Dale Carnegie Course: Week 6

This is part of a series on the Dale Carnegie Public Speaking Course.

In week 6 we had to give a talk that teaches people something. We also needed to bring a prop, something to help illustrate what we were teaching. All our talks are around 2 minutes long, which is simultaneously not very much time, and a very long time indeed. I was trying to think of something I could teach other people in 2 minutes all week and I realised something: I don’t know very much that can be taught to someone in 2 minutes, has a prop that is fairly portable, and is unique enough that I could be confident no one else would choose the same thing.

Eventually I settled on teaching people how to set a bicycle seat to the correct height. I had a pretty unique prop, and no one else was likely to do the same thing. It was also something I was confident that I knew how to do, and could explain fairly quickly and simply to people who might know nothing about bikes.

We used a technique that’s explained in one of the textbooks to help us to give a more effective talk, and it certainly helps. The most important things to remember are:

  • Prepare
  • Keep it simple
  • Get to the point quickly
  • Keep the language simple
  • Don’t rush

You’d think that not rushing and getting to the point quickly are mutually exclusive. Not so. You can quickly explain something, using simple language, but still speak clearly and at a steady pace. You don’t want to rush what you’re saying so that words fall over themselves as you try to get through everything as fast as possible. That makes it really hard to understand you. Speaking more slowly also gives you more time to line up the next thought, so you don’t run out of stuff to say and have to stand around saying “Um” while you frantically wait for your thoughts to rearrange themselves.

Rushing is quite natural when you’re feeling stressed. This is why preparation and keeping things simple it important. If you take time to prepare, and limit what you’re going to say to the most important things, you have a clear idea of what you’re going to talk about before you start. Then you can progress from the beginning to the end in a logical sequence, and that makes it much easier for people to understand you. By keeping things simple, you can stay on track more easily, and get your ideas across faster. Then, when you’re finished, you can stop. You know you’ve said what you planned to say, so you won’t keep waffling on and on about unimportant things.

So I’ll stop there. :)

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