Gunning Fog, Coleman Liau and Flesch–Kincaid are three names which are connected to readability levels of a piece of text.
I have always been interested to know how readable my speeches were and used to run them on platforms like Readable.
I then tweaked my speech to make it more readable. That’s right. READABLE.
At some point you realise, speeches are rarely read – they are listened to.
Is there a listenability level? I have not come across one yet. I think speeches are subjectively evaluated by an audience.
Here is my mini tool to help you with the readability of your text that you write to be read. Make no mistake, each Readability level has its own limitations but gives you a rough idea of how readable your text is for different levels of the target reader.
I was in a Theme Park last weekend and experienced water slides in all their glory indoors and outdoors!
Each slide seemed to have two components – the Climb and the Slide.
You could climb to the slide with a tube or a mat or just yourself. I found this initial step of getting a tube or mat itself interesting as it sets you up for the slide later.
You could watch a speech with a notebook or just yourself. I find that I approach a speech differently if I actively take notes or passively listen to it.
The climb itself is sometimes a long way and you need to wait in a queue to get to your chance for a slide. If the queue is long you might switch to another slide. If the slide is amazing, you will wait as long as it takes in the queue.
The body of a speech itself can be long or feel long. Sometimes we wait for messages in a speech to reach us. Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t.
Before the slide you could see the information about for what age is it appropriate, what medical conditions are to be kept in mind and even the weight of the person involved.
Before a message is crafted in a speech, we need to get into the shoes of the listener to see if we can provide a ride that they want to get onto. If the message is not crafted well, our listener will very easily be distracted and stray.
During the slide, the speed gets the adrenaline going and there is pure joy. If you do not like high speeds you might enjoy the blue slides. If you enjoy high speeds you might enjoy the black slides.
During the speech, the way we make our listeners feel can be joyful or hateful or much worse – indifferent.
After the slide, if it was fun – we want more. Sometimes more of the same slide or more of something different.
Likewise after a speech, we want to listen to the speaker again talking about the same thing or something different or we might want to listen to someone else
I went up and down many slides and felt great!
Can we take our speech listeners on many rhetoric slides and leave them feeling great?
The favourite toy of my daughter is “Miffy” the rabbit.
Miffy likes to draw and play with her friends.
My daughter loves to draw and play with her friends.
Did you have a special toy when you were growing up?
Contest chair, fellow Toastmasters and guests
I still remember that day in my primary school.
I was 6 years old and I was excited.
Excited, because it was the day we could take our favourite toy with us.
My favourite toy was “Steve” the monkey.
Steve had been part of me for many an adventure. In my imagination we had slept on roads, flown on airplanes and sailed on ships. Where this is an adventure, there is a villain!
The villain in this story was Big Sid. Big Sid was a bully. Not an ordinary bully, a toy stealing bully!
One day, Big Sid grabbed Steve. I pulled. He pulled. I let go. I did not want Steve to get hurt.
I was angry! Steve was my toy. I felt it was my duty to protect him.
How do I stand up to him? You see, Big Sid was two heads taller than me.
Nobody else in the school dared to stand up to Sid the Bully.
I mustered up some courage. I walked up to Big Sid, fear in my eyes, my teeth chattering and my legs shaking and squeaked “Please give Steve back to me”
Sid glared at me, looked at me like I was a fly and flicked me.
I flew and landed on my behind!
I did not know what to do.
Fast forward to the present.
My daughter who likes “Miffy” the rabbit also likes to fight. She attends a martial arts school for Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. We went to Chemnitz in the East of Germany for a contest.
My daughter and two of her white belt friends were in category A.
3 girls from a gym in Berlin turned up for category A.
These girls had braided hair and stared into space.
Friend 1 in Category A.
Braided hair girl wins the game with an arm bar in 45 seconds.
Friend 1 walks back with a visibly hurting arm.
Friend 2 in Category A.
Space staring girl wins the game with a rear naked choke.
Friend 2 walks back massaging her neck.
I look down at my daughter and her eyes are glazing. She does not want to fight. She does stand a chance against these braided and space staring fighters. I can see a teardrop forming in her eyes, rolling down her cheek and falling down.
My daughter’s coach walks up to her and holds her two hands and says the following.
It does not matter if the opponent is stronger.
It matters that you stand up to this opponent.
These words fire up my daughter and she walks up to the ring and faces her opponent.
My daughter in Category A!
The fight is over in 15 seconds with a triangle choke. My daughter walks back with a smile on her face. She lost the fight.
But on that day she stood up to her opponent and that has made all the difference.
Rewind to my primary school.
You remember Big Sid who had stolen my monkey Steve and also flicked me.
My music teacher Mr. Patrick had watched this exchange between me and Big Sid. He sat next to me and said
“In life, you and me. We face bullies. We face opponents who are stronger than us. But we can overcome the fear and stand up to them. He realized that I was too small to stand up by myself. So he added wisely – you can stand up with the help of your friends”
I looked up at Mr. Patrick and the realization dawned on me.
I asked a friend to help me. He knew how important Steve was to me. He convinced some friends and they gathered around me and stood up with me facing Big Sid.
And for the first time, I saw fear in the eyes of Big Sid.
Big Sid knew that the game was over and handed back Steve to me.
My daughter’s Jujitsu coach asked her to stand up to her opponent.
My music teacher Mr. Patrick asked me to stand up to my opponent with the help of my friends.
A Gratwanderung is “Walking along mountain ridges”
I imagine walking along mountain ridges from movies.
Like in the Lord of the Rings when the group keeps walking from one mountain to another
I had been on simple treks with a few metres towards the end with ridges. Last weekend me and my sister were faced with a walk that would take 2 hours and 15 minutes one way with an elevation difference of 200m.
Both of us do not like heights
Both of us considered ourselves to be avid hikers and trekkers but not necessarily gratwanderers!
Here are a few things the German Alpine Organisation (DAV) recommends
Local weather conditions
20-22 degrees Celsius
Elevation difference during the ascent and descent
Length and Timing for the tour
2 hours 15 minutes for international tourists
1 hour 30 minutes for local hikers
1 hour for sporty hikers
Type of terrain
Walking along mountain ridges
DAV calls it BLACK
Huts to eat and drink
Heimgarten has a small hut heavy on sausages and pea soup for vegetarians
We decided to do it.
The first 10 minutes were difficult but after that our lungs got used to the new breathing and our legs to the new terrain.
When we arrived at Heimgarten we saw a guy wearing a pink bunny costume and singing Oktoberfest songs.
The beer was cold and the pea soup was just right to get us ready for the way back.
We took 2 hours on each way.
The way back felt easier because our lungs and legs knew what was in store.
When we came back to Herzogstand we added a BLACK rated hike as a feather on our caps.
We were proud of ourselves.
Are we walking blue and red rated hikes at work?
Is there a black rated hike that we are postponing or hiding from our teams?
Can we take it on with proper preparation and bit of courage?
Do we know the hikers and trekkers in the team waiting to become gratwanderers?
I very often have a story that happened to me in the past. I feel like I learnt something from that story that I would like to share. I then take it and make it part of my speech and then build the speech around it. I find this approach organic. Sometimes getting a supporting frame to this story is challenging.
Having a message first reminds of me of being called to make an Impromptu speech. I have a phrase or challenge thrown at me and I need to build from there. In this case as I get warmed up with a first few sentences, my mind is chugging away in the background trying to put together stories that happened in my life and try to relate them with the topic. The moment any story matches a bit, I bring it in. During my story narration, I keep looking for a nice to loop back to the message. The advantage of this approach is that the message is known and everything is built on it.
What is your approach when you write your speeches?