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How to Use Mind Mapping to Prepare Powerful Speeches

From the time we enter elementary school, we're taught to organize our thoughts in a "linear" fashion - line by line, left to right, top to bottom on the page. You may have even learned how to prepare speeches that way - either writing them out word for word or writing outlines with the main points, then sub-points, then sub-sub- points, and so on.

But that's not how our mind works. When preparing a speech, we don't think in terms of points and sub-points. We have snatches of ideas ... a quotation here ... a statistic there ... an interesting article we read recently ... a funny anecdote ... a bar of music running through your head ... the start of an idea for a powerful conclusion ...

Mind Mapping is simply a technique for translating these mental ideas to paper. It will help you to:

  • put your ideas down on paper quickly
  • construct a speech out of disorganized thoughts, ideas and fragments of material
  • remember your speech more clearly
  • reduce - and possibly even eliminate - the use of notes

The basic idea is that instead of writing out your speech in words, you draw it in pictures. So a Mind Map is a picture of your speech.

Here's a quick overview of how to create a Mind Map:

  • Start with a blank piece of paper and a set of colored pens.
  • Draw your speech topic in the middle of the paper.
  • Draw lines radiating out from it - one for the introduction, one for the conclusion, and one for each main point.
  • Annotate each line with a symbol, cartoon, stick figure or some other picture to identify the point. If you can't think of a picture, label the line with a word.
  • If you have sub-points, draw other lines branching out from your main points and repeat the process.

You can see an example of one of my Mind Maps below. Don't worry too much about what it's trying to say or what the symbols mean - just look at it as an example. I created this for a 45-minute presentation about the Internet. As you can see, this isn't rocket science, and you don't need to be an artist!

As you gain more experience with Mind Mapping, you'll start developing your own internal shorthand for certain things. That's fine - if it works for you, that's all that matters! For example, here are a few of the symbols that I use (Use them if you wish, but it's even better if you can make up your own!):

  • A telephone handset means a phone call
  • An envelope with the letter "E" means e-mail
  • A face with an open mouth is me giving a speech
  • A cup of coffee usually means meeting a friend
  • A spider web means the World Wide Web
  • A crystal ball means the future
  • A target with an arrow means a goal
  • An apple means teaching ("apple for the teacher")
  • A group of heads means a meeting

There are no fixed "rules" for Mind Mapping, but you might find these guidelines useful:

  • Choose a good environment that stimulates your creativity and visual thinking. I often create my Mind Maps while sipping a cappuccino in an outdoor cafe by the river.
  • Use pictures rather than words wherever possible.
  • If you use words, use single words, not phrases or sentences.
  • Use color.
  • Re-draw a Mind Map if it's getting too cluttered or ugly. I often draw two Mind Maps for a speech: One for simply "dumping" all my ideas on to paper, and the second to arrange them in a sensible way.

Don't get too bogged down with your Mind Maps. They don't need to make sense to anybody else - they are for you to organize your thoughts.

When you present your speech, take the Mind Map with you and use it in place of notes. Or try your speech without any notes at all - you'll discover that it's much easier to visualize a Mind Map than to memorize written notes.

Mind Mapping has more applications than just writing speeches. I use Mind Mapping for planning each week, summarizing books that I read, taking notes at seminars, and even for writing this article. It's a simple, powerful tool. Try it - it works.


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