Framing Your Speech
by Gege Sugue
This is our sixth meeting devoted to the Art Theme Series.
Why art? I believe in the power of art to expand hearts, minds, and souls. These meetings can also be fun learning opportunities to discover art forms, poets, painters, photographers, musicians, filmmakers.
But I don’t want to discuss art in isolation. I always want to relate it to communication and leadership--what Toastmasters is all about.
Now what can we learn from a 2-dimensional art form like photography, and how can we apply those lessons to communication, specifically public speaking? Let me share three photography tips.
The rule of thirds.
This is one of the first things a student photographer learns. It refers to the act of dividing an image into a grid of 3 rows and 3 columns, and then placing the subject or the horizon line on the intersection points of the grid lines. The asymmetrically balanced effect achieves a more dynamic composition as opposed to just placing the subject at dead smack center, which makes it static and boring. (Here's more info about the Rule of Thirds. And here's a blog post that shares how to use the rule for slide design.)
In writing your speech the rule of thirds can apply to how you structure your speech. Always plan the 3 main parts:
- The Beginning, which introduces the topic, sets the tone, and catches the audience’s attention;
- The Middle, which contains detailed information. If you’re delivering a persuasive speech, fortify your speech with logical and emotional reasons and benefits. If you’re talking about an event, include here the 5 W’s (Who, What, Where, When, Why) and 1 H (How).
- The Conclusion, which is a good place to shout out your call to action and end in a way that’s memorable to your audience.
The power of three can also be used to add verbal punch to your speech. Veni, vidi, vici (We came, we saw, we conquered) is a powerful line that people remember even if they don’t anymore remember the context by which it was used. Using triads in your speech helps you, as well as your audience, remember important points.
High contrast photos are more dramatic. When you place a light object against a dark background or vice versa, you highlight the subject, make it stand out. That’s why black and white photography, which relies on contrast and gradation, remains appealing and artistic. High contrast also works for colored photos. Check out tips on achieving high contrast with your photos.
In delivering your speeches, contrasts in voice volume and pitch also emphasize specific segments you want to magnify and subdue less important information. Plus it also adds drama. Use a stage whisper or a booming voice when appropriate. Vary your tone to convey a range of contrasting, conflicting emotions.
Cropping enables the photographer to remove unnecessary elements and the audience to focus on the interesting bits.
In speechwriting, make sure you edit out all noise and clutter, enabling you, the speaker to elaborate on the truly important points of the message. When narrating a story, you do not have to include everything that happened. Focus on those points that move the story along. Do not overwhelm your audience with information. Edit, edit, edit.
One last thing—in photography, light is one of the most important components. So let your speech illuminate.