So, You Think You Can Speak...?
Public speaking is a leadership skill. It’s a business requirement. And it’s something that most people either dread or aren’t good at.
Whether you’re speaking from a podium or conference room, in a formal client or business presentation, or sharing an informal recap to your team, these are all forms of public speaking. Your delivery style is part of your personal brand and reflects on the brand and reputation of the company or client you represent.
Public speaking creates opportunities to get your message across to your audience. Doing so without distraction is what powerful public speaking is all about.
Great public speaking takes preparation, organization, and practice. I don’t believe it’s a gift or an innate talent. Public speaking is a skill, which means it must be learned and mastered.
There are three things all great speakers have in common:
1 – They are prepared.
2 – They never wing-it. Ever.
3 – They know their introduction and conclusion cold. Not memorized, but confident.
What to Say
Preparation starts with planning what to say. This four-step plan will get you started and set you up for success in any speech.
1. Write down everything you want to get across in a full-sentence narrative, word for word, including punctuation. In one sitting. Everything.
2. Say your full-sentence narrative aloud. Hear how it sounds to your ear. Pay attention to words that trip you up and to sentences that just don’t make sense.
3. Rearrange your word-for-word version several times until it flows, idea to idea, in a logical way. Remember that you are telling a story, so you should organize this rearranged version with a beginning, middle, and end. You will probably spend the most time on this step.
4. Reduce your narrative to a skeletal outline. Only include the key ideas. Remove prepositions and transition statements. Include trigger words that will remind you of the concept or storyline you’re telling. This skeletal outline is what you’ll speak from.
The Bones of a Great Skeletal Outline
When you speak, regardless of whether it’s from the podium, standing, or sitting, your skeletal outline is your best friend. When you create that outline, follow these do’s and don’ts.
· DON’T use all caps. It may seem like a good idea, but all caps isn’t the way we read and remember. We do both most naturally with upper-lower case.
· DO use a large font. I like a 20-point font. It makes it easy to take a quick glance at the outline and pick out your key thoughts and place on the page.
· DO stop three inches from the bottom of each page. This gives you room to slide or manipulate your sheets without your hand getting in the way of the outline notes.
· DO number your pages. This is a little insurance policy against dropping your skeletal outline and losing your place.
· DON’T use index cards. They worked in 8th grade, but they don’t work in business. They don’t hold enough information and there is no room for your hands without covering up your notes. Most important, index cards quickly become something you’ll subconsciously play with: fanning, tapping, stacking, flipping. That’s a distraction your audience doesn’t want or need.
· DO be sure that all of your key messages – your most important words – are included. You don’t want to forget these points!
Then, practice, practice, practice.
My next blog post will cover HOW to practice for public speaking excellence. Future posts will address speaking with digital notes and PowerPoint and my top tips for developing a comfort level in any public speaking situation.