Public Speaking About the Pro-Truth Pledge

Caption: Agnes Vishnevkin speaking at a rally about the Pro-Truth Pledge (Courtesy of Agnes Vishnevkin)

Are you interested in doing public speaking about the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP)? Doing so is a very effective means of spreading the word and getting people to sign up.So what’s actually involved in public speaking about the pledge?

Preparation for Public Speaking

Giving a speech about the pledge requires being prepared. Such preparation involves both developing skills and mental comfort in giving speeches, specific content knowledge about the pledge, and the actual materials for your speech.

To develop skills and mental comfort requires practice. The biggest stumbling block to getting such practice stems from anxiety about public speaking. Fortunately, there are many effective techniques to address speaking anxiety that I describe in this article.

After overcoming anxiety, and doing some practice, you can go on to give presentations. If you’ve never given a public speech in your life, you can start speaking to a room of 10 to 20 people, to build up your comfort zone. There are many low-stakes venues eager to host speakers on the Pro-Truth Pledge. Then, you can go on to larger and more high-profile venues.

What about specific content knowledge? Being familiar with the pledge and the Frequently Asked Questions, which are on the homepage of the website, is important. So is familiarity with the broader Pro-Truth movement, as described in this outline.

Finally, the speech itself. Different audiences require different speeches, and we have all kinds of materials you might need to prepare your speech in the public Google Drive folder. You might be asked to give a rally speech, and you can use these three examples of videotaped speeches (1, 2, 3), and this text of a speech. You might be asked to give a virtual presentation, as in this videotaped example and this PowerPoint Presentation. Perhaps you will be giving a presentation at a service club, such as Rotary International: here’s a PowerPoint used at one such presentation. Use the materials in that folder to adapt the speech to your audience.

Research Speaking Opportunities

Ok, you feel reasonably ready. Now what?

Now, find speaking opportunities! Look first for low-stakes opportunities in communities and organizations of which you are a part. Are you a member of a Toastmasters group? Do you belong to a values-based community? Do you have an active community in your apartment building co-op or neighborhood? What about a learning group at work? Offer to give them a speech about the pledge! The comfort of presenting to that audience will help you stretch and grow.

Next, easy opportunities to speak on the Pro-Truth Pledge are at local political clubs. For example, there are many political party clubs: Republican, Democratic, Libertarian, Green, and others. Many areas have political actions groups not tied to a party, but just promoting various causes or simply civic activism or voter rights. Service clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, and others have a need for speakers every week or so. Senior centers regularly host speakers. So do science and philosophy clubs, and libraries do as well. Some values-based groups welcome outside speakers, especially if you belong to that value system. So if you happen to be Episcopalian and there are several Episcopal churches in town, or where you are travelling, try to arrange a presentation there. Some values-based groups such as secular humanist groups or Unitarian Universalist churches are quite open to speakers outside their values system, so investigate those in particular.

To find these places, Google is your friend. Here is the result for a search “senior centers near me” in Google without quotation marks; here is the result for “service clubs near me,” also without quotation marks; here is the result for “political clubs near me,” same deal about quotation marks. Another friend is Meetup.com: use it to look for meetups relevant to politics and social activism. The category “movement” meetups, as in this link, can prove useful. See if an established meetup wants you to give a talk.

Do your research in an organized manner. For best results, use your computer, not phone, to conduct research if possible. Create a spreadsheet with a section for the name of the organization offering the speaking opportunity; the name and contact information, ideally including both phone and email, of the person(s) in charge of selecting speakers for the speaking opportunity; brief description of the speaking opportunity itself; likely audience; why the opportunity would be a good fit for the PTP; links relevant to the speaking opportunity (the more, the better); description of interactions with person(s) selecting speakers; finally, general notes.

While some people prefer to use pen and paper for such research, there’s a good reason to use spreadsheets. You might end up sharing the spreadsheet later with others to help them do speaking in this area, and you don’t want to type these things up after you already wrote them out. Another good reason is that we provided this template spreadsheet for you to use: just click on “File” and then “Make a Copy” and you have a perfect spreadsheet for yourself to use for doing research.

A part of doing research is evaluating whether a particular venue is actually interested in a speech about the PTP. Here is a generic template pitch you can send, and here is a template targeting a local area event. Adapt it to your own needs and the specifics of the venue. For example, if you are targeting a science club, emphasize the behavioral science nature of the pledge. If you are targeting a service club, talk about the positive social impact of creating a more truth-oriented world, and for Rotary clubs in particular, describe how the Pro-Truth Pledge aligns with the Rotary Four-Way Test.

If you are part of a group of people in your locale researching public speaking events, make a Google Form such as this one made by the Ohio PTP Advocates group (directions on Google Forms here). Such Google Forms help coordinate the research of multiple people together, and because they can see what has already been found, they won’t research the same thing. Very handy! Then, you can have a point person in charge of communicating about events to people who engage in public speaking. That way, you can divide the research from other aspects of public speaking. Such division allows people who are more introverted and research-oriented to do research, and people who are more extroverted to do public speaking.

Now, let me be clear: this is in no way an absolute divide. Most people who are part of the Pro-Truth movement tend to be more introverted than extroverted. Despite being quite introverted myself, I do a lot of social activities. It’s just about what is easier to do for people. For example, while I can do public speaking, it’s easier for me to do writing: that’s the biggest impact I can personally make. For other people, writing is not their strength. So if you are in an organizing role and can make things easier for people by playing to their strengths, do so. Still, I know that there are people who specifically want to stretch themselves and expand their comfort zone: for example, I know one PTP Advocate who is doing public speaking in part because he wants to improve his skills in this arena. So if people want to expand their comfort zone, support them in doing so!

Likewise, consider a division of responsibilities in doing pitching. If you have several speakers in the area, let one pitch a few places, and someone else pitch a few others. Then, from the places they don’t hear back, let another person pitch it. Sometimes, it’s the presenter more than the content that matters. For example, a service club might be more interested in a presentation from a business professional than a political activist, while a political club might have the opposite preference. You can also have a specific person doing pitching of several speakers to a single venue: for example, I pitched a Rotary club in Columbus with the option of either a professor or a business professional doing a speech on the PTP, and they chose the latter.

Pro tip for organizers: set up reminder systems for people who are doing research, pitching, and speaking. There are a number of people who commit to doing these activities, and then life gets in the way. It’s not that they don’t want to do research, pitching, or speaking, it’s simply that when their attention is not on this topic, they forget to do it. People have different personalities, and those who are in organizer positions generally are well organized themselves. Help others be their best selves by sending them reminders to conduct what they said they want to do! You can use organizing systems such as Trello to help organize your own activities, and scheduling reminders such as Gmelius to send recurring emails to others, or FollowUpThen, which offers a reminder service for yourself and others. Remember, you ARE NOT imposing on their time by reminding them to do these tasks, you are simply supporting them in achieving goals they said they want to achieve.

Gearing up for the Speech

Your pitch worked: someone wants you to speak about the Pro-Truth Pledge! What do you do now?

At this point, figure out the logistics. Send them well in advance all the materials they will need for marketing, which will likely involve a brief description of the speech, your bio, and how you want to be introduced at the speech itself. Get clarity on when the event is, how long in advance you should arrive, whether they or you will provide the equipment and handouts. Ask for accurate directions to the event, both getting there and parking, and how to get from the parking lot to the event, and also get the event planner’s emergency contact number. Try to get them to videotape you if at all possible.

You might be working with an excellent event planner who will ask you for everything in advance and give you all the information you need, or an inexperienced one who is just starting their job and will require a lot of hand-holding from you. Make sure you are ready to provide that hand-holding: it’s your job to make sure the speech goes as well as possible as opposed to just leaving it all in the hands of the event planner. So jump in and guide the event planner if you don’t get the things you need in advance.

Then, use the strategies described above to adapt your speech to the venue. After that, practice the speech several times until you are very comfortable with it. Also, consider what kind of questions you might get if the event involves a Q&A session. Here’s a videotaped virtual Q&A about the pledge that you can use to get ideas for the kind of questions people raise, and you can also watch the Q&A at the end of this videotaped presentation. Practice answering such questions.

Here’s a pro tip: if you have a short speech scheduled, such as 10 to 20 minutes, followed by a Q&A, you can choose to avoid covering some topics in the speech and say you will leave them for the Q&A. For instance, you can say in your speech that “the Pro-Truth Pledge has a thorough system of holding public figures and organizations accountable, and if anyone is interested in knowing more about how it works, ask me in the Q&A.” That way, you can get the kind of questions you want in that time. Another pro tip: get other PTP Advocates to gather signatures, especially if it’s a sizable audience. It gives the PTP extra legitimacy to have more than one person representing it.

The Day Before the Speech

The day before the speech, make sure to get a lot of rest. Prepare all of your materials the day beforehand. Know what you will wear: aim to wear something that is slightly above the level you expect your audience to wear. For instance, if you expect they will wear dressy casual, wear business casual. If it’s appropriate to do so, wear a PTP shirt, such as I did at this rally: political clubs and groups, as well as any sort of rally event, is generally the right place to do so.

Prepare and take any equipment that you might need. If you are going to be using a PowerPoint Presentation, take extra equipment just in case, such as your laptop, a charging cable and extension for your laptop, a VGA cable to connect the laptop to their projector and a dongle if your laptop needs it, a remote control for changing slides and batteries for the remote control, and small speakers if you will use sound. The organization hosting you might say they will provide any or all of these, but it’s really better safe than sorry: rely on yourself first and foremost.

Put in an audiorecorder app on your smartphone and know how to use it. Generally the quality of audio on video recordings is poor, unless you have a separate mike devoted solely to recording you for the video. This is why a separate audio recording is needed to make a quality video.

Get ready any personal items that you might need. Take a full bottle of water, both to have before the speech, and top it off to drink during the speech. Grab some high-energy food such as nuts or protein bars: even if they offer to feed you, their food might not be to your liking. If you wear glasses, bring an extra pair, just in case. Bring some meds for headache, stomach pain, and anything else that might be salient. Lip balm, throat lozenges and mints, hairbrush, skin moisturizer, tissues, lint brush, deodorant, and other personal hygiene items particular to your needs are also helpful. I generally don’t bring a hairbrush, for example, as I wear a very short haircut, but I do bring along anti-anxiety medications as I suffer from social anxiety: adapt these suggestions to your needs.

For materials to take to the speech, make sure to take your notes, if you have any. If you are speaking to a professional audience, bring along some PTP business cards to give away to audience members interested in materials to hand out to others who they think might be interested. If you are speaking in a non-professional context, bring along some PTP fliers for the same purpose.

When you are giving a speech in a context where there is no long Q&A (15 minutes or more) at the end and/or the audience is large, make sure to bring along one-page PTP descriptions and sign-up sheets, enough for each audience member. Collect them afterwards, and scan or take photos of each, and send them to info [at] intentionalinsights [dot] org. If you have a guarantee of a Q&A that is longer than 15 minutes, and the audience is less than 30, you can use a PTP binder or clipboard and pass it around to gather signatures during the Q&A. This link provides all the instructions you will need to create a PTP binder, and all the materials for the binder are at this link. If you are just using a clipboard, here is a PTP sign-up sheet. Print all of these materials out ahead of time. Don’t rely on the venue to have them ready if you can do it yourself.

DO NOT assume that people will go to the website after you gave your speech. Our experience is that even after a great speech, people get distracted and forget their good intention to sign up. It’s like asking them to sign up to a newsletter without giving them a sign-up sheet on the spot: they are very unlikely to sign up later. If circumstances conspire against you and there is no way you can bring a sign-up sheet, have a 1-minute pause after the end of your speech and before the Q&A to give people time to sign up on their smart phones. If you have no Q&A, build a pause into your speech for them to sign up.

The Main Event: Giving the Speech

On the day of the speech, arrive to your venue early. If you don’t have electronics, arrive 30-45 minutes early. If you do have electronics, arrive 45-60 minutes early. The bigger the audience, the earlier you should arrive.

First thing to do is meet the local organizer(s) of the talk, and the technician(s). Be polite and friendly, and check whether they carried through on their commitments. If they forgot anything, do the magic trick of taking it out of your briefcase, or going back to your car for whatever is needed. Talk through the schedule of events if the program includes anything besides your speech. Double-check on the length of the talk and Q&A and the style of how the Q&A is usually moderated: I strongly recommend avoiding taking questions during the speech itself unless absolutely necessary. Make sure the person who will be introducing you has the correct text for the introduction. Work our a system to signal any problems during the presentation.

Prepare and set everything up to your needs and satisfaction. Test the audio, slides, Internet, and anything else you need. Make sure the podium is set up well for your needs. Walk the stage and get comfortable with it.

Then, take care of the audience. Adjust the room, such as lighting, curtains, seating, temperature, and other needs, to optimize audience impact and comfort during your talk. To help you do so, take a seat in different parts of the audience space, and see how it feels. Is there sunlight shining directly into the eyes of audience members that would distract them? Is the loudspeaker located too close to a section of the audience? Address these problems.

Put a copy of the one-page PTP descriptions and sign-up sheet on each chair, or deputize someone to do it for you. If you plan to pass a binder or clipboard, ask someone to do it at an appropriate signal from you. Check with the organizer on whether it’s common for people to leave between the talk and Q&A: if so, you’ll want to make sure to pass around the binder or clipboard, or ask people to sign the one-page PTP sign-up sheet, well in advance of when people usually start leaving.

If you are extroverted or simply have sufficient energy, greet people who come into the room. Chat to them about the topic of the presentation. You get extra brownie points if you work what they say into the speech, as in “Bob said he’s really concerned about the misinformation surrounding climate change” or “Susy’s really worried about all conservatives being painted with a broad brush as racist” and then leading into how that connects with the PTP. As someone who is introverted, I usually do mindfulness meditation before giving speeches, but do make sure to take some time to chat a bit with audience members. A few minutes before the speech, use the restroom (pro tip: if you’re already wearing a wireless microphone, turn off the sound). Do calming activities to get yourself ready. Turn on the audiorecorder on your phone.

Now, the speech. You’ve practiced it plenty of times already: this is game time. If you haven’t given many speeches before, you’re likely to be anxious. That will cause you to speak quickly. Don’t do that. The audience’s first impression is really important, so focus extra hard on getting those first couple of minutes right. Make yourself relatable to the audience by thanking them for coming, and by drawing a connection between who they are and the PTP. Then, deliver the speech. Keep an eye on the clock: I use my smartphone as a timer, or you might bring a separate timer device if you prefer. Also record your speech on your own smartphone, and hopefully the hosts will videotape you: you can also get another PTP advocate to videotape your speech.

The highlight of the speech should be the call to action, namely the request that they sign the PTP. Make it passionate and relatable. Share your own commitment to the PTP: why you did it, why you believe it matters, and why we need as many people to sign it as possible. Appeal to the identity of your audience, and show them how their own values should impel them to sign the pledge. Whip up enthusiasm around the promise of the Pro-Truth movement as a whole as you make the call to action, showing the audience the dangers of the current situation and the promise of a better future if the Pro-Truth Pledge becomes widespread.

During the Q&A, avoid back-and-forth discussions with audience members. Some may be skeptical, and your goal is not to convince the skeptics. You simply give them the information, and they can choose what to do with it. Avoid arguing: fortunately, you have the power of the stage. If they are insistent, you can tell them to take out their smartphone and look up the FAQs on the website, which have links to a number of articles about the pledge. You can also tell them that they can contact the PTP organizers through the website, who can answer their questions in more depth. If someone starts getting ornery, say “thanks for sharing your thoughts: does anyone else have questions” or something in that style. You would be missing out on important and valuable questions that people might have that might be preventing them from signing the pledge. By helping address their concerns, you are getting more people excited and eager to sign up.

After the speech and the Q&A, stay around. A number of people may be excited to talk to you, whether to get involved or talk further about the effectiveness of the pledge. Again, avoid talking to ornery people if there are others around who might be interested in the pledge. If you personally like a good argument, you can then talk to the ornery person, but remember you are under no obligation to do so. You just gave a speech: you deserve to relax! For those who are excited about getting involved, ask them if they’d like to help gather signatures or make a donation. If so, take their contact information, and give it to the local area organizer, or to someone from the PTP Central Coordination Committee. If they want to donate cash on the spot, you should write them a receipt.

At political clubs especially, you will have a substantial chance of running into public figures, such as politicians or reporters. Remember to ask them to provide you with a business card for the PTP central organizers to input their public information into the website. We will also follow up with them about a pledge statement they may want sent around to pledge-takers and hosted on the PTP Public Figures and Organizations page.

After you finish chatting – which you should do to the extend your energy level permits – gather up the one-page sign-up forms or binder/clipboard. Also, get the videotape of your session. Then, if the hosts asked you to attend a social event afterward, consider doing so, again based on your energy level.

Now Bring It Home

So you come home after the excitement of the speech. What next?

You might be thrilled to input the signatures you gathered into the PTP website. If so, great: here are the directions on doing so.

However, your skills and interests might be less in data entry than in other PTP areas. Worry not! We have volunteers who are excited about inputting people into the website. Just scan or take nice-quality photos of the signatures, and email them to info [at] intentionalinsights [dot] org.

Next, get your videotaped speech and the audio recording from your phone. Send the video and audio to info [at] intentionalinsights [dot] org and we will put it together for you and put it on the Youtube channel for Intentional Insights, and promote it via the PTP social media, unless you prefer us not to do so. If you only have an audio recording for some reason, send it in as well, and we will put it on the Intentional Insights podcast.

After you do all that, refill the supply of materials, such as one-page sign-up sheets and others, which you used up. Then, check your calendar for the next speaking opportunity and prepare everything you might need for that.

After the video is ready, watch your video and consider if you can make any improvements in your delivery next time. If you only have an audio recording for some reason, listen to yourself to try to improve. Get feedback from other speakers for the PTP on delivery improvement suggestions.

Let us know your experience and any questions you might have!

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