CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – OCTOBER 18, 2020 (PT.2)
Know Your Audience
You cannot prepare for a public speaking engagement without understanding who your audience are. Ask yourself these key questions:
- Why are they there?
- What are their expectations of you?
You could take this exercise a step further and “design” your typical audience member. Give them a name, appearance, age, employment history, religious and political views. Then prepare a talk just for them.
Public speaking starts with writing. Many of the rules for crafting a compelling story apply to writing a speech. For example:
- Ensure your address as a beginning, middle and end. If appropriate, recap regularly and sum up at the end.
- Outline your topics first using headings or keywords – then build your sentences.
- Engage your audience from the start. Ask questions. Interact.
- Use the rule of three to reinforce points (for example “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”).
- Show don’t tell – use examples and stories to illustrate your point. It will be far more memorable.
Write the speech from start to finish and read it out loud, record it and get feedback.
Of course, you don’t want to read your speech word for word on the day. If you do, you will not get a chance to engage with your audience. It’s boring watching someone speak to you with their face buried in a pile of notes.
Your speech needs to be distilled down to discrete cue cards. Here are some tips for creating cue cards:
- Use a sentence or heading, to sum up the topic of each card.
- Include keywords to jog your memory.
- Type your cue cards if there is any chance you won’t be able to read your handwriting on the day.
- Color code your cue cards if your speech includes key themes.
- Number your cards.
- Write on one side of each card only.
- Include approximate timings on your cards.
- Use plenty of white space.
- Think about answers to likely questions and put them on relevant cards.
Power Posing And Routine
In Amy Cuddy’s popular TED talk, and later in her book “Presence”, she explores the effect positive body language can have on the mind. Cuddy advocates a “fake it till you make it” approach to confidence. If you look and sound confident – you will be more confident. Use the power of body language to melt nerves away.
It might sound like a load of old bunkum, but what have you got to lose? Try holding a Wonder Woman style pose (stand straight, hands on hips, chin up) for a few minutes before you make a speech.
Use your posing time to centre your body and mind and then go for it. Your power pose, combined with some deep breathing and quiet time, might just stem the flow of excess adrenaline and allow you to turn those butterflies into an asset.
I’d recommend turning a chain of activities like this into a habit. Routines are calming and can ground you before stepping into the unknown.
Once you’ve started to speak, you won’t have the mental capacity to remember long and complicated coping strategies. Here are just a few simple things you can do:
- If it’s appropriate, have water with you. You can take a sip to fix a dry mouth, or at any point, if you lose your train of thought or need a moment to center yourself, take a sip.
- Wear breathable, comfortable clothes, where possible. Don’t wear a color that will show up an attack of stress sweating. If you are on a stage with lighting, it will be warm – bear that in mind.
- Think about your physical status. I have a fantastic book called Teach Yourself The Clinton Factor by David Gillespie and Mark Warren which explores the power of status. Regardless of your feelings for ex-American President Bill Clinton, he was an incredibly charismatic communicator. Think about your physicality when presenting to a group of people on a scale of one to ten (one being small, quiet and ineffectual; ten being over the top, loud and dictatorial). Imagine this not only in terms of physical status (stance, hand gestures, eye contact and facial expression) but also vocal tone and vocabulary. One of the reasons President Clinton was popular with so many different types of people (despite, ahem… some significant misdemeanors) was he always pitched his presentation between five and seven. He was sufficiently “presidential” but also “normal” and subsequently very engaging. Can you use this when you give a speech?
- You must make eye contact with people when presenting or speaking to them. Don’t single out one person – share your eye contact with the room. This article has some great tips.
- Write the word “breathe” on every cue card. You might forget! Excess adrenaline makes you breath more quickly. Slowing your breathing down will calm you, make you feel better and slow your pace.
Take a moment to reflect on what you’ve just achieved. Take note of what your body feels like now the fear has gone. I suspect it will feel pretty darn good. That’s why I love public speaking.
Make It A Champion Day!