Public speaking

So here is a post I hadn’t thought of posting. Public speaking is so personal and some people seem really good at it while others just don’t seem to get it. But a few minutes ago I thought I’d share my thoughts on it as it was something I just did today.

I happen to enjoy speaking in public. Yes I do get nervous when it is a big crowd and by big crowd I generally put that at about 100+ people. This is a personal “big crowd” definition and you probably have a different one. Whatever the size of the crowd I usually follow the same approach

So let me go though a few things on this:
1. How I prepare

2. How I deliver

3. How I pass key messages

So how do I prepare?

Generally you need to know your subject. The better you know it, the more immersed you are in it and the more confident you will feel to talk about it. So I make sure I know what I am talking about.

I prepare key messages I want to get across. Never go for too many. People tend to retain a fraction of what you say. So single out those things you want to say and make sure you address them right at the start and conclude with them.

If you want someone to know your year was hard given the external environment, that you delivered on your strategic goals and that trends are looking up. Say that right away.

People are paying attention at the start. Then expand on that and add the detail to get them to grasp why you said that at the beginning. Then wrap it up with the same message. People tend to retain what you say at the end when you tell them “to conclude…”

I like to make it easy for people.

Illustrate your messages with examples. Make them easy to understand and draw parallels with easier things to understand or illustrate if your topic is complex.

You need to prepare all of this and get comfortable with it. If you don’t you are going to be nervous. That creates stress and stress is like a fog, it can get thick and cause you to lose track of where you are going. Nobody wants to get lost in front of a big group of peers or coworkers.

How do I deliver?

About 70% of your presentation or topic getting though to people or being retained is going to be about how you speak, articulate, move around and look. This is the visual language you give across.

What expressions you make. How you pause on important items. How engaged you look. People like movement. Exaggerate movement as it captures their attention and they will need to look at it. Someone who stands still and doesn’t move their arms quickly becomes boring.

When you move people look and when they look they tend to pay more attention This is what helps people retain things as you speak.

Also, if you pause after a phrase people will tend to look up and again pay attention. A pause is a signal that something important is coming. It signals a change and silence is a great way to capture attention. I use this a lot. Don’t think you need to talk non stop.

Look people in the eyes. Nobody likes talking to someone who doesn’t look at them when replying. It feels odd. Speaking in public is a form of talking and people want you to look at them.

How do I deliver key messages?

Well you should have been able to see where I was going with this from the above.

– I deliver key messages at the start and I conclude with them.

– I pause when I want to emphasise something and when I want people to retain a point.

– I make sure I move my arms and shift my position so people pay attention, but I usually stop and stand strong on both feet when I want to emphasize something important is coming. Trust me this works.

What about things not to do?

– don’t rock back and forth on your toes and heels. It looks odd and makes you look shifty and nervous. It does not instill trust.

– don’t pace left and right. Imagine talking to someone who kept walking all over the place. It can make you dizzy and you stop paying attention.

– don’t shout. Nobody likes shouting.

– don’t whisper. Nobody will be able to hear you.

– don’t spurt out endless lists of things without helping people know what is important. If it is key, tell them “this is key”. Don’t make it hard for them.

– don’t try be funny if you are not. It won’t work. Ever.

Public speaking is fun and you get better the more you try. Everyone needs to start somewhere and if you don’t start you’ll never get better. So get speaking.


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