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Moving from Good to Great in Your Public Speeches

Kaizen is a Japanese practice of continuous improvement. Today, Kaizen is accepted worldwide as an important mainstay of an organization’s long-term competitive strategy. As a public speaker, you too need to “Kaizen” your delivery skills in order to remain relevant to your audience. Here are some tips on how to take your speech from good to great so that you continue to remain relevant.

Research Your Listeners

I am amazed at how some speakers will arrive for a speaking engagement without knowing anything about the audience they are about to address. As a champion speaker in many speech contests, I am fastidious about researching the demographics and desires of the audience before speaking to them. This habit of mine has helped me win numerous public speaking championships.

Some complacent speakers feel that their message is so important that everyone would want to hear it. Therefore, they do not take the initiative to understand the desires of the audience. They couldn’t be more wrong. Your fundamental message may be about the same thing, but knowing your addressees will enable you to customise the information to suit the crowd. As such, your audience will feel that your talk was specially prepared just for them. Dale Carnegie called this “baiting the hook to suit the fish.” They will relate much better to your message and appreciate your initiative for creating something unique for them.

Practice

Rehearsals cannot be delegated, unfortunately. If you want to look polished while speaking you need to practice. For a five minute speech, I will normally rehearse for one hour. Don’t fall into the trap thinking that your PowerPoint / Prezi slides can do the talking for you. You are the master and your slides are your slaves. If you think that you can reverse this equation, you are courting trouble, my friend 🙂

There are specific methods used to rehearse that don’t take much time. One of these methods is called bits. You rehearse a short bit of material over and over again. You don’t rehearse it verbatim, but just speak your way through it. I normally do it in my car while driving. This way your mind won’t black out when you are distracted on stage.

Take Care of the Troublemakers

In some cases, I have noticed that the heckler is normally the senior executive of the organization who is craving for a sense of importance in front of his / her subordinates. On other occasions it could be someone who knows the subject better than you and therefore has got little or no respect for you.

Well, you’ve got to handle the situation whether you like it or not. This will be the ultimate test of your communication skills and people handling expertise.

In order to pre-empt the heckler, I get people in the group to detect possible mischief-makers BEFORE I get to the event. I then phone these potential troublemakers and interview them to give them the sense of importance they are craving. During my speech, I also mention their names. This practically eradicates the chance that they will interrupt my speech because I am publicly praising their opinions.

It’s a good idea to mention a wide variety of names and not just the troublemakers in order to create a balance.

Use Visual Aids

A picture paints a thousand words so does a visual aid. Visual people will find it easy to anchor a thought in their minds when it is linked to a visual object. Just like “seeing is believing” to them, “seeing is understanding.” Such people memorize and learn by seeing pictures. They love it when you use words that create vivid imagery like “see the dark clouds, look across the beach, envision celebrating your wedding anniversary, imagine driving a Volvo, etc.” in your speech as these phrases paint pictures in their minds.

You could employ a combination of large, small, weird or colorful props. PowerPoint or Prezi will also come in handy here. Always ensure that your prop serves to make your point clearer or more understandable.

Conclusion

One of the most interesting features of Kaizen is that huge results come from numerous little changes accumulated over a period of time. Today, you have embarked on Kaizen by implementing these four suggestions which are Research Your Listeners, Practice, Take Care of the Troublemakers and Use Visual Aids. In just a matter of time, you will see massive improvements in your presentations; trust yourself.

I wish you well.