“I keep six honest serving men
They taught me all I knew
Their names are what and why and how
And where and when and who”
Rudyard Kipling penned these words in the Just So stories in 1902 and like Rudyard Kipling they have been my constant companions since I first discovered them in the 1980’s.
Over the years they have helped me with many things. They have helped to write business plans and marketing strategies. They have helped me to plan events and parties and they have even helped me to write the odd book or two as well.
Sometime last year it occurred to me that they could also help me when I was preparing speeches and presentations and over the next couple minutes I’d like to share how they may be able to help you prepare for speeches too.
What: What are you going to say? What do you want your audience to take away from your presentation or speech? What action would you like them to take as a result of pearls of wisdom that fall from your lips to the plain beneath?
Why: Why are YOU giving this presentation? Are you an expert in your field? Have you been asked to present at a conference or seminar? Do you want to inform, instruct, educate, elucidate, encourage or motivate?
Why you are giving your speech or presentation will inform what you say and the language you use to say it.
How: How are you going to make your presentation or speech? Will you be using visual aids or a PowerPoint presentation?
Where: Where are you giving your presentation? If you are in an auditorium with a couple of thousand people then you may need to use broad, expansive gestures and march resolutely about the stage, striking your hand firmly to emphasis points 1, 2 and 3. If, on the other hand you are in a smaller and much more intimate setting then you can be calmer and quieter and altogether more demure.
When: When are you giving your presentation? If you are lucky enough to be presenting in the morning then the chances are that your audience may at least be half awake and listening to your thoughts eagerly and with anticipation. If however, you are presenting in the afternoon then you may find that your audience are looking forward to a post-prandial nap instead and you may have to SHOCK them out of their stupor so they sit up and pay attention.
Who: Who are presenting or speaking too? This is perhaps the most important of the six honest serving serving in this particular instance. Who your audience is will determine what you say, why you say it, how you say it, where you say it and when you say it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it really doesn’t matter which of the six honest serving men you start with, as long as you start with one and then work with the rest to style and structure your speech for your audience.
I know that these six honest serving men will continue to be my companions into the future and hope, that perhaps the What and the Why and the How; and the Where and the When and the Who will be your constant companions, into the future, too.