Academic Minute
5:00 am
Tue March 18, 2014

Dr. William Doll, Case Western Reserve University - A One-Minute Talk on Giving a One-Minute Talk

Is there a formula for delivering an effective speech?

In today’s Academic Minute, Dr. William Doll, visiting fellow at Case Western Reserve University, outlines a few  rules for crafting an engaging oration.

Dr. William Doll is an attorney with a doctorate in sociology. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Fortune Small Business, Vital Speeches, the Washington Post, and the National Law Journal. Bill is on the Executive Committee of the Great Lakes Theater Festival and formerly served as president of the Cleveland Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. For more on crafting a great speech or presentation, check out his new primer Speak.

About Dr. Doll

Dr. Doll's Website

Dr. William Doll - A One-Minute Talk on Giving a One-Minute Talk

What follows is a one-minute talk on how to give a one-minute talk, or two minutes, or three, or the State of the Union. The fundamentals are the same no matter how long you talk.

I give you four rules -- plus one image.

Rule Number 1: What’s your message? You speak to leave your audience smarter – from a finding, a warning, an explanation or even a mood.

Rule Number 2: Keep it simple. Use familiar words and clear explanations. Don’t use a complex, abstract measure of income like “200% of the poverty level,” but a concrete, earthy “family of four struggling on $30,000 a year.”  But, note: simplicity is hard and that perfect bon mot rarely pops out instantaneously.

Case in point: It took Stephen Sondheim, the famed Broadway composer and lyricist, all the way until the opening night of his “Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” to find the show-stopping number – “Comedy Tonight” – that launched 900-plus performances and captured a Tony for Best Musical.

So: have a message. Keep it simple, as difficult as that may be.

Now Rule Number 3: Repetition is good. Why is repetition good? Because your listeners cannot re-hear what you are saying. They depend entirely on your voice to understand.

          And, lastly, Rule Number 4: Practice.  Sorry, no shortcuts here. Nothing beats practicing out loud,not in your head. It calms your nerves. It focuses your audience on what you’re saying – because you are not stumbling to say it.

So: That’s it. Four rules:

  • Message
  • Simplicity
  • Repetition
  • Practice.

And that one image I mentioned? It’s your listeners’ ears.  At every step, their ears are all they have to take in your message.

          Remember that. It will make all the difference.

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