By Elsie Dixon,2014-05-30 08:05
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    Public Speaking

    1. Introduction

    THERE ARE THREE factors to consider in any speaking situation:

     The logistics.

     What to do.

     How to do it.

    Many people waste an enormous amount of time and energy on negative thoughts, such as:

     I never should have agreed to do it.

     I‟m going to bomb.

     I‟ll never have enough time to prepare.

     I won‟t be able to come up with a decent idea.

     If I keep doing this, I‟ll shorten my life by 20 years.

     I wonder if I can cancel.

     I‟m not going to be able to sleep.

    Stop it!

    All you are doing is building a wall between you and a really good presentation. 2. The logistics

    Here are some of the questions you need to ask your host and yourself:

     Why me?

     What do you want me to talk about? (But be prepared for a response of “anything you


     Who‟s my audience?

     How do I fit in into the rest of the program? Is there an overall theme to the meeting?

     Where and when will I speak?

     Who is my contact when I have questions about time, room set-up, arrival, transportation, and ground rules?

     How much time have you set aside for me? Will you consider less time?

    Finalize these arrangements before accepting the assignment and before sitting down to write word one.

    2.1 Why me?

    What do I knowor what do they think I knowthat will enlighten the audience? You may

    not have an international reputation, but you were invited to speak. Find out why they invited you. It may suggest an innovative introduction or even suggest a topic if they don‟t care about your


    2.2 What do they want me to talk about?

    The importance of the topic should be obvious from the start. If they want you to talk about international terrorism and you know nothing about it, obviously you‟re not the right speaker for

    them. Don‟t agree to speak. That should be a no-brainer, but some very bright people have made

    the mistake of agreeing to speak before finding out if there was a specific assignment in mind.


    A friend of mine (one of the best speakers I‟ve ever worked with) was asked by her local

    chamber of commerce to appear on a program. She‟s a successful entrepreneur and was prepared to speak on many subjects involved in starting and building a business.

    It was too late when she found out that they were doing a series on employee benefits. That wasn‟t her area of expertise. In fact, it wasn‟t a subject that even interested her. Someone else, an

    extremely capable person, handled that area for her company.

    She should have sent that other person, but she went and admitted later that it was a mistake. 2.3 Who’s the audience?

    No matter what the subject is, you have to know who the audience is. If there‟s no specified topic, it‟s even more important. The makeup of the audience may inspire a subject.

    Do they have a common interest?

    Do they represent a single profession?

    I often sit through a presentation that precedes one of mine.

    One time the presenter was a “motivational” speaker and was firing up the audience with a

    “gung-ho—go get ‟em” message. Then he told them their job was to get out there and destroy the competition. The problem was that his audience was all staff of a public utility. They had no competition. Once the audience realized they were listening to a “canned” speech being delivered

    thfor the 500 time and that the speaker didn‟t take the trouble to tailor the message to them, they

    turned him off.

    Make sure your message has something special for this audience: a new perspective, an innovationsomething that adds to their body of knowledge or understandingsomething that

    gives them an incentive to listen to you.

    2.4 How and where do I fit?

    Are you the only speaker?

    Is there a marching band playing walk-in music and then the national anthem before you come on?

    Are you the third of four speakers?

    Will the program chair keep all the speakers on schedule?

    Who are the other speakers, and what are their topics?

    What‟s on the agenda before your talk (a luncheon), during your talk (will waiters be clearing

    tables), after your talk (questions)?

    Who‟s introducing you?

    What kind of introduction will it be?

    You may not be able to get all the answers on the first call, but keep asking. The better your information, the better your chances of making a strong, relevant, effective presentation. 2.5 Is there a theme?

    A lot of meetings and conventions are given “grabber” titles. Make a special effort to include

    that title and relevant information inside your message.

    2.6 Where and when will I speak?

    The site is very important. If you‟ve spoken in this room or auditorium a lot, you‟ll feel


almost as comfortable as you are in your living room. If it‟s on the 50-yard line at the Super Bowl

    game, you‟re on foreign soil. You always should consider an on-site rehearsal and always, always

    check your equipment beforehand.

    2.7 Who’s my contact?

    This can often be the most important question you ask. There is no one who can make you look better or worse than the meeting planner, and nothing is more frustrating than having a problem and not knowing who can help. Things are bound to come up that weren‟t anticipated.

    Find out right away who‟s assigned to “hold your hand.”

    My rule is simple: If the audience doesn‟t know you have a problem, you don‟t have a


    2.8 How much time do I have?

    People who book speakers often want the most time they can get. For them, it becomes a matter of quantity instead of quality.

    Above all, you must never lose sight of the audience and remember the old vaudeville adage: Always leave them wanting more.

    They should feel sorry, not relieved, that it‟s over.

    2.9 Other points to consider

    2.9.1 The physical set-up

     The size and shape of the room.

     The location of the audience in relation to you, the speaker.

     Will the room be set theater style, classroom style, or at round tables?

     The location and quality of the microphones.

     The height of the lectern. (Short people shouldn‟t hesitate to ask for a solid box to stand


     The setting of the stage: head table, lots of gadgetry and equipment for other speakers‟


     The lighting in relation to your ability to see your text, outline, or notes.

     Don‟t leave any room for surprises.

    2.9.2 The occasion

    If you‟re expected to be hilarious (a roast) or touching (a memorial service), you‟d better

    know about it in advance. This may seem ridiculous and far-fetched, but I know people who were shocked to realize at the last minute that the remarks they had prepared were totally inappropriate for the situation.

    2.9.3 The format

    Pick what works best for you. You can choose to speak from a prepared text, an outline, notes, or nothing. I urge you to pick what works best for you. But whatever format you choose, start by preparing a text. It will help a lot. It gives you the chance to look at it, change it, shape it, give it form, and practice it. And remember, it isn‟t beyond belief that someone will ask you for a copy of


your speech.

    2.9.4 The length

    When you like your text a lot, cut it by a third. Keep it short and simple. Today‟s attention

    span is limited.

    2.9.5 The style

    Write conversational sentences. Great literature rarely makes great speeches. And keep in mind that speeches are meant to be spoken, not read. That may sound foolish, but I assure you it isn‟t. Take a look at a book of great speeches and see how false many of the words sound when

    you say them out loud.

    3. Preparing and delivering your words

    3.1 Write for the ear!

    Make sure the words sound like you in animated conversation. Get rid of jargon, “governmentese,” legalese, insider language and acronyms. Look at a section of the Federal

    Register (the publication that transcribes the speeches delivered on the floor of Congress) and you‟ll get a lesson in how not to write a speech.

    It is incumbent upon us to ensure that the obfuscatory nature of formal discourse be dispensed with in the most propitious manner.” This quote really says, “Simplify your language.” It‟s amazing how many of us make the mistake of trying to impress an audience with our brilliance while forgetting to express ourselves clearly, simply, briefly, and unforgettably.

    How about this one:

    Serving as a panelist with the other past presidents of the (association name) is indeed

    a pleasure and a rare opportunity. It is hard to believe that a 10-year span of time has passed

    since our first session. What perspectives the various past presidents have brought to the

    hundreds of people who have attended our sessions through the years!”

    I‟m sure that those words felt perfectly natural to the person writing them as he was putting

    them on paper, but they certainly don‟t “talk like conversation.” If you don‟t edit the garbage of “a 10-year span of time” to “10 years,” you‟ll trip over your words at the lectern, and worse, you‟ll

    run the risk of sounding like a windbag. And remember: Nobody loves a windbagnot even

    another windbag.

    Do yourself and your audience a favor. Convert flowery language into simple, everyday conversation:

    I can’t believe it’s been 10 years since our first session! It’s great to serve here with the

    other past presidents. Each has brought a unique perspective.”

    3.2 Short sentences are winners

    On the podium, long sentences will get you in trouble. They‟ll force you to look at your text

    and read when you should be looking at your audience and talking.

    I‟ve seen speech texts with sentences of 60 words and up.

    Let‟s look at one with a mere 28:


    Those costs and the inconvenience to airline passengers can be reduced substantially,

    but fundamental changes in the funding and management of our air traffic control system are


    Sentences such as that can be edited and reconstructed into shorter, more dynamic, easier-to-deliver sentences. The audience might even go away remembering the message if it was perceived this way:

    We could cut those costs. We could reduce the inconvenience to the passengers. But

    we’d have to make some changes, basic changes, in the way we fund and manage air traffic


    3.3 Simple language is a winner

    A talk that uses simple language is easy to give; it‟s easy to follow; and it‟s easy to

    understand. An audience that stops to think about definitions, grammar, syntax, and vague imagery invariably falls behind the speaker and loses the next thought.

    Forget statistics. Lists of numbers belong in telephone directories. Your job is to talk in unforgettable terms: stories, anecdotes, examples, and figures of speech that will paint word pictures for them and help them understand instantly. I call it “becoming your own best visual

    aid.” People relate to you when you‟re using these “unforgettables.”

    In one of my workshops, a participant delivered this humdinger as the training began:

    Proposals submitted by offerors in response to the agency’s RFP HSCS-6 for an

    information management system were examined by the agency evaluation team in order to

    determine that 100 percent of the mandatory requirements, considered paramount to the

    adequate function of the system to fulfill basic agency needs, had been met; and secondly to

    estimate the offerors’ ability to meet the evaluated optional features, as were set forth in the

    above mentioned RFP. It was determined by the evaluation team, using the stated evaluation

    guidelines, that XYZ Corporation (he named the company) was not in a position to provide

    the important, if not mandatory, evaluated optional features.”

    After training, he changed it to:

    Buying a computer system isn’t that different from buying a car. First, you go to a few

    dealers and look at their cars. Then, you check the options you want.

    Yes, XYZ Corporation did meet the mandatory requirements. Yes, their car had four

    wheels, an engine, and a steering wheel, but it didn’t have windshield wipers and the doors

    didn’t lock!”

    You have more stories to share than you realize. It‟s the surest way to deliver a memorable speech.

    An audience usually remembers well-told, relevant stories about people similar to themselves, as long as the stories amplify the point. Politicians are in love with stories about Lincoln, Jefferson, and Kennedy. If they‟re appropriate and told well, they work. If they aren‟t, they‟re corny and they



3.4 Never make a speech again

    Talk, converse, chat with a group of people. All spoken communication should be rooted in conversation.

    If you need a role model, try Winston Churchill. He can teach you a lot about true eloquence.

    We shall not flag or fail.

    We shall go on to the end.

    We shall fight in France.

    We shall fight on the seas and oceans.

    We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air.

    We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be.

    We shall fight on the beaches.

    We shall fight in the fields, and on the streets.

    We shall fight in the hills.

    We shall never surrender.

    That‟s the way to write a speech.




    And remember: If you don‟t have the time or knowledge to do a decent job, don‟t accept the

    speaking assignment.

    If you agree to speak, prepare.

    Your audience deserves your best shot.

    3.5 Adapt your speech to the time of day

    You already know you should keep your speech short and simple because an audience‟s

    attention span is limited. You should also determine the length based on the time of day you‟ll deliver your talk.

    A very good rule of thumb is: The later the hour, the shorter the material.

    Most people in the real world are up at 6 or 7 a.m. They work all day. They attend meetings. They work on numerous projects.

    Their energy and concentration levels are running low as evening approaches. If you‟re speaking

    in the early evening or after dinner, limit your speech to 10 or 15 minutes and try to give it plenty of energy.

    What about making a speech in the morning? You‟ll have an audience that‟s fresh and

    energetic, so you can probably hold their attention for 30 minutes if you‟re dynamic.

    Luncheon programs are still another thing. People are usually satiated and relaxed after a luncheon and are not as willing to listen to a speaker as at other times. It‟s usually best to keep your speech to a maximum of 20 minutes. They‟ll thank you for being considerate. You can‟t lose

    if you strictly limit yourself.

    If possible, consider adding a question-and-answer period to luncheon or dinner speeches. This pumps some energy into your talk and gives the audience an opportunity to interact. Of


    course, some subjects and some rooms are not appropriate for question-and-answer sessions. You must judge that in advance.

    3.6 Be prompt

    Always start on time. Why punish those people who made it a point to be punctual? If a break is scheduled, do your best to break promptly and resume on time. Breaks are dangerous because the refreshments and social atmosphere are terribly tempting. Ask your host or your staff to start rounding up your audience a couple of minutes before you‟re scheduled to continue.

    3.7 The rhythm of eye contact

    In Chapter 2 I spoke about eye contact involving situations that were predominantly one on one. For platform presentation I‟ve developed a technique I call “the rhythm of eye contact.” It‟s a

    sure-fire way to connect with the audience.

    Your mouth should never be moving while your eyes are looking down at your text or notes, when your eyes are focused on a projected visual aid, or when you‟re looking at any inanimate


    It‟s remarkable how effective you‟ll become when you look at your audience as you

    dramatically deliver your idea. In fact, it‟s the reason technology has developed the TelePrompTer.

    It‟s a device to help a presenter deliver every word directly to the camera. This is accomplished because the text of the speech rolls by on a screen between the speaker and the camera lens.

    The more eye contact, the less aware the audience is of the text and the more likely it is to get the message.

    4. Tips on how to prepare

    Remember the four possible ways to prepare:





    The manuscript is the most difficult to deliver well. If you can learn the rhythm of eye contact for a manuscript speech, you‟ll improve the delivery of speeches prepared with any other method. So we‟ll concentrate on learning how to maintain eye contact while delivering the toughest speech of all.

    The first rule is: Your mouth shouldn‟t be moving while your eyes are looking at anything

    but your audience.

    The second rule follows logically: Write short sentences. The longest sentence should cover

    no more than two lines of type.

    Use a large font. The type should be big. Use periods. Substitute periods for other



    I‟m not saying you must write only simple sentences. I‟m saying you should simplify your sentences.

    Here are some other useful tips for preparing your text.

     Leave an extra-wide left-hand margin.

     Double space your lines and triple or quadruple space your paragraphs. In fact, make every

    sentence a new paragraph and indent.

     Don‟t carry a sentence over to the next page. In other words, every page should end with a


     Leave a high bottom margin.

     Cut off the text about two-thirds of the way down the page.

    Using the preceding two paragraphs as an example, here‟s how I recommend putting your

    text on paper. If it looks like this, you‟ll be making your job a lot easier.

     Write short sentences.

     The longest sentence should cover no more than two lines of type.

     Use large type.

     Use periods.

     Substitute periods for other punctuation.

    Again, I‟m not saying you must write simple sentences.

    I‟m saying simplify your sentences.

    Now let‟s try that text using the rhythm of eye contact. Look at the audience as you deliver each sentence from the text. Pause and look down when you come to each period. See what the

    next idea is. Then look up and deliver that thought. When you‟ve completely finished the thought to the audience, pause again. Look down in silence. When the next thought is firmly in your mind,

    look up. Don‟t start until you‟re looking at someone, and then deliver the whole idea to the audience.

    Here goes: Say the emphasized sentences to the audience. Use the italicized text to look

    down and get the next thought.

     Write short sentences.

    Pause. Look down. See the next thought. Now look up and say:

     No sentence should cover more than two lines of type.

    Pause. Look down. Pick up the next sentence. Look up and say:

     Use periods.

    Pause. Don’t say anything until you’re ready to look up and say:

     Substitute periods for other punctuation.

    Pause. Look down. See what you’re going to say next.

    Then look up and say:

     I’m not saying you must write simple sentences.

    Pause. Look down. Look up and say:

     I’m saying simplify your sentences.

    I‟m sure it doesn‟t seem natural to you yet. It feels forced.

    Practice, practice, practice!

    Go back and try it again a couple of times. See if it doesn‟t start to feel better.

    Keep trying it. In fact, try it out on a friend. Notice that each time you do it, it gets a bit


smoother. It flows a little easier. Each time is a rehearsal. It will flow even better and faster when

    the thoughts are your thoughts instead of mine. Whatever you do, don‟t get discouraged. It‟s taken

    the best speakers I‟ve trained time to get used to this technique. It‟s new. It‟s strange. But it works.

    Here‟s another series of sentences I‟d like you to try in order to get the hang of it.

     Your mouth should never move when your eyes are down.

    Pause. Look down. Look up and say:

     That’s a 10-word sentence.

    Pause. Look down. Look up and say:

     It’s not necessary to look at the page.

    Pause. Look down. Look up and say:

     You can pause.

    Pause. Look down. Look up and say:

     Then you look down.

    Pause. Look down. Look up and say:

     The next sentence is short.

    Pause. Look down. Look up and say:

     So you can speak the thoughts to the audience.

    Pause. Look down. Look up and say:

     Instead of reading to the page.

    5. Speaking situations encountered throughout your career 5.1 Introducing a speaker

    Most executives will eventually have to introduce a speaker. Although not the most difficult

    of speaking tasks, it still requires a certain amount of skill.

    Most people make the classic mistake of reading the speaker‟s biography verbatim, just the

    way they received it in the mail. You already know that you shouldn‟t read anything. Now I‟m here to tell you that in this situation, you shouldn‟t recite statistics—educational, professional, or

    personalfrom a resumé.

    It‟s boring and ineffective.

    The savvy person will request a biography well in advance. He‟ll then do one of two things. If the speaker is well known, he‟ll go to the nearest library and do a little research. He‟ll look for interesting tidbits the audience would like to know about the speaker.

    If the speaker is not well known, he‟ll call or write him and conduct an informal interview to gather the same information. A person who introduces a speaker with bits of information relevant

    to the topic of the speech will start the session off on the right foot.

    As for the resumé itself, select the highlights of the speaker‟s career, particularly those

    highlights that relate specifically to the interests of the audience.

     Be selective. The audience doesn‟t need to know every detail of the speaker‟s educational and professional background.


     Be brief.

     Give highlights.

     Make the audience want to hear the speaker you’re introducing.

    Keep in mind that personalized stories make the best introductionespecially personalized

    stories that relate in some way to the talk the audience is waiting to hear. They‟ll mean a lot more than a list of degrees, professional credits, and other accomplishments.

    It‟s easier to tell an audience a story than it is to read from a list.

    If you don‟t have a personal story to tell, why not tell the audience why you selected the

    speaker or why you‟re proud to have him at your meeting?

    Again, keep it brief.

    A 10-minute introduction of any kind will turn virtues into vices. You‟ll turn the audience off before the speaker has a chance to utter a word.

    Knowing what you now know about the deadly “resumé introduction,” and knowing that

    most people don‟t know how to make an effective introduction, why not write one for yourself? When you‟re asked to send a biography for introduction purposes, send your far more interesting

    version. I know your audience will appreciate it. Maybe, together, we can start an introduction


    Finally, end every introduction with the speaker‟s name. Make certain you articulate clearly and, please, pronounce the name correctly.

    5.2 Serving on a panel

    You‟re serving on a panel. Or—even better—you‟re going to moderate a panel. Again, there are specifics that you must remember to effectively communicate with your audience.

    First, never forget, even for a minute, that you‟re part of a group. Don‟t cut yourself short,

    but don‟t hog the spotlight either.

    Second, keep your remarks noteworthy but concise. You don‟t have the flexibility you have

    when you‟re alone at the podium. You have to edit yourself.

    You can‟t tell an audience everything in a few minutes. Just give the most basic, fundamental information. Skilled speakers can improvise on-site. You shouldn‟t take the chance. Edit in advance. Then, rehearse in front of a mirror. If you have time, practice with a colleague or a


    There are a number of other pointers that you‟ll want to remember:

     Make eye contact. Always look at the person to whom you‟re speaking.

     If you‟re moderating, making introductions, or talking to the audience, look at the


     If you‟re talking to or about the panelist, look at that person and gesture in his direction.

     If someone else is talking, look at him. Don‟t project the feeling of boredom or frustration when someone else is talking.

     Don‟t let your eyes wander.

     Listen intently. You may want to react to comments and statements made by other speakers.

     Keep a pencil and paper handy so you can jot down ideas or thoughts you want to bring up

    later in the discussion.


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