Speak regularly on an expert topic? Stop creating your speech from scratch! Instead? Create a lego kit. Your reputation depends on it. In this Speechless Soundbite, Maryam Pasha shares how you can create a lego kit of stories, analogies, stats and anecdotes that drive back to your core messages and help you feel prepared and be more consistent, whatever the speaking scenario.
Simon Bucknall 0:01
Welcome to speechless sound bites practical storytelling tips in under five minutes. In this week's speech a soundbite, we take a look at a practical tool you can use to help scale your content. And to help increase the quality of your spoken comms. This is particularly relevant for advanced speakers. If you've already got the basics down, you are looking for ways in which to to build and craft distinct messages and stories for specific audiences. So let's take a look.
Maryam Pasha 0:31
So back in university, I remember this light bulb moment I had when it came to speaking, I had, I was really because I was very, very cool. I was heavily involved in Model UN. You cool kid? Yeah, right? Everyone knows this. Everyone knows. The UN was the coolest kids. And I remember one year distinctly, we were looking for a keynote speaker to open one of our conferences, and I had seen this incredible professor, speak, it was just amazing. He had kept an auditorium of like, 800 people just on hanging on every word. And so I had asked him to come and deliver this keynote. And he said, Yes. And I felt so proud of the fact that I had secured him as a speaker. And so I went to pick him up from the law school, and we were in the taxi on the way to the venue. And he said, Just Just hang on a minute, I just need to prepare my speech.
Simon Bucknall 1:24
Your heart was in
Maryam Pasha 1:26
your mouth? Yeah. Oh, no. You know, he's gonna be like, what was your like? I just was like, Oh, what are you talking about? You? You're speaking in 15 minutes? How on earth have you not prepared? It's gonna be terrible, people are gonna blame me, this is just gonna be a disaster.
Simon Bucknall 1:44
And we're speaking elsewhere in this podcast about the power and the value of preparation. Something together in a taxi to
Maryam Pasha 1:51
take some pen and like a receipt from his pocket, notes down a couple of things. And I'm thinking, like, I'm preparing myself, right? But but he's amazing. He gets in there and just knocks it out of the park. 20, solid minutes, just incredible. Thinking on earth? How do you do that? Right? So then I get to know him really well, because we become friends. I work with him for the next year or two. And over that time, I see that he's probably given about 20 I seen give out 20 speeches, right? And a year, and I realise that he's taking the same elements, and reusing them. Now this is probably not a surprise. Simon is nodding knowingly. But you know, 20 something year old me had never seen this before. Right? I
Simon Bucknall 2:43
tell you 20 year old me hadn't either. And I
Maryam Pasha 2:46
remember thinking this as she I remember thinking by the end of the year that I could give one of his speeches, you know, because I knew the elements. So well. And, and this really brought me on to something that like I've I've called it a Lego kit. I think other people, maybe some of you call it a library, other people call it different things. But essentially, I think that if you are someone who speaks a lot about a specific topic, you cannot be creating from scratch. Every time you speak. There's just no time. And you cannot be unprepared because your reputation, you know, depends on it. So what do you do? Well,
Simon Bucknall 3:20
yeah, how do you square that circle? Right? Because so many people think I meant to prepare, but I can't prepare from scratch each time. How does that work?
Maryam Pasha 3:28
Like, you know, I get this question a lot where you know, I'll do workshop with people. And I'll take them through processes of storytelling and preparation. And what we do is tech speakers like, oh, yeah, that's all well and good if you've got six months, but what do I do if I have like, a day? And the truth is, is that you virtually have to start somewhere. But actually, what I like to think of is, is building a Lego kit. So what does that mean? Think about in a Lego kits, like a classical kit with lots of different law, not the like Hogwarts Castle, I mean, like just different colour bricks. You know, you've got your pure real, real true Lego again, because I'm extremely cool. And that's why this is my reference. You've got your red bricks and your yellow bricks and your green bricks, you've got your small bricks and your longer Brexit cetera, through me, each of those elements of sort of speaking. So you've got your stories and your examples. You've got your core messages, you've got your statistics, you've got your openings at work, your closings at work, your analogies, your metaphors. You've got all these different pieces, right? Your job if you are someone who speaks regularly or going to start speaking regularly about a specific topic is to build these pieces. And you start somewhere. So I always think you start with your basic kit, right? You don't try and go build 1000 piece Lego kit, because that's also unusable, too. I think you start with something like 10 pieces. And you will have them like if you think about the times you've spoken and when you've prepared. You will have elements that you think that you can use over and over again, right? You to think of those as pieces Have you to think about what's missing, and you need to build those pieces deliberately. The end result that you want to get to is that every time you speak, you can take 10 minutes in a taxi, riding on the back of of a receipt because you're taking pre existing pieces. And all you're doing is actually just deciding how to combine them, what shape you need to create, that fits the kind of speaking hole that you're about to go fill. Right. And sometimes it also then gives you some space to add in a unique thing for that audience. Right? This is that classic. I don't know if it's like comedians or bands where they're touring for so long. And they're like, you know, could night ReWalk here, they're not in Milwaukee. They're like in like, I don't know, Houston or something. Yeah, you have to do have to know where you are. But you can tailor a little bit of it. But everything else is just these Lego pieces. And you're not repeating yourself. It's not a A to Zed speech, that you just give over and over again, it is varied and tailored to your audience, but it's made over the same building blocks. Have you found that with like, the more experience recurs and speak more often that you're absolutely,
Simon Bucknall 6:06
absolutely, yes, that's That's exactly right. And so often people comment on Oh, well, so and so's a really good speaker at my firm or my company organisation. They just got this, this natural ability to just step up and even, yeah, even if they just called on to speak at like, five, five minutes notice, right, they just, they just put together this fantastic talk from nowhere. From nowhere, I think you'll find that they've, they're using stuff that they've used before. Yeah,
Maryam Pasha 6:31
it's like 20 years of experience. Yeah. Speaking. We all have it, right. Like, if you think about a story that you've told over and over again, you know, that is a Lego piece, a line that really works for you. And you if it's hard to think about this in your work, you can think about this in your private life, like your stories we tell to friends and family lines that we use things that we know about. All of those are Lego pieces. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And I think it's, it's about thinking about it as that process, you know, you start somewhere. So sometimes be like, Well, how do I get started with this? Well, I think, okay, let's say you have something important upcoming. Prepare for that specifically, like build that beginning, middle and end proper ages, as you know, speech or talk or presentation that you need. And then afterwards, break it down into its pieces. And do that a couple of times over the course of like, a couple of months, a year, depending on how often you speak, then you will have the you will have created the basic pieces for Lego kit, then you have to start thinking about what's missing, you know, and depending on who I'm working with, I have different pieces that I think are essential for different speakers to have. But you always want to make sure that you have your stories, right, you want to make sure I think in certain sectors that you might have one or two statistics that you work with, you know, other things for me, they're important. I like analogies and metaphors. And then, at least for the work that I'm doing right now a lot with climate is really being clear on a couple of key messages. I have this joke with one client right now where we'll be working with different people and they're always like, but I've already said that before. And we're like yeah, that's a key message. Like your core messages are the core messages because you repeat them. It's like
Simon Bucknall 8:14
It's like going out to a chef and saying but that Tiramisu is like the tiramisu I had last week. Yes, exactly. And that's because it's because it's a tiramisu.
Maryam Pasha 8:23
So actually, it's okay, I think there was this. I don't know if you find this, but I think this is like a version. Sometimes people have to feeling like everything has to be like it can't repeat themselves. Everything has to be new.
Simon Bucknall 8:34
Yeah. Elephant trap. It's such an effing trap. Yeah, it's always it's got to be absolutely, totally fresh, totally original every time. And as a result, they end up delivering something that's inferior. Yeah, absolutely. Do your Lego bricks, what physical form, if any, do they take? Where does they actually exist? Your pieces? And obviously, you've got them in your mind. But do they have external to you? Are they somewhere?
Maryam Pasha 8:56
So for me, I have. They're all in my mind. But actually, for clients, we write them down. So we actually start building it. So we will have like a list of pieces. And we will start pulling in from talks. They've done presentations they've done if they're very senior author, I work with their whole teams to pull in what needs to be done. And then we look at it as a whole and we start writing stories and we started writing pieces and agreeing on them.
Simon Bucknall 9:24
Design slides, Word doc radio clips, Word
Maryam Pasha 9:27
doc slides, you know, whatever it is suited to that person actually think this is something that's really important is, you know, I like I really like slides and visuals. So if I was to build mine, that's how I would build it. I think rather people having a Word doc works a spreadsheet could just be visuals. I think you guys are like soundbites. I think you've got to work with intermediate that works for you. Number one, yeah, but I think the other thing is, is it's also a really good exercise. You know, to find out whether things you are saying are actually the things you want to be saying. And whether you are staying on message, whether you're staying focused, you know, if you are a senior leader, let's say, let's say you run, you're an NGO, you're a senior leader and organisation or whatever it might be, you cannot have like a 1200 messages, then you're not going to be inconsistent. And I, the comment I hear most from junior staff or like, not the CEO or the director, but from their support teams is I just really wish my director was more consistent. Yes, yes, I was. So I the first time I heard that I was so surprised. And then when I've heard it over and over and over again, I was like, okay, like, there's a real desire internally, I think, within organisations, but I think makes sense externally for people to be consistent. Yes, yes. And also, if you're making up a new thing you care about every every time you speak. And that and that Lego kit, it not just helps you as a tool to be able to, like, you know, pull together talks quickly, and always be prepared and be that speaker, who feels like they're just off the cuff, but actually, they're telling a story they've told 20 times before, but I think it also helps you be building your credibility because you're consistent.
Simon Bucknall 11:09
And there are absolutely parallels for this in in the world of politics and campaign. Media reminded when you're speaking there of the famous line inside the Clinton camp. The Bill Clinton can't that is in 92. It's the economy stupid. Yeah. And Bill Clinton being the character that he was intellectually was constant wanted to dive onto this areas. Interesting. And that and there's that No, it's the economy going back. Yeah, well intentioned. But nevertheless, diluting distracted mind wandering behaviour off into different areas is can be especially when leadership comms point out. Yeah. So so, so important.
Maryam Pasha 11:47
I mean, people in politics have told me that this is essentially what a stump speeches and it's the same things is your core message is that your core policies, you're telling them over and over and over again, I think the key actually is, is to make sure that you love your Lego pieces so much, that you're excited to deliver them every time. Because that's where that's for me. The other pitfall is that you create these pieces, and then you're bored of them. That makes sense. You know, I understand that. I think you have to love them. And I think you have to refresh them periodically.
Simon Bucknall 12:23
And how do you that's really funny, because this year again, yes, crops up a lot people saying, Oh, well, if you're delivering the same stuff, doesn't it just get a bit boring? How do you from your experience? How do you gauge that? As in? How do you gauge whether you're properly in love with the Lego pieces that you've got? And what do you what do you need to do to to ensure that you are and that you remain really connected to them?
Maryam Pasha 12:50
Yeah. I always think that if you're still excited to say that to someone, like if you still really, really want to, like, you know, be like this isn't, you know, I don't know if that makes sense. But sometimes I have things I want to say
Simon Bucknall 13:01
yes. Yeah, that internal check then is about what's the what will be the potential effect. What's the contribution of that Lego break? Not just yeah, do I like that? Look at that break. no point having a nice bright blue yellow brick, if you're building something that's got no blue in it.
Maryam Pasha 13:14
I mean, we've all had Lego kits where there's like a little piece right? That's really cool looking, but it has no use.
Simon Bucknall 13:21
Love it. So it's a chance to really scale just like good builds business building scale and scaling up the business model. Any environment you do the same the communication, exactly.
Maryam Pasha 13:33
So to recap, here's how you can start your Lego kit and how to use it. First, you should love your Lego pieces. If you're not excited to speak it, then cut it. Second, create core building blocks. And finally, don't be afraid to repeat yourself. No one ever complained that someone was too consistent.
Simon Bucknall 13:49
Thanks for listening to this speech for sound bites until next time, speak less, say more.