For many people, getting through one’s speech or presentation as quickly as possible seems to be the objective when faced with the horror of addressing an audience. While they may have planned on 20 minutes for their presentation, once they begin, they are off to the races and manage to spit it out in 10!
On the opposite side of that coin, however, are those who ramble; and, while the ramblers are a minority, they are out there. If you have a tendency to go on and on aimlessly, you must put an end to that quirk. Rambling is akin to a neon light advertising poor organizational skills within your presentation. And, while some in your audience may enjoy a good ramble, there are many more who would prefer that you get to the point.
Rambling generally occurs once the speaker becomes comfortable; but, it can also happen to those who are extremely nervous. Nervousness is like a wild animal that needs to be tamed. Because most are unable to control the beast, they are not in control of what comes out of their mouth. We in the audience can hear and see it in the presenter: quivering voice in which one’s pitch continues to rise, uncontrollable speed, and hands that shake as well as the lips. For the ramblers, the problem is that their thoughts are scattered and they are unable to keep to their outline or their script.
How do you solve the problem of rambling?
1. Practice your material out loud daily. This means that you must know your material by means of opening, development (2-5 subtopics), and closing. When you practice, work on it in sections. Then when you are in the shower or driving to work or walking the dog, for example, go through each section individually. This advice is very similar to learning a piece of music which can also be broken down into sections. If you make a mistake in a particular section, you don’t practice the entire piece over and over, you practice the one area that is giving you trouble. The learning of your presentation is very similar: break it down into sections and learn each section as a whole.
2. Stick to your Script. While rambling is most uncommon in a speech in which you are ‘reading’ words that you have formalized in a particular fashion, it is certainly more often heard in a presentation in which you are speaking around ideas and thoughts. [By the way, if you are reading your presentation, you just failed the course. Your audience didn't come to hear you read to them! It is called public speaking for a reason.]
3. Watch your anecdotes. Anecdotes, those wonderful stories which add interest and credibility to you as a speaker, can be dangerous. It is best to have your anecdotes firmly ensconced in your script; however, you may find that you want to add some additional material because of your audience. This is where the danger lies. Audiences vary as much as speakers; and, you may have an exceptionally receptive audience which can move you to want to add more material. The problem is two-fold: by adding more material, you are a) lengthening your presentation and b) taking the chance of losing your place. Suffice it to say that you are being led off track. And, getting back on track can be a nightmare.
It is always better to say too little than to say too much; so stop the rambling and stick to your script. You audience will thank you. The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels offers private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills as well as Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement. Visit Voice Dynamic and watch Nancy as she describes Your Least Developed Tool!