"TELL'EM" AND "3-1-2" METHODS
The most time-tested lesson in public speaking is "Tell'em what you
are going to tell'em: Tell'em: Tell'em what you told'em." When you "Tell'em
what you are going to tell'em" in your introduction, you send a signal
as to what "files" the audience members should open in their minds.
When you "Tell'em" in the body, you place the data you wish the audience
to comprehend and retain in those "files" they have opened. When you
"Tell'em what you told'em," you are hitting the "save" button and reinforcing
the data already presented. Remember that in a spoken presentation,
the listener, unlike the reader of a written essay, cannot "re-read"
a passage not comprehended or look up a word not understood. Consequently,
a built-in redundancy is necessary to have your message understood.
"3-1-2" method is a refinement of the "Tell'em" method. All presentations
should have three parts--a beginning, a middle, and an end. Most people
start drafting their presentation by writing in the order in which they
will deliver the presentation--(1) the introduction, (2) the body, and
(3) the conclusion. This "1-2-3" method is intimidating, like standing
at the bottom of a steep hill and envisioning the long climb to the
top. Just thinking about the task can cause procrastination. When finally
initiated, the "1-2-3" system can lead to false starts because it lacks
"3-1-2" method, in contrast, is less intimidating and results in a focused
presentation with thematic unity, so necessary in an oral presentation.
Start your draft with the "bottom line" conclusion (#3), then develop
an opening (#1) that grabs the attention of the audience, spells out
the benefits they will achieve by listening to you, and tells them what
you are going to address. By starting with your conclusion, you now
have a destination--you know where you are heading with your presentation.
With the beginning and ending on paper, your task of enumerating supporting
data and arguments (#2) will be much easier. It will be like standing
on top of the hill and contemplating your descent to the bottom--not
as intimidating as the "1-2-3" method from the bottom of the hill.
is where a lawyer's education and experience can be very beneficial
in the boardroom. The "3-1-2" system derives from a concept with which
lawyers are very familiar--the "Doctrine of Recency and Primacy." As
trail lawyers know so well, juries--and probably senior corporate officers--tend
to pay more attention to what they hear at the beginning and the end
of presentations, with much less comprehension during the middle. Thus
the importance attached by lawyers to their opening statement--their
version of " Tell'em what your are going to tell'em" and their final
summation to the jury--the "Tell'em what you told'em/ Placing the focal
point of the presentation at the end and the beginning of the presentation
increases the likelihood the audience will listen, retain, and act upon
this message which is supported by the elaboration of the supporting
evidence in "2."
people are more comfortable drafting the text of their presentation
in full. This allows for a more complete exposition of the data. But
it also means that you may use language and syntax more appropriate
for the written rather than the spoken presentation, which can be confusing
to the ears of the audience. A "main point" outline is an alternative
that will allow you to move more directly to "spoken," more conversational,
you prepare your draft, use the active voice and concrete, not abstract,
language. Use declarative, but not compound, sentences. Give specific
examples, and do not be afraid to tug at the heart strings of your audience.
Your message, and the words that convey it, must be grasped by these
listeners when you say them. They cannot do an "instant replay." Know
the audience members needs and concerns, and frame your "case" in such
a way that your presentation solves these needs/concerns. Make it easier
for audience members to remember what you want them to remember with
stories and anecdotes that emphasize your main points. These illustrations
can be the glue that makes the main points "stick" in the minds of your
completing the draft--verbatim or outline--reduce your presentation
to 3x5 cards with large-lettered "memory joggers". Then practice by
yourself in front of a mirror, with tape recorder, or better yet with
a video camera. Listen for your pace, your inflection, your enthusiasm,
and if you are using "uh," "er," "you know," or other fillers that render
the otherwise intelligent person appear illiterate. See how much better
you would sound if you replaced these sounds with pauses. If videotaping,
watch your body language, facial expression, and gestures.
where visuals can be inserted. These visuals should be thought of as
exclamation points or highlighted sections of your presentation. Make
them simple and interesting--be careful of organization charts and "laundry
lists." Use large lettering (better to have large letters written with
a magic marker than small letters from a computer.) Use only the top
two-thirds of the transparencies (so people in the rear can read without
being required to stand) and use telegraphic language, limiting letters
to minimum necessary. Use color if you can.
overhead transparencies, use the "revelation technique" when you have
a "bullet outline." Tape strips of cardboard along the side of the vu-graph,
keeping points on the visual covered until you discuss them. This will
keep your audience focused on the point you are emphasizing, rather
than reading point four while you are still talking about point one.
Check the alignment of your vu-graph on the projector so that it appears
straight on the screen. This may require you to place an "L-shaped"
tape guide on the glass. Then orient your overheads in relation to this
newly-created frame, and you will not have to check that the visual
is "squared away" on the screen. Some audience members could be annoyed
and distracted by visuals that appear crooked on the screen. The above
advice can, of course, also be applied when using a computer-driven
presentations program such as PowerPoint.
The "Murder Board, which has its origins in military briefings, is the
functional equivalent of the steps lawyers go through to ready themselves
for trial, and witnesses to face cross-examination. It is a "moot court"
with the twin objectives of (1) honing delivery skills and (2) developing
succinct, accurate answers to questions that are likely to be asked
by the audience to which the presenter is preparing to speak. The "Murder
Board" is to the presenter what the flight simulator is to the pilot.
It permits the presenter to learn from his/her mistakes, so that the
actual presentation is more responsive to the audience's needs. It is
especially valuable in preparing for competitive sales presentations.
have a "Murder Board?" Cannot the intelligent presenter anticipate the
tough questions likely to be asked? The answer to these questions is
that no matter how hard we try to think of tough questions that may
be asked, a little censor in our mind generally provides only questions
to which we already have answers. We need other minds to push us. Albert
Einstein said that "what a person does on his own, without being stimulated
by the thoughts and experiences of others, is even in the best cases
rather paltry and monotonous."
principal benefit of this simulation is to allow the speaker to "feel
the heat" before doing the real thing. It enables the presenter to anticipate
questions--thereby developing answers to these questions--and get the
"feel" of the presentation. Done properly, the "Murder Board" not only
provides a realistic simulation, it also increases self-confidence.
It is folly to go into an important presentation, such as a competitive
sales presentation without such rigorous preparation, for it permits
the speaker to make mistakes when they do not count, allowing him or
her to make corrections in material or style before the actual presentation.
the "Murder Board" makes such sense, why then is it not universally
adopted by all speakers? Perhaps because it requires time that busy
people can easily justify to themselves they do not have, and because
the "fear of speaking" will cause people to avoid doing something twice
that they do not want to do even once.
does one go about having a "Murder Board?" Swallow your pride and request
colleagues to be your "audience," and share with them all the information
you have gained on the people to whom you will be speaking. This will
enable these colleagues to effectively "role-play" key people in the
actual audience. Hold this practice session in a place similar to that
where you will make the presentation to familiarize you with the environment.
This technique can be used in preparing for a stand-up presentation
as well as a meeting. The objective is to lessen the likelihood of being
"ambushed," and to have practice in maintaining composure in the stress-inducing
experience of a confrontational or other high-pressure speaking situation.
simulated audience should be encouraged to ask the toughest, most realistic
questions, and the entire session should be audio and/or videotaped.
Ask for a candid assessment of both substance and delivery skills from
participants, thank them for their time, and then review the taped presentation.
Look for distracting body language, listen for annoying vocal patterns.
Place yourself in the position of your prospective audience. Would you
"buy" what "that person" on the screen is "selling?"
all the questions asked on 3x5 cards, and then work at perfecting your
answers, which should be placed on the other side of the cards. Play
"flashcards," thereby building self-confidence and internalizing the
the information that you developed as a result of the questions and
discussions from your role-playing colleagues, and insert into your
presentation that which you feel will add punch and perhaps preempt
questions in the actual presentation/meeting. Keep a few "zingers" in
reserve so you can impress your audience with what appears to be extemporaneous
and the Boardroom presentations have more in common than many may think.
Both have the objective of planting information in the brains of those
in their respective audiences so particular actions are taken. They
both use the spoken word, with all its power and complexity. The legal
presentation can be ponderous in its overuse of words, and the boardroom
presentation, with its emphasis on saving time with the "Bottom Line
Up Front" approach, can be superficial. Let me close with words uttered
in ancient Greece, the birthplace of oratory. Although enamored of style,
rhetorical flourish and stentorian voice, the Greeks knew the purpose
of speaking to a group was to move these audience members to a particular
action. They compared the greatest speaker of their day, Demosthenese,
to one who had lived a century before, and they said: "When Demosthenese
speaks, People say ‘How well he speaks,' but when Pericles spoke, people
said "Let us March.'"
© 2000 by Lawrence L. Tracy
All Rights Reserved.