The ability to communicate effectively to groups is a key requirement for any business executive. As someone who has written speeches for various politicians and business executives for decades, I often get asked if there are any "tricks" that might make the ordeal more palatable. Inevitably, people eventually get around to asking about humour. Should they start a speech with a joke? My emphatic answer to this question is "maybe." And it is based on actual experience.
As professional communicators who advise others on how to improve their ability to connect with audiences, Shari Graydon and Sarah Neville have watched the astonishing ascension of political neophyte and insult-machine Donald Trump with dropped jaws. Here's their conversation about the lessons to be learned from his fearless communication style.
It's the most common question I get asked by those who deal with a fear of public speaking: "Should I picture my audience
I can still feel the knots in my stomach when I remember back to my first presentations. I'd sweat about the damage a heckler could do by sidetracking me. I also worried that my credibility would be damaged if I gave away control. I've learned from each time standing at the podium it doesn't have to be this way.
Vocalists often talk about "feeling" the lyrics. It's no different when you are at the front of the room presenting on any topic. Great AV, proper breathing, knowing your material and staying within your allotted time all help your presentation. However, you need much more to deliver a memorable versus a solid presentation.
Rather than taking control of the room, have you ever had self-doubt and a surge of discomfort envelope you as you are being introduced? Has your mouth suddenly gone dry and does the microphone always seem to act up? Do you ever lose concentration and draw a blank? These and other personal nervous habits often rear their heads when we are standing before an audience.
We've all heard the story that most people would rather choose death than public speaking. Death wouldn't be my choice. I'd choose the podium. Here's why. When public speaking anxiety rears its ugly head, it can be dampened down and managed easily with practice and a handful of tried-and-tested techniques.
How do you deal when the reaction that you get is NOT what you expected? When you don't even know if, after all that work, time, and effort, your presentation hit the mark... or missed it altogether? Many of my clients often say to me, "When I give a presentation at work, even if I've worked hard on it and I know it's got the right information, the people I'm presenting to look at me with blank faces.
As Canada Day approaches, we may start to ponder our distinctive Canadian identity: Politely waiting for the crosswalk to change, devouring poutine at 4 a.m., and excessively apologizing for our existence.
Getting ready for a successful pitch involves much more than planning what you are going to say, it involves planning the WOW-factor your presentation will provide. You also need to listen to what your audience has to say. It's a dialogue, not a performance.