Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Top Tips for Public Speaking

I do a lot of public speaking. I always have done. At primary school, I was given the good speaking parts because I had a clear voice and a good memory. As a teenager, I acted my socks off at my local theatre and as an adult, I’ve been speaking in public in every job I’ve had – whether it was running a training course, hosting a fashion show or giving the keynote at an international conference. It’s very much second nature to me and something I enjoy doing. Don’t get me wrong, despite years of practice, I still have to prepare – including rehearsing out loud. But I don’t have stage-fright or nerves in the same way that others have it. That element of stage-fright for me is excitement rather than fear and the cue to go on with the show. And I see public speaking as being a very important way to communicate your story and market yourself or your business, whether you’re in a panel discussion or on stage showcasing your latest wares.

It doesn’t always go right though, as this video shows. It’s from CES just a couple of weeks ago and it’s Michael Bay talking up Samsung on the main stage.

It looks like he’s under-prepared and under-rehearsed. I expect Samsung paid him a lot of money to come up on stage and say nice things about their kit, but without the teleprompter, he had nothing to say. I guess that’s also why he’s a movie director rather than an actor.

Don’t let this happen to you. And don’t let this put you off either!

Here are some resources I’ve come across recently which may help you if lack of preparedness, stage-fright or just sheer dread thwart you.

Zach Holman has put together a lovely website with everything you need to know about preparing and delivering a conference talk. You can find it here http://speaking.io/. I don’t have much to add to his advice as it’s great except that it’s well worth watching and listening to other speakers. Sometimes it’s hard to take an objective view as you’re listening to them for the content and in a different context. But if you can, also check out their performance and see what you like or don’t like about how they’ve done it and have a think about how you could improve on that yourself. I find listening to panel discussions on Radio 4 quite helpful for this too as you’re not distracted by any slides or visuals and you can really tune into someone’s personal style.

Mary Portas tweeted this link the other day. It’s a short article about the one phrase you ought not to say. I concur and I’ve been guilty of this one in the past. You have been warned…

Of course, in order to do any public speaking, you need the chance to speak. Most commonly, this is about being accepted to speak at a conference. Here’s a link to some sound advice about putting that conference proposal together. It has a technical bent, but the advice is valid regardless of topic. There’s some more advice here too.

Public speaking is not rocket science. I’m glad that it’s not something that everyone’s good at as it leaves plenty of openings for me to do my thing. But it’s also clear to me it’s the sort of thing that you get better at the more practice you have. So don’t be shy. Have a go.

Good luck.