For me, a great public speech is always an emotional roller coaster ride – with ups and downs, loops and breaks, sharp curves and straights of relief.
Do you remember your last roller coaster ride? Was it an evil one? Did they pull you really high? Did you feel the tension? Then the turning point! Did you fall really deep? Did you scream?
This first turning point of the ride – from high flying to falling deep – is what we call a twist in public speaking. A twist happens when the story suddenly develops into a completely different direction.
A twist is more powerful when it’s an emotional twist. When the speaker builds up his story of delight and happiness and joy and then – BOOM – drags down the audience into the mud of agony.
Don’t spill the beans too early
The more you build up the tension through your story-telling the deeper they fall. The deeper they fall the higher the impact. The tricky part is, as a speaker you cannot spill the beans too early. You’d give away that emotional skyfall. And even trickier: it’s not only your content, your delivery can indicate an upcoming twist as well.
In one of my Toastmasters competition speeches I talked about my high school friend Frank. In a first block I described our friendship at school. Then came the passage leading to the emotional twist:
It was a Monday morning, after the Easter break. Eighth grade. Physics class with Mr. Berger. After an experiment the classroom smelled like… old batteries.
When suddenly the door went open and in came Mr. Wunderling, our class teacher. He walked down the stairs and positioned himself in front of the chalkboard. Then, I remember, he said something like, ‘Class, I’ve got news for you. Your friend Frank is sick. For the time being he cannot attend class. We’ll keep you informed.’ – We’ll keep you informed, that’s what he said, and then… he left.
I was young, I was 14 years old, I was innocent. I thought, what do you mean he’s sick? He’s got the flue or a broken arm.
But rumors at our school spread like a wild fire. Frank didn’t have the flue. And Frank didn’t have a broken arm either… Frank had leukemia.
During a coaching session with my friend a pro speaker Olivia Schofield she made me change my tone and my facial expression at the beginning of that passage. She said that, When you speak with this severe tone and a serious face you tell the audience already that something bad is about to happen!
I changed my delivery and the fall was much deeper when the key phrase hit them, Frank had leukemia.
That was a powerful twist!
Keep building up the tension
The other day at golden wedding celebration they played the song Love is in the Air by John Paul Young (1978). The way he builds up the tension before the chorus (1:08, 2:37, 2:59) is a great inspiration for speakers. Young keeps building up the tension for unbearable eight long seconds. Moving up, moving up, moving up – BOOM!
When you write your speeches do the same before you do the twist.
Next time you prepare a speech, think of it as a roller coaster ride of emotions. Add a twist to the story. And before twisting keep building up that tension – higher and higher and higher…
Love is in the air!