Friday, August 12, 2016

My Keys to Public Speaking

I have been giving presentations for a long time. My first official set of talks happened in 1977 as I took on the role of main trainer for a first aid class. It was a well received and successful training, and I did two more courses after that. I have had many speaking opportunities throughout the years, mostly as a trainer in different environments.

In 2004 I joined Toastmasters and began polishing my public speaking skills. Over the years I have developed the following keys to make public speaking easier and more fun:

  • Select a topic that interests you and that would be interesting to your audience. The only reason you are a speaker is to serve your audience. You are either going to entertain them, inform them, or inspire them — and you can achieve all three with a great speech.
  • As Steven Covey recommended, begin with the end in mind. Write down your closing statement first. This is the message you want your audience to remember when they leave.
    • What is your take-away for the audience? Can you narrow it down to one or two sentences? Can you narrow it down to 20 words or less?
    • What is your premise?
    • Why should the audience care?
  • Once you have your closing statement thoroughly prepared, modify it so that you can use it as an attention-getting opening. You must capture your audience's attention quickly, so a little theatrics may be in order.
  • Decide what points you want to make during your presentation. For a short speech, three points are enough. Longer speeches may allow for more points, but not so many that the audience will be confused as to your primary message.
  • Prioritize your points from least important to most important, leaving your most important points for last. Audiences tend to remember the last things they heard more than the earlier parts of the speech.
  • For each item on your list, develop a story that makes the point. Stories can be something you experienced, something someone else experienced, or something you created to illustrate your point. Audiences prefer to listen to stories about a topic rather than hearing facts about it. Stories allow us to humanize knowledge, to make things personal and personable, and to incorporate humor or emotions into our presentation. Those are the things that allow us to connect with our audience.
  • Keep in mind that there are many types of presentations, and your preparation will vary accordingly. The preparation for a club speech is very different than one for a competition speech; and those are very different from other types of presentations (workshops, team reports, etc.).

Friday, August 5, 2016

Rule Your Mind

Lance Miller, the 2005 World Champion of Public Speaking, often sends great information in his email newsletters. I encourage you to subscribe to them. Here is his latest, with an incredible message that every public speaker should pay attention to.

I was in a bad mood yesterday. 
It was just one of those days. 
I was mired down in the minutia of monotonous meaningless machinations of life.....

Late in the afternoon I remembered a quote I read years earlier that had a profound effect on me. It was by Buddha and read: Rule your mind or it will rule you.

Once again I had slipped into letting my mind rule me with thoughts of how bad it all is. Within a few minutes I turned my entire day around and was once again enjoying being alive!

In my early years of speaking, I would have so many nervous negative thoughts about how bad my speech was going to be and how I should not have agreed to speak in the first place.  I was simply letting my mind rule me with negative, defeatist thoughts.

Through this quote and some additional concerted efforts I came to know that I had the ability to control my thoughts, or per Buddha, I could rule my mind.  I didn't have to think negative, defeating thoughts. I could think positive, successful thoughts - just by doing it!

I'm not sure where it stems from, but it seems that human nature tends to default to "how bad it all is."  Many people seem to thrive on the negative.  Just turn on the news and we have professionals telling us how bad everything is 24/7!

With my friends, co-workers, organizations and businesses I have found no forward motion happens allowing my mind to rule me and focus and think on the negative.

Having a few people around, better yet - being one of those people - who focuses on the positive and reminds others about "how good it all is" can really make an incredible difference in everyone's life.

I think we should all encourage those around us to rule their own mind and see the fun and good in life. It is a much more enjoyable place to live!