Speaking in public is both a skill & an art. There are very few natural masters. More likely superb public speakers have spent time honing these skills. Even those people we recognize as masters had a tough early learning curve. I would include both Bill Clinton & Steve Jobs in this category. They took what was once a liability for each & molded it into a powerful tool. If they can do it so can you even if as you read this, you are thinking that a trip to the dentist sounds like a better plan. I spend a lot of time on many specific things people need to focus on in my corporate training & individual coaching on the subject including my own story of how I got past my fear of public speaking but if you just pay attention to what I call “the big four” you will be off to a great start.
Focus on these four things first:
- Do not use any industry jargon; it is guaranteed to put your audience to sleep or bore them. We have all suffered from "death by PowerPoint/" Speak in language everyone can understand. Remember it's all about effective communication & it is you who is the expert; your task is educating others in ways that they can understand and use]
- In order to make your essential point tell a story & be your authentic self. Think about how natural Bill Clinton was at the DNC in 2013. He could have been talking to a friend. It both demonstrates your humanity & makes your key points memorable
- Don’t “step on your message Pundits note this about politicians all the time because it is such an easy trap. Even though you set out to communicate one thing somehow other circumstances or messages are allowed to take over. Stay on your message; turn distractions into opportunities .Getting distracted is how you lose control of what you want to say. Political examples are in some ways unfair because when running for office the “white hot spotlight” is on rattling some of the best but they do make highlighting the point easier. Mitt Romney provided us with countless examples of this. In one he said he had “binders full of [ meaning qualified] women” who could work for him which made him seem out of touch & sound anything but aware of the amount of female professional talent in the workplace, the point he was trying to make. The phrase detracted from his overall message and became a joke. This is a disaster for any public speaker but a nightmare for a politician.
- Prepare thoroughly but don’t over-rehearse. This is tricky, requiring that you walk a “fine line.” The idea is to have full command of the material so you are not relying solely
on notes, your smartphone or PowerPoint seeming at ease & natural thus able to do a certain degree of ad-libbing if needed. Also bear in mind, equipmennt fails, batteries die but "the show must go on.
Don't Worry About Errors
The points above are just a place to start however, I am fairly confident that if you cover all these bases, you will go a long way towards pulling off a successful talk. If all else fails remember one secret tip practiced by the best speakers & probably learned from actors on Broadway. Don't waste time worrying about mistakes because it is possible to “fake it til you make it.” By this I mean if things don’t go precisely as planned because nerves have gotten the better of you, unless you tip the audience off by emphasizing your mistakes, they probably will never notice them [although you will]. In the meantime finesse the moment and re-group.