20 February 2014

Talking Points # 1*

(*Public speaking, formally and informally, is a key skill for leaders and a necessary part of a strong executive presence. In this limited blog series we’ll focus on the main steps for building your public speaking presentation skills. Your questions are welcomed and will be addressed in future Talking Points.)

Fear of public speaking is reported to be the number one fear of many people.  This seems a little extreme to me, but I know from my work with a lot of smart people that speaking in public does cause some a great deal of stress.  I also know and have seen people move from ‘speaking just isn’t my thing’ to being competent and confident speakers and presenters. I’ve observed that the key to this change is often in the prep and there are four steps to the process:

1.  Know your audience — really understand who you’ll be talking with. What are they interested in? What do they already know? What specifically will they be listening for?  Audiences often listen for selfish purposes — they want to know early into your remarks or presentation what they’ll get out of listening to you. Make sure you know what they’ll be listening for and then be sure to deliver it!

2.  Know your topic — ideally you’re passionate and excited about your topic, but at the very least you need to be knowledgeable and able to speak with breadth and deep knowledge about it. If you don’t have all the information your audience is listening for, acknowledge it up front and highlight specifically what you will be able to share with them.

3. Know the details — be sure to gather the ‘specifics’ in terms of your speech or presentation, including knowing exactly how long you are to speak, who else will be speaking, who will introduce you, what A/V is available and most appropriate for this audience, and when you will take questions.

4. Schedule out your practice time. The only way to dramatically improve as a speaker is to step up when the opportunity to speak presents itself and then practice, practice, practice. A good rule of thumb is to practice a full speech or presentation six times, including at least three of them standing and with your A/V.

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