Third Negative Speaker Syndrome

Posted by Katie McLaughlin on December 3, 2014

In an attempt to consolidate my feedback from various small and longer form talks I’ve presented over the past month, I’ve come to the conclusion that I appear to be suffering from the “Third Negative Speaker” Syndrome.

A trope in debating, the Third Negative speaker is the last in the line of six speakers, three a side, alternativing from Positive to Negative, the Third Negative Speaker is specifically told not to raise any new issues or introduce any new data. This is primarily because there is no opposing team member to then address the new information given. The Third Positive Speaker also has this limitation, but it’s still not unheard of for a ‘killer blow’ to appear in the fifth engagement.

Relating this to public speaking - I’ve seen evidence that the more information I give later in the talk, the more it becomes the focus and the main take away. What one should do is present the points early on, and elaborate more, then revalidate at the end. Simple stuff, really – but when you introduce the (normally effective) technical demonstration into the last quarter of the time frame, it means that you really should have mentioned at least most of the details in the earlier planned areas, and not go all out on ad-libbing by the end.

For instance, by this part of the blog post, I shouldn’t be introducing any new content, just reaffirming that the prior points are valid.

Although, for more story-like talks, where there is a gradual introduction of new information, bringing it to a close with an old one-two can be an effective way of driving home the one message.