Roland Dürre
Wednesday May 26th, 2010

OpenSpeech

Today, I would like to write for those of my friends who often deliver a presentation or a speech:

Inspired by my experience with the new communication and conference models, such as OpenSpace, I developed a presentation model and would like to call it OpenSpeech.

My official premiere for using OpenSpeech was when I gave a presentation on “Community – Humans – Society” at Ottobrunn Grammar School. It was the first time I consciously, explicitly and rigorously applied the method throughout an entire presentation.

And it was a gigantic experience for me (and I got the impression that the same was true for the audience)!

So what is OpenSpeech?


It is very simple!

OpenSpeech can be used in front of an audience of up to 50 persons. The orator has to be talking about something he is very familiar with (because he has presented it several times in the past and also published on it) and he must have a certain degree of dialectical experience.

One of the basic rules of OpenSpeech is that the audience has to actively take part during the entire presentation. The presenter introduces a term, explains what it means and asks what his listeners associate with it.

For example, you might give a short overview on the meaning of the word “community”. Then you ask the audience what they associate with this term. They have to answer spontaneously, if possible without request to speak. But they are only allowed to voice one notion. Since all listeners are limited to one single idea, it can mostly be done without collisions. In case of a collision, the presenter solves the problem.

The presenter accepts the offered notions, writes them down on the blackboard if they are of consequence and explains them or comments on them. He might also ask the audience what the term means. In that case, however, the answer must be very short – like in twitter: up to 140 digits. 🙂

In this manner, he can systematically continue with his presentation while using the input and still best achieve what he intended to, reacting constantly to the situation among the audience.

Let us remain with the example “Community”. When I asked “what do you associate with communities?”, there were plenty of important and correct answers I was able to make use of for explaining the term “social system”.

My next question was: “What social systems do you know?” – and there was a proper avalanche of replies. Of course, the word “enterprise” was among the answers, which was exactly what I had been after.

In this manner, it is quite easy to develop associative concept chains. During my presentation, it was all about making the audience understand what a complex thing an enterprise is: a socio-economical structure with clearly defined tasks and many correlations with society, a variety of stakeholders, a culture of its own, values (and also degradations) that have been developed and are being lived, an external trade account,…

For instance, you will make the connections between enterprises and decisions, decisions and freedom, freedom and society, society and democracy. All the connections will be based on the ideas presented by the audience, yet controlled by the orator. You get a wonderful “thread” which, however, will always be unique because of the intensely active audience.

Conclusion:

OpenSpeech is to permanently be demanding the active participation of your audience by asking them what they associate with certain key words. Only extremely short replies are permitted (the pride of place would be one noun and one adjective). The replies must be absolutely spontaneous, even a “request to speak” is not welcome.

In OpenSpeech, the presenter has to lead his audience in an extremely rigid fashion. Whenever he asks back after an association, the reply again has to be very short.

The rules must be set at the beginning of the OpenSpeech session. The presenter has to be very strict about everybody keeping the rules.

If he is a success, many valuable mental concept trees will be generated. Of course, the presenter will try to steer the audience towards certain paths on these trees in order to make them reach the intended goal. The journey is the goal. Both (journey and goal) are unique for every OpenSpeech process.

So much on my method OpenSpeech V1.0.

Questions are always welcome. I am also prepared to give a demonstration of OpenSpeech at any time, for instance on a topic such as “Community – Humans – Society” or “Freedom – Responsibility – Ethics”.

It goes without saying that slides are totally useless with the OpenSpeech method. They would be counter-productive. However, it makes sense to hand out the rules in advance and to ask the audience to study them diligently! But, please, do not use a single transparency! They would hinder the free development of OpenSpeech and, on top of it, be a distraction both for the listeners and the orator.

He needs the total focus of his audience on what he says. It is the only way for all parties to be fully concentrated and actively participating. There must be a certain degree of tension for both the audience and the presenter to find their way through the labyrinth of terms and eventually gain insight.

For the initial phase of an OpenSpeech session, it makes sense to create a certain atmosphere of curiosity. For instance, you might introduce yourself as representing something original or point out that and why the situation is special.

Incidentally, in my experience, an OpenSpeech session is a lot more strenuous than a “normal presentation” or a “normal oratory”, both for the speaker and the audience. But then, the pleasure factor is also a lot higher on both sides.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
I believe that this approach has been intuitively applied by many people time and again. Just like “OpenSpace” or agile SW development were used a long time before they were officially “introduced” and named. But so far, I never read about it as a method of presentation explicitly designed for interaction during said presentation.

🙂 Maybe I am the inventor of OpenSpeech? Now that is something that would truly make me happy!

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