How to Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech
I was a professional actor in Chicago and Hollywood for 16 years. One of the nice things about being an actor on stage was that someone else had done the hard creative work of writing the play. The playwright had spent hundreds if not thousands of hours getting the mechanics right. Once the play was cast and rehearsals started, our job was to add the emotional and spiritual elements, the dynamics.
Phase One and Phase Two focus on mechanics - content and flow. (Phase One: Strategic Design; Phase Two: Creative Development) While there are essential things to learn about writing and creating a dynamite speech from studying these two phases, proper mechanics are not enough. If you want to blow people away, you also have to master the dynamics of speaking.
The dynamics are the intangibles - what people watching refer to as power, presence and poise. These dynamics are the things you do to connect with your essence, that in turn help you connect with your audience. As speakers, we have to know how to create these dynamics. They don't just happen. Fortunately, there are attitudes, rituals and preparation exercises that you can use to help you master these dynamics and "get in the zone" so that you can truly be amazing.
In this article, I'm going to briefly mention some of the skills that are helpful in mastering the dynamics of speaking.
Two skills that have helped me the most as a speaker come from my many years in theater - knowing how to memorize and rehearse.
Acting is a precise medium. Actors are responsible for delivering each line exactly as the playwright wrote it. Speaking is very different. Much of what is said in front of an audience is "in the moment." It's spontaneous and from the heart. Or it is customized and to the point.
There are many similarities between acting and speaking, too. Both theater and a Dynamite Speech can and should be a moving experience. Both can and should be entertaining. And both can and should convey a message.
I've studied hundreds of professional and celebrity speakers and have interviewed many of them. Whether they write and memorize their material up front; or find that over time, certain stories, lines and comedic bits have become memorized, the best speakers have material that, like the lines in a brilliant play, are spoken the same every time.
In brief, if you want to be amazing, write some memorable lines and memorize them. Find a place where you won't be interrupted, and rehearse out loud and on your feet.
Another thing that I learned from performing on stage was how to make the transition from my normal walking around personality, to my "show time" personality. I call this "getting in the zone". The zone is both a state of mind and a state of being. In my experience, it requires physical, mental, emotional and spiritual preparation. The mistake many speakers make is to simply prepare mentally.
Speaking is a physical medium. If you've ever had sweaty palms or experienced shortness of breath, you know what I mean. Nervousness manifests in the body. It also attacks the brain and turns it into mush. To ensure that you are at your optimal mental state, you have to work your body.
Have you ever worked out - done any physical exercise that caused your heart rate to accelerate for an extended period of time? If so, you've probably also experienced a state of mental clarity while exercising. All of a sudden, you're finding solutions to problems and coming up with all kinds of great ideas. Does exercise make you smarter? No!
What exercise does, however, is send an incredible amount of oxygen to your brain and increase the endorphins flowing through your bloodstream. This awakens your brain and accelerates synaptic activity. That's why physical stimulation is essential to enhance our mental preparation.
I suggest two separate routines before you step in front of your audience. One is called the "warm up" routine and takes place upon awakening. The other is called the "show time" routine and takes place in the 15 to 30 minutes right before you speak. Both routines include elements of physical, mental, emotional and spiritual preparation.
The last, and most important, step in the preparation process is to set your intention. Let me share a story:
For many years, I've been privileged to share The Story Theater Method with speakers and trainers at ASTD, Toastmasters and National Speakers Association chapter meetings. I usually speak at these meetings for free. I love speaking at these meeting because we're all speakers and trainers and share a common bond. It's just US. My intention is to be of service to my colleagues.
Of course I also speak and train for a fee. That's how I make my living.
Well, many years ago I was speaking for free at an NSA meeting in Nashville. I was on fire. The audience was completely into it. It was an intense emotional experience.
A few days later, I was in Seattle giving a fee-paid keynote. Because I had just come from speaking at a chapter meeting for free, I noticed that my experience beforehand was different. I was a little nervous and concerned with my content. I was worried about making a positive impact and pleasing the meeting planner. I could feel myself "efforting". I was trying too hard.
As usual, the speech went well. But I wasn't on fire. And while the audience was into it, I could tell that it wasn't the same. The emotional connection wasn't as intense.
In retrospect, I discovered that it was my intention, not my content, that made the difference. I realized that when I was speaking for a fee, my confidence wasn't as high. I felt like it was ME versus THEM. When speaking at a chapter meeting, it was just US.
So I went out to my next fee-paid keynote with a new intention - to be of service. I determined that no matter where I was and no matter who I was speaking to, it was just US. After all, we are all just people! The results were immediate and positive. I was on fire. They were totally into it. And I got a standing ovation. Setting your intention before you speak makes a powerful difference for you, and for your audience.
If you want to be an amazing speaker, you must master the mechanics of a Dynamite Speech. However, the hard part, the part that is your life's work, is to master the dynamics as well. The dynamics are all of those energetic, emotional and spiritual dimensions that make you a one-of-a-kind original. To master the dynamics, keep working on yourself. Tell your truth. Strip away any artifice or mask that prevents you from being authentic and real.
After all, who else is there for you to be?
About the Author
Doug Stevenson, president of Story Theater International, is a storytelling in business expert and the creator of The Story Theater Method. He is also the author of How to Write and Deliver a Dynamite Speech.