
Ideas that you jot down within a slide should be short, something you can speak about impromptu. Consider this slide:
I’m enthusiastic about this topic, so I only need to have the main idea to talk about this for a minute, starting at 5:01.
Highlight any specific techniques you want to pull off
In the section titled “Making a cup of coffee,” I demonstrate the literal technique of making coffee in my AeroPress (great device, by the way). Based on earlier feedback, I decided that this was an excellent place to make eye contact with the entire room and note it in my outline.
Watch the recording starting at 3:01 in the video and evaluate for yourself whether I was able to execute my plan.
Practice and record yourself at least ten times
Once you know what you’re going to say, repeat it, so you know what you’re going to say. A six-minute speech practiced ten times from start to finish is an hour of total practice time. You can (and should) spread this out over a few days. Record your practice sessions so you can track your progress and self-evaluate your performance.
I use this online voice recorder, which has a straightforward interface and doesn’t require anything outside of a web browser.
Thoughts and Next Time
There’s value in trying out different processes and seeing what works for you. Learning to become better at public speaking requires experimentation and practice. I find that outlines work well in the professional settings where I’m a subject matter expert and need to give an informative 5-10 minute presentation on a short timeline. It’s less effective when giving a speech full of descriptive language and literary devices. Your mileage may vary.
In the next post, I’ll write more about “A consistent cup of coffee.” Trawling through my notes, I was surprised by how much better my speech was the second time around. I’ll address the process of evaluation and feedback at Toastmasters and how I applied it to my speech.