What is the Speaking Pyramid? 

What is the Speaking Pyramid? 

In 2014 I wanted to be spontaneous. 

“A dream too far” was the title of the speech that I delivered at the Toastmasters District/European Championship in 2014. 

The speech is one of my favourite performances of my own to date. Grooving, dancing, singing, and even doing the Indian nod got the audience rolling out of their chairs. 

This was actually the 5th time I had competed in the speech contest, and this time I really wanted to win. So I remember I told my mentor Jessica that I didn’t want to prepare word by word. 

She asked me why?

“Because last year I prepared word by word, it made me more nervous.” I delivered a stellar story, but the feedback I got was that I was too polished and clinical. I lacked spontaneity. ” 

She told me it’s the next level in speech preparation when you prepare so well and perfectly that it looks off the cuff and natural, but it is really even better prepared. 

But that is the last level of the Pyramid.

The Preparation Pyramid

This big learning from 2014 stayed with me. In the last few years, I have been to several speeches and also coached several others. And most of them can be grouped based on their preparation into the following 5 categories. 

  1. Unprepared 
  2. Little prepared 
  3. Somewhat prepared 
  4. Very well prepared
  5. Looks spontaneous 

 

Stage 1: Unprepared 

As the name suggests, almost no preparation has been done for this presentation or speech. The speaker trusts that they can manage an impromptu speech. 

Pros:

  • The speaker is either very confident in their skills or doesn’t care about the presentation. 
  • It looks authentic, and there is ample scope for situational jokes and remarks.

Cons:

  • You can miss out on key points and deliverable goals of the talk because of a lack of preparation. 
  • It can be perceived that the speaker doesn’t care at all about the topic or the audience.

When to do this?

  • When you have years of experience in delivering talks and speeches. 
  • When you are very familiar with the topic and the audience. 

Stage 2: Little prepared 

You have prepared the intro and closing of the speech, and you somewhat know the structure of the talk. You know the sub-point’s headings but will do the rest of the story of the cuff as you go along. 

Pros:

  • You can make a powerful opening and closing, and since those are the parts you prepared, you can make an impact with that. 
  • Minimum preparation is needed, but you can look prepared since you have the opening and closing ready .

Cons: 

  • The main story or the body may drift from the originally planned structure since the speaker hasn’t prepared the structure.  
  • The main content can fail to meet its objectives, i.e. not be inspiring, motivating, or educating but instead be boring. 

Stage 3: Somewhat prepared

You have written down your speech and practiced it only a few times. 

Pros: 

  • You are fully aware of your content.
     
  • You have prepared so you can deliver what is expected from you.

Cons:

  • Since you haven’t prepared a lot, you do run the risk of forgetting some parts of the speech. 
  • Even if you don’t forget, there will be the constant fear of blackouts.

Stage 4: Fully prepared 

You have spent a good amount of time in preparation for your speech and have practiced several times. 

Pros:

  • You are confident in your content and will deliver the best speech possible.
     
  • There will be no room for error.

Cons:

  • Can come across as polished or clinical.
     
  • You may lose timing when delivering a funny line or a power line since you have prepared so much that you have lost that zing in your delivery. 

 

Stage 5: Looks spontaneous 

This is the next level of preparation. When you have prepared, even after being fully prepared, you will be able to look spontaneous and authentic yet have a firm grip on the content. Most great speakers, leaders, and presenters aim for this level. 

Think of award show presenters, Steve Jobs speaking, or a TED talk with over a million views; they have all achieved this level of preparation. 

Pros:

  • Authentic yet very well prepared. 
  • It looks like it is coming straight from the heart or mind.

Cons:

  • It takes time to reach this level of speaking. 
  • You need a coach to help you on this journey.

This was my level of preparation in 2014 for the speech at the European finals in Lyon, and even after 8 years, I think I can do the same speech without forgetting a single word. 

Are you curious to know how you can achieve this level of preparation? Please send me a message and I will share it with you. 

 

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