Some Public Speaking Pointers?
When comedian Jerry Seinfeld once quipped, “at a funeral the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy,” the joke reflected reality. According to national surveys, fear of public speaking is America’s greatest fear, surpassing fear of illness, fear of flying, fear of terrorism, and, surprisingly, the fear of death itself!”
Jerry Seinfeld got a big laugh when he joked about a survey which found that the fear of public speaking ranks higher in most people’s minds than the fear of death. “In other words,” he deadpanned, “at a funeral, the average person would rather be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”
Since I frequently do public speaking and since, at least sometime in their career, most
leaders have to stand before a group, such as a civic club, a board of directors, or a conference audience, and make a presentation of some type, I thought it might be helpful to readers of The MBA Dispatch if I provided some pointers on public speaking.
Be prepared — The Boy Scout motto, “be prepared,” should be the motto of everyone who stands before an audience. When you stand before an audience, know your topic inside and out. If you have done your homework, you can stand behind the podium feeling confident in your expertise.
Have a point — Even if you are incredibly brilliant and have what should be an extremely interesting topic, no one wants to hear you talk for the sake of talking. Make a point. No one wants to sit and listen to a long rambling speech, regardless of how intelligent the speaker is. What is the purpose of the speech? Let your audience know what you want them to do or know as a result of your presentation.
When I am asked to serve as the keynote speaker at a conference, I look at the theme of the conference to determine a point I can make that ties into the conference’s theme. Sometimes, I even call the executive director of the association or the program coordinator and ask, “What is it that you want the participants to know or do as a result of the keynote speech.
Know your audience — Although you may make the same speech to one audience that you have made to another, tailor your jokes and stories to each specific audience. Many stories and jokes can be readily adapted for a variety of audiences by changing the setting of the story or the identity of characters within the story.
Write it Out — Write your speech out. A good speech has three elements: an introduction, a body and a conclusion.
The introduction should be short, grab the audience’s attention and cause them to want to hear what you have to say.
The body of the speech is where you make your point (or points), letting them know what you want them to know or do as a result of your presentation.
The conclusion should sum up your presentation and remind them what you have talked about. If you want them to do something as a result of your speech, then the conclusion should issue a call for action.
The purpose of writing out your speech is so that you can read it and see how it sounds to you. This may cause you to change some of the wording or move ideas around in the presentation.
Do not try to memorize your speech, or it will sound stilted and unnatural. You may want to take what you have written or an outline of what you have written with you when you give the speech as a reference sheet to help you stay on point during your presentation, but do not read your speech to your audience.
Practice, Practice, Practice — Rehearse your presentation. Practice reading it word for word. Then develop an outline for the presentation and practice delivering your speech from the outline. Do it over and over until you have your speech down pat and are able to make eye contact throughout the presentation. The more you rehearse the more natural you will be in front of an audience.
While speaking before an audience can be a frightening experience, the more you do it, the less frightening it becomes. What research tells us is that you will only conquer the fear of public speaking by standing in front of audiences and delivering a presentation.
Why not give it a try?