Understanding Speech Delivery Using Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

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Simon Sinek believes he knows the secret to why some ideas flourish and other ideas die.  He says powerful leaders and communicators start with why.  Sinek’s “Golden Circle” explains his theory:

goldencircle

Why is concerned with the reason or purpose of something.  How is about the manner or means by which we do something.  What is detailed information really focused on specifying something.  In Simon Sinek’s TED Talk, he explains Apple’s why as their purpose: to think differently, to push and to challenge the status quo.  How Apple does this, the means and manner by which they share their purpose with the world, is through effective design and engineering.  Lastly, the what, are Apple’s specific products: the iPhone, the MacBook Pro, iTunes.

Starting with why, next focusing on how, and then getting specific with the what is an approach I take in the classroom when teaching students a new concept.  When it comes to public speaking and presentation, it’s important to have an overall delivery goal, a purpose for your delivery, the why.

Why?

When it comes to delivery, I am a proponent of Garr Reynolds’ “naked presenter” philosophy which says effective delivery should be natural, authentic, and real in order to connect with an audience.  Reynolds says:

Being naked involves stripping away all that is unnecessary to get at the essence of your message. The naked presenter approaches the presentation task embracing the ideas of simplicity, clarity, honesty, integrity, and passion. She presents with a certain freshness. The ideas may or may not be radical, earth shattering, or new. But there is a “newness” and freshness to her approach and to her content.  (Source)

Understanding this “naked” philosophy of presenting gives us a clear idea on why to deliver a speech this way: because we can deeply connect with our audience if we are human beings and if we show that humanity to others.  This fundamental why purpose, or starting place, is essential when discussing, teaching, or learning more about effective presentation delivery.

How?

It’s much easier to explain how to do something once you’ve established that why.  Take a look back at Sinek’s Golden Circle.  Starting from the middle, the core, and working out gives people a clear understanding of the bigger picture before tackling the specific details.  Most audience members will only connect with an idea once they know why that idea is important and why it matters to them.  Only after that purpose is established will they focus on gathering more information on how to live out that purpose and what to do to move in the right direction.

Reynolds breaks down how to deliver a speech using the naked presenter philosophy in “Make Your Next Presentation Naked.”  He says we can be present in the moment; avoid trying to impress others and embrace trying to help/inform/teach others; keep the lights on; ditch our script and speak naturally from an outline; come out from behind the podium; move around the stage; and simplify (Source).  He has many more how tips here.

Another great article explaining how to present naturally is “10 Powerful Body Language Tips.”  The article examines nonverbal communication, body language, and gives us the means and methods by which we can speak more naturally using effective body language.  We can power pose, remove barriers, smile, shake hands, and mirror the body language of our audience members, for example (Source).

Again, notice that some of these how tips are still a bit conceptual.  The authors let us know the means and manner by which to present “naked,” but they aren’t yet giving us definitions.  Definitions come at the what level.

What?

Unfortunately, as Simon Sinek mentions in his landmark TED Talk, many people begin with the what.  Many businesses focus on what.  In my discipline, many teachers’ lessons only explain the what.  For example, before I learned about Garr Reynolds’ The Naked Presenter, I used to teach delivery by breaking it apart and defining each of its pieces: hand gestures, eye contact, vocal variety.  I was teaching my students the what, and it didn’t work very well for them.  If you’ve ever been in a public speaking classroom with a teacher lecturing on and on with the definitions of pronunciation versus articulation versus enunciation, you know the feelings my students experienced: boredom, apathy, annoyance.  The entire time I listed definitions, they were wondering, “What’s the point of this?  Why does this matter?”

So only after we define why and how should we get into those definitions – the what.  When it comes to speech delivery, we should understand the purpose first, the means and methods second, and the definitions last.

For more tips on effective delivery, please read the “Delivery” section of Creating Communication.  Notice that the first post in the section starts with why: “The Goal of Speech Delivery.”

How do you teach or learn about delivery?  Do you agree that Sinek’s Golden Circle model works as an effective tool for communicating ideas in a powerful way?

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2 thoughts on “Understanding Speech Delivery Using Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

  1. Gary Bisaga

    Hi Alex, me again. This piece is very timely. I got to do a presentation today on the exciting topic of “API documentation best practices.” I had seen Sinek’s “start with why” TED talk and though I didn’t specifically think of that structure, I did think of Nancy’s low/high pattern, and started with the WHY, all the problems of not having these practices. We then moved to the HOW (a demo of a prototype I built with the standards), and finally the WHAT (the standard). Even then I decided to do live coding, involving the audience.

    I’m not 100% happy with the talk, but I think I got through and I got a number of very positive comments. I’ve always enjoyed speaking, but am more excited about it now than in years. Thank you for helping me.

    • Kudos to you, Gary, on another successful speech! We can certainly learn a lot from Sinek, Duarte, and others on how to continue growing as presenters. Happy to hear you are happy with the presentation. All best, Alex

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