What’s our formula for making business public speaking easier? Find out what people WANT to know then allow them to get that information — from you.
In my previous post I talked about preparation and practice.
Once you know WHO in general you’re going to speak to, you have to know WHAT you’re going to speak about.
So now you are ready to put your thoughts on paper (virtual or physical). The most useful method I have found over the years is the physical cut and paste.
I emphasise the physical aspect of this method as I believe it helps to see the complete talk in front of you at any one time.
Each sentence (or point) should be written out , then physically move them around until you settle on an order that sounds right if you run the talk through your head.
It is not enough, however, to run a talk through your head. The physical requirement of talking out loud will determine where you need to breathe and this in turn affects how you can physically get the words out.
Presenting your talk out loud will also give you an idea of other physical characteristics you use when talking in public that you may not know about – like waving your hands around or scratching your head!
I once attended a refresher training course on talking in public where I was informed I waved my hands around which was a distraction to the audience.
My fellow trainees made me wear handcuffs for two days of the course until I was broken of this unconscious habit!
In a later post I will talk about timing of your speech but here I want to you start thinking about not filling in your total speech time with words. Remember when we were at school and the droning of the teacher’s voice suddenly stopped? Our reaction was to pay attention immediately (especially if this was a teacher who liked to ask questions of the class and we had not really been listening!).
A pause is very effective in any talk – it clears your head and gives you time to take a steadying breath. But more about that later……..
1. How long are you expected to speak?
If this hasn’t been made clear to you, ask. You cannot prepare an open ended talk and expect to be comfortable. In this situation neither you nor your audience have a path to follow during your talk.
2. What is the point I want to make with this speech?
Think about all the areas of information you could cover, then break that down into points. Sort these points into a logical order of development i.e. start with information your audience may already know, introduce new or develop existing information and finish with a summary.
3. Who and what is this speech for?
You will need to consider the topic of your talk, the occasion you are presenting it and the audience. Sometimes we feel that a formal and structured presentation is appropriate as it will help with nerves – mostly it accentuates them to those who are listening particularly when it is not a reflection of the topic, the occasion or how well the audience know you.
Just like an expert in any field, to be good at talking in public you need to practice. Some of us have skills that can be fine tuned and others avoid any opportunity to talk in public as we believe we “just can’t do it”.
Practice doesn’t have to be for a particular occasion. If you spend a bit of time in the car or on public transport, let a practice talk run through your head. You will find you get much better at putting your thoughts into a logical sequence if you are doing it every day – just like tying your shoelaces.
In a separate post I will talk about how to get your thoughts on paper (virtual or physical) so that you can really start practising!
As you might expect after 30+ years of coaching people about talking in public, I have amassed a wide and varied range of books on the topic. As part of my website resources cleanup I came across one titled “My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen”. It’s a collection of after dinner stories put together by Phyllis Shindler in 1986 as a fundraiser for Guy’s Hospital Paediatric Renal Unit in the United Kingdom.
Over 100 famous people have donated either an anecdote or an excerpt from an after dinner speech they have made. The speeches are entertaining, amusing and fine examples of how little you need to say to get your message across.
For example, the English actress Judi Dench provided this gem – “It has been a wonderful dinner, and as I am no after dinner speaker, may I offer to do the washing up.”
There is also some advice in the foreword from a gentleman who has heard many after dinner speeches. He outlines what makes a speech successful – “…..they should be well spoken, clearly and distinctly, not too fast or yet too slow, with the occasional pause for effect.” Nothing has changed!
You might be able to find a copy through your local second hand bookseller or one of my favourite sites – www.abebooks.com