Just over 2 years ago, I was preparing to compete in a speech contest, the finals of the 2009 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. While I was preparing, I came across a training DVD that was especially fascinating. It was a recording of a workshop conducted by Randy Harvey, the 2004 World Champion of Public Speaking. I can’t recall the name of the workshop, but the content was BRILLIANT! Randy is a college professor and has done a lot of research in the area of brain development, and used his research to teach speech-crafting skills. In the workshop, he spoke of the acrostic SCREAM which is a powerful checklist of items to include in a speech.
S: Simile: a comparison using like or as: “When he runs, he is as fast as a bullet.”
C: Contrast: opposites, such as before and after, in and out, full and empty.
R: Rhyme; either internal to a sentence or at the end of a sentence.
E: Echo: repeating a word, a syllable or an idea
A: Alliteration: repeating a beginning sound
M: Metaphor: a direct comparison, similar to a simile, but without like or as. “He is a bullet when he runs.”
Randy said the reason to use these techniques is to engage more of the audience’s brain in the speech. Data shows that the average speaking speed is about 125 words per minute, but a person can listen or process at speeds much much higher, perhaps 500-600 words per minute. That’s a HUGE gap! As a speaker, its your job to engage the gap between your speaking speed and your audience listening speed. The temptation is to speak faster and add more words, but that’s not effective. A better solution is to use SCREAM. These techniques engage that gap without your audience losing focus on your message.
You don’t need to use every one of these elements in every one of your presentations. But I bet if you used 2, maybe 3, you’ll immediately feel life being breathed into your talks. And your audience will love you! Try it.