Speech Blocking

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Motivational Speaker Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, author, and comedian who teaches you how to harness the power of your story to connect, engage, and get results. In this blog, Kelly focuses on the business of professional speaking. Kelly’s post day is Friday. If you aren't sure how to comment on this story, click here.

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 Blocking a Keynote Speech


Help! How do I take all these pieces of my speech and put it together?

There are so many things we want to include in a speech, that putting it together can be something of a nightmare.  Especially if you read the article I wrote comparing your speech to a clothesline analogy and walking you through the three stories you should be telling in your programs.  Today I’m working on a speech that needs to do all of this:

  • Tell them my story in a way that allows them to get to know me
  • Get them to laugh a lot
  • Tell a couple of touching heart-string stories
  • Open and close with a bang
  • Get everybody to agree on the problem we have – stress and burnout
  • Show everybody how stress and burnout is affecting their lives and affecting their work
  • Show them that the answer is shifting their perspective
  • Give them the three ways they can shift their perspective to come out on top of stress and change
  • Create a Prides Hollow (the town where all of my stories take place) story (or stories) that beautifully illustrates what I’m talking about
  • Tell a personal story (or stories) that show a conflict I had similar to them, and how this Prides Hollow story helped me fix this problem
  • Possibly show a story of my life (and their life) without this problem
  • Find a way to use my nursing home story since this is a nursing home group
  • Find a way to use my Granny Calling piece threaded throughout the entire speech – for something different, more funny, and a wow factor
  • Use story as much as I can to accomplish everything above
  • Use as little text in the message portions of the speech to make it more powerful
  • Make them feel important and validated, inspired and courageous
  • Have a few surprises along the way if possible

Sometimes when I start a list of what I want my speech to include, I’ll actually write it in three columns – the About Me stuff – the Content stuff – and the Customer story stuff.  But today I simply got out a piece of paper and started writing the elements that I want to include in my speech.

I chose pink ink – just because – and as you can see by the picture above, the sheet was covered in random elements drawn with a box around them.  These modules must be separated with a box around them.  I don’t bother adding all the text. I just focus on what that element is.

Whoa! Chaos! Danger Will Robinson!  Planning ADD!

Not really.   Because at this point, all I want to know is that I have included every single thing I can think of at this point.

Yes, I have.

Now comes the fun part.

Speech Blocking

Now I’m going to take a pair of scissors and cut out every box. Since I’m lazy, and HATE cutting, I will pay my son to do it.  Then I’m going to spread it all out on the floor and start moving each piece around until it’s in the order I want it.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it is crucial when you are overlapping so many ideas and combining several stories at once.

Your process probably won’t be so complicated. But blocking still works.   Sometimes I put the elements on index cards and use those as blocks instead. No cutting. And just lay them out in the same way, on the floor, until I have them in the chronological order I want.

Plus side:  You now have a visual of your entire speech. Even if you don’t memorize every word (like I do) you can still see your speech in blocks. Perhaps you can even create a diagram that you take up on stage with you – where each segment is a box. This allows you to remember where you’re going without using PowerPoint or documents that are twenty pages long.

Hope this helps. Happy blocking!