Using Journalism Tools in Public Speaking


How do you grab them from the beginning? Maybe by trying a “Nut Graph.” A nut graph (or graf) is an editorial tool used in journalism. It starts a sentence or paragraph that tells what your story is about (a kind of summary), but then builds with elaboration, counter arguments, and twists which bring your full message into focus.

Your introduction is the hook. The audience is immediately thinking, “This story, presentation, or address ‘is for me.’” This is called the “lead.” In traditional news reporting it tries to answer the who, what, where, why, and when briefly and succinctly. In a speech, it need not contain all these elements, but it still needs to capture you listeners’ expectations of relevance.

Remember to tease and entice. The lead is not the whole of your magic. So don’t give away the ending to your story in the nut graph. Then as you develop it, think what points your listeners will want to know next. Be sure to address these points. It might be useful to outline these yourself in the preparation stage for your speech.

In doing this though, remember flow, don’t over burden the content. Make the message yours, but in a way that they are teased into thinking, it’s “theirs.”

Finally, have fun. If you are enjoying it, it gives your audience a good reason to keep listening.

The Nut: Lead, hook, develop and entertain.


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