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Lesson 8 – How to structure your communications

Lesson 8 – How to structure your communications

The strategy I share in this lesson can be used on every speaking engagement from a 60 seconds elevator pitch through to a day’s training or a key note hour long session. It is one of the most detailed lessons in the whole course because there are many elements to consider in a powerful communication in front of any audience. Learn these skills and you can be a very very powerful communicator, anywhere, anytime! I’ve broken this lesson down so that you can visit it in smaller segments if time is short. Don’t miss any part of this lesson, it will impact on your performance.

ACTION; Let’s break the structure down;

  1. Answer these 3 questions;
  • What do I want my audience to get out of this?
  • What do I want to get out of this?
  • What have I promised the organisers/host that the audience will get out of this?

You will have elements that over lap with these 3 questions. Like this image;

What does my audience want

What key elements does your talk need to feature? For instance if we were writing a speaking engagement about the fear of public speaking. Here are some example answers for what we would want each question to answer;

  • What do I want my audience to get out of this?

Tools and techniques to speak powerfully

Understand the need to practice. Appreciate the impact of your mindset and skill set.

Negative spiral

That used to be me too – it can be done – and fixed for life

Simple ways to remember the process to take themselves through. Including the negative spiral (including how to create the opposite and the results of both).

Share case studies and examples of how these processes work for clients

Importance of the right visual clues for the speaker

What scares an audience

How to breath and act.

Concentrate on what results you want and communication is critical in all aspects of our lifes.

  • What do I want to get out of this?

Audience to learn how I can help them overcome their fear of public speaking and what tools I use.

How to easily remember and put these tools into action remembering that when they struggle the “expert” they need is me. I want them to sign up to my newsletter, social media, books and courses and come to me for training to be a powerful communicator and to override their fears. That to break down the fear of public speaking takes practice with the tools we use to deal with the negative mindset and will help build confidence as well as their skill as a speaker and the results you can expect

  • What have I promised the organisers/host that the audience will get out of this?

Promised the organiser that I will promote the event pre and post event and that I’m speaking about fears of public speaking and the tools and techniques to fix them. That I will courage people to book future events and mention the hosts in my own PR. The organisers would like their delegates to leave with practical ways to improve their public speaking and deal with the fears that stop them. They want the audience to leave buzzing and excited to put these things into action like my own coaching clients get to.

Can you see how some words get repeated? These then create part of the key words that you can come back to when you’ve finished crafting your speaking engagement and ask – Did I do as I said I would?

You can download your own copy of this Venn Graph to write out the answer

Does this speech deliver what I said it would?

WORTH NOTING; Personally I do not write out in detail when structuring my own speaking engagement, therefore in this lesson I’m going to share with you 3 versions that I’ve used over the years.

The structure you chose to use for your speaking engagement can vary according to your natural style however it will always have certain elements. And here I lay out what they are and how to find your natural style within these elements;

The beginning;

Why I’m stood up here

I was told years ago that you should quantify why you are standing in front of an audience. However once you’ve stood in front of the audience it is better to be useful, relevant and interesting rather than to spend 5 minutes boring them with how awesome you are. If you wish to include stories and elements that reinforce “Why you are the speaker” then allow them to be evidence that is within your speech rather than at the start. If we are told what to think we rarely will think it! It is better to let them see for themselves.

Hello, my name is

Even if the hosts have introduced you it is still nice to start with a natural way of saying hello, good morning or I’m pleased to be here. While the audience may have been given your name, I like to say “Thankyou XXX, it’s great to be here today. Yes, My name is Mandie and…” This is a polite way to begin and reminds people of who you are. It creates permission to speak.

Why are we here

At the start you want to get your audience on board as fast as you can. So unless you are handing out armfuls of money you need to get them engaged fast. You can do this by sharing what benefits they are going to get from your presentation. Don’t go into detail. Make it powerful.

Lay out the ground rules

  • If you don’t want questions until the end, let your audience know that.
  • If you want your audience to shout out any ideas or thoughts of their own, tell them.
  • If you don’t tell your audience how to behave they will go on past experiences which could be very different to yours.
  • If you are going to use PowerPoint let them know if they can have copies.

And feel free to make this fun (it will be the start of your audience being able to bond with you) for instance I often tell audiences “If you thought you could come and hide in here for an hour, with a coffee and your feet up and do nothing, I’m afraid you’re in the wrong room. We are going to work powerfully together to make a difference which means you will speak (nearly) as much as I do and you will do the work too” From the start the audience knows my style…which is “Let’s make it happen” “Let’s change things” “Let’s be more successful”, and it’s fine to have a laugh with Mandie. Yes there will be a few less than impressed faces, but that’s fine, they’ve not seen the full thing and I’ve 45 minutes to get them loving my content (and those ones with the folded arms and the “Oh no she want’s us to get involved” looks tend to enjoy my sessions the most!)

Ask a question

Asking a question towards the start enables your audience to get involved naturally. You can choose a number of styles of questions;

A metaphoric question – which you know will get them emotionally interested.

An obvious question – which you know will get a big show of hands (asking people to put their hand up gets them moving and actively engaged with you which can be useful) Be cautious of sounding salesly.

A question with real answers – this is where you genuinely want to know how people feel. This is a style of question you don’t want to ask if you’ve never spoken in public before. It can have it’s dangers. People can start talking and unless you’ve learnt how to act and speak then they may railroad your speaking engagement or highjack what is discussed. If you intend to do this, a white board can be useful or a flipchart, so that the audience knows they will get heard and you will listen as much as possible (the other word of danger here is that you need to ensure that if you use this then everything on that flipchart should be covered by the end of your speaking engagement, can you see how it could be risky?

The Middle;

Get to the point

There is mountains of research that says we struggle to take on information. And that rarely we will remember more than a few snippets of an hour’s presentation. Taking that into account. You need to ensure you don’t try and cover too many topics. It is better to say 3 things powerfully than 7 things that are so wishy washy, your audience struggles to remember any of it. So get to the point. Or if multiple points (keep it to less than 5)

More than 15 minutes – they’re bored!

Depressingly, your audience are at risk of getting bored after a short amount of time. In the middle section as you are working through what you wish to cover ensure you have things that get your audience involved. For instance;

  • Ask a question. (Consiering the 3 styles above).
  • Get them involved – Getting a few people out of the audience can change the dynamics of your session. CAUTION; Lots of people have been forced to get involved with ice breaker games and play acting. Only “Invite” don’t demand”. If you are in any doubt of the responsiveness of your audience, then shy away from something that gets your audience out of their chairs. And remember even if it is only a 4 minute exercise they are involved in, it will take at least another few minutes to regain control of the room due to the localised chats that can start up.
  • Get them to recap – if you really want to ensure they are engaged, enjoying it and learning from it. Get them to recap where you are at. You can do this in a more subtle way by saying “So to recap, so far we’ve’ looked at x and x, now let’s look at …”
  • Make them laugh.
  • Change the tempo – if you’ve been speaking slowly – speed it up. If you’ve been verbally like lightening – slow it down. Changing the tempo can interrupt the internal dialogue that has started in your audiences head.

WORTH NOTING; With the short attention span of most humans it is a good idea to consider this before you design your talk. I personally within a 60 minute session would usually lay out my talk like this;

Intro – funny story or analogy. Question. What we are looking at               (10 Minutes)

3 key points, including 1 case study. I interactive session/1 exercise           (30 Minutes)

(You could further break that down into what the 3 points are (3 minutes) Content of 3 points (15 minutes) Case study (2 minutes) Exercise (10 minutes) So you can see the central section is broken down into short segments too.)

Recap and questions                                                                                                (18 minutes)

Leave them thinking with a big thought question                                              (2 minutes)

Ted talks are a maximum of 18 minutes because the latest research into how we process and learn has shown that’s our optimum learning potential. It shows how little information we want before we lose interest or struggle to keep up. Breaking your talk down into sections (that feel different to you too) helps to re-energise your talk and your audience.

Case studies/facts/stats and stories

In the middle when you are delivering the content you want them to go away with, put into practice, learn more about and/or investigate. It is a good idea to reinforce the point we mentioned at the start and share some “proof of results” examples. This helps in a n number of ways;

  • It helps your audience appreciate how it applies to them
  • It helps your audience understand how to make it work
  • It helps your audience to appreciate why you are the expert (without telling them you are!)

The End

This is a good time to remember “What do you want out of this speaking engagement” and “What do my audience want/need?” This will help you focus the close of your talk. You want to end your speaking engagement in a powerful way.


  • How do you want your audience to feel?
  • What do you want them to do?

Taking this into account you can think about the best way to achieve this. (Don’t see this as an opportunity to get salesy and at the opposite end of this polarity, don’t be so ambiguous that everyone just thanks you and walks away.

  • Finish on a powerful thought.
  • A reminder of what you want them to do.
  • A reminder of what will happen if they don’t take action.
  • A Call to action – what do you want them to do next? Where do you want them to go? Do you want them to keep in touch?

Don’t just stop speaking. Think about how you recap what you’ve covered and remember it’s not just your words that finish play with your body language and last sentences tonality, speed and loudness. Ensure your audience comfortably know you’ve finished speaking.

Here is a worksheet that can help you simplify and structure the criteria discussed in this lesson. Feel free to download as often as you like to help you structure great speaking enagemgents 

esson 8 - What do I want to get out of this speaking engagement


I mentioned 3 styles to getting your structure laid out. Lists, mind maps and in detail. Sometimes I struggle to know what I want to cover so I just write. Write as if I was chatting or writing a blog. Just let any words come out and that is an “in detail” way of finding out what I wish to cover or how I wish to cover the talk” that can be shortened and played with. Enabling you to see what works, what fails miserably and what has potential.

MindmapsWhat do I want from a speaking engagement

Here’s a mind map example for you.

I use these to plan talks and to help me practice. I can then remember what circle I was referring into that segment of my talk and in what order just by visualising a mind map like this. Most of mine are drawn in a pad not on a laptop although there are lots of apps for mind maps online if that is your preferred way to take notes and work.

Start with the outcome you want for yourself, then break it down. From each point you can add additional points. This is also a good tool to practice using because as you will see in this course it can help you turn a 60 second elevator pitch or short spotlight speaking engagement into an hour long or even a full day’s training!




Lists enable you to simplify what you wish to cover. Although be cautious because they can cause your thinking to stagnate and not encourage the natural way our brains work (IE; like lightening – thinking in many directions at once and not just one location and on to the next.)

For instance, if we re-visit the question “What do I want to get out of this speaking engagement?”Answers could include;

  • Audience to learn how to overcome their fear of public speaking
  • Why they need to – impact on life
  • What tools I use – mindset/skill set, beliefs, assumptions
  • How to remember these tools
  • Practice
  • Examples of success.
  • Sign up to newsletter
  • Sign up social media
  • Buy books
  • Buy courses
  • 1 2 1 coaching

To me the above is not as easy to remember as a mind map. However creating a list from a mindmap can be good if you have a shorter speaking engagement (let’s say 10 minutes) and you need to turn that into an hour’s talk.

Each line of the list can be broken down into more detail. For instance;

“Practice” could be expanded to become;

  • How to practice
  • Where to practice
  • What not to do
  • What to be aware of
  • What to notice

Which then creates 5 sentences instead of one. Therefore 1 sentence about practising that takes 1 minute to say can become 5 minutes of communication.

Taking this one step further, you could then break down each “branch” of the 5 words relating to practice again. Therefore “What to be aware of” could become;

  • Don’t get caught up in just rehearsing the first part
  • Rehearse right the way through
  • Does your breathing get better or worse the longer you practice
  • Do you notice there are elements you find easier to remember than others?
  • Do you feel as passionate about the talk regardless of what segment you practice?

So the word practice in the original list has expanded into 5 sentences taking 5 minutes with “what to be aware of” and could expand again into 4 sentences (each 1 minute long) just for that sentence. Just think how big you could make a short talk in this way?

Mindmap for what I want to get out of this - branch system

WORTH NOTHING; This process can be used for blog writing and social media strategy too.

Lastly when it comes to the structure of your speech a few points to remember;

  • Keep sentences shorter than you may normally choose to in conversation. Especially the case if you are sharing difficult to process or remember information. Practising will enable you to hear if your sentences are the right length.
  • Be powerful with your words – let no word exist in your speech unless it has a powerful use. Every word should matter.
  • Treat it like you are telling a story or a movie. There’s a start, a middle and an end. Enable your audience to feel the passion to the story and want to see it to the end. They really want to find out what happens!
  • Treat it like a TV show (within reason) consider how you will enable people to keep up with the story with your structure.


  • Think about how you are going to ensure you remember the criteria to a powerful speech. It is just as relevant for an elevator pitch or a keynote presentation.
  • Use the worksheet to compose a speaking engagement.
  • Monitor how you feel about the 3 styles to help you achieve your structured speaking engagement – lists, in detail and mindmaps. Which resonates most with you? Try all 3 to see what makes you feel most comfortable and confident.

WORTH NOTING; I’m very aware that this lesson is very indepth and longer than any other lesson. However it has been structured to enable you to work on it in smaller segments. Please don’t race through this lesson to get to the next until you know you’ve created enough structure that suits your style.

Extra support; Don’t forget I’m at many The Business Womans Network events and regularly on my confidential masterclass group The Insiders, if you would like additional support or to practice what you have learnt.

  • August 21, 2018