SpeechDIY Part V: Visualize your message

In our previous post we talked about how to add personal, unexpected, novel, challenging and humorous (P.U.N.C.H.) elements  to your speech structure.

(Just FYI, this post, the four that preceded it, and the five to follow, mirror the SpeechDIY course we created for executive speakers. You might want to subscribe to this blog series to avoid missing any of the lessons.)

We developed SpeechDIY as a hybrid learning experience. The course includes:

  • Several unit packs to help our clients get clear on the essentials that belong (and more important, don’t belong) in their speech;
  • A group workshop where we turn speech creation into a team sport;
  • A few more unit packs to help tie up loose ends;
  • One-on-one skype coaching to ensure the finished product looks great, sounds great, and is presented with polish.

With these posts, you’ll discover the fundamentals of a great speech. Although they don’t deliver the goods as effectively as the actual course, you can still use the posts to craft a great presentation for yourself.

So without further ado, let’s launch right into the topic for today: the tips and tricks for creating captivating visuals for your speech.

Seeing is believing

People like what they understand. And they remember what they feel. Seeing is believing. And a picture is worth a thousand words.

You get the picture, so to speak.

A great presentation conjures vivid imagery in the listener’s mind. If you can accelerate that conjuring by thinking of some magical images for your show in advance, your job as a presenter will get easier, and your presentation will be much more memorable.

So let’s give it a shot.

Find the natural breaks

You’ve conceived the big idea you’re going to write a presentation around. You’ve thought of a way to structure the story like a three-act play. You even have a few ideas you can add P.U.N.C.H. to.

Call us crazy, but we’re betting you have an inkling of how the story might progress.

Think of the natural turning points in your speech – points where you take the listeners in a new direction, or start a new thought chain.

Grab a post-it note pad. Jot down each of these natural turning points. When we craft speeches for clients, there are generally 3-4 of them.

If you could tie a picture to each point, what would it be? Write each point on an individual post-it, and hang them on the wall. Leave some space between the notes – things are going to get a bit crowded now.

Now fill the space

From one turning point to the next, you make a number of sub-points. These are the thoughts that reinforce or ‘prove’ each turning point. Here’s how it all looks:

  • Introductory thoughts
  • First turning point
    • Reinforcing point
    • Reinforcing point
    • Reinforcing point
  • Next turning point
    • Reinforcing point
    • Reinforcing point
    • Reinforcing point
  • Final turning point
    • Reinforcing point
    • Reinforcing point
    • Reinforcing point
  • Conclusion

Is there a visual that represents each of the reinforcing sub-points? Jot each visual on a post-it note, and hang them on the wall.

Now make the visuals unexpected

In advertising, we have a saying: If the headline is straightforward, make the visual twisted.

Let’s say you’re making a point about rising grain prices being good for farmers. Would you show a happy farmer? Borrrring.

Perhaps you could show a wheat field growing $20 bills. Or a John Deere tractor with a Rolls Royce hood ornament.

Sure, these visuals are fun to see, but hard to think of. Or are they?

To think of twisted visuals, you simply need to get your brain out of its gray flannel suit.

Here are a few hints:

  • Exaggerate – If a horse can jump high, show a picture of it jumping over the Grand Canyon.
  • Loosen up – Acting serious never helped anyone. What would a goofy six year old use as a visual for high grain prices?
  • Substitute – Take the bone out of the caveman’s hands, and put in an iPhone. Give the farmer a gold plated trucker hat. Instant surprise.
  • Rearrange – Remember the visual of the gazelle chasing the cheetah? A simple switch in a status quo image can jar our sensibilities, and raise a smile. 
  • Don’t force it – If the visual isn’t coming, take a break. Sleep on it. Your mind will be rearranging ideas all night, coming up with a twisted solution.

Is there a key visual?

It doesn’t happen all the time. But every once in a while, you come up with a visual that creatively encapsulates the entire big idea of your presentation.

Grab that visual, and don’t let go!

Having a single visual feeds your audience’s anticipation. And it gives you a north star to guide your speech by.

Think of Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth speech. What one visual pops to mind? The ‘hockey stick’ chart showing the accelerating pace of climate change. Magic.

You can use your key visual on the promotional materials for your speech. You can print up special business cards to hand out after the talk with the visual emblazoned on them. You can put the visual up at the start of the talk, as a placeholder until you go onstage.

Next: share your speech

It’s time to beta test your talk. To see if your words and visuals pass the critical ‘get it’ test with a friendly audience.

In our next blog post, we’ll help you set that up, and tell you what sort of feedback to watch for.

Of course, if you’d like to know more about SpeechDIY, or sign your group up for the course, let us know by dropping a line to info@yourultimatespeech.com.

As a brand strategy expert, successful entrepreneur, founder of Your Ultimate Speech, and award-winning author, Marc Stoiber uses simplicity and creativity to help people discover what’s awesome about their business… then helps them tell the world. For more on creating an effective speech for your company, connect with Marc and Your Ultimate Speech on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, and sign up to his monthly newsletter.